These three doggies have it good.
Why do I say that? Because compared to the other 999,997* street dogs in Santiago, Chile, they are doing well.
The man in this photo takes care of them. He works as a street cleaner in El Centro. I often see him when I’m out and about. The dogs are always nearby.
He seems to be a pleasant fellow, ready with a smile when I see him. I greet him warmly because I like the way he treats these callejeros, street dogs.
He’s given them sweaters to protect from winter’s chill. He makes sure that they get something to eat every day. In the afternoon while he reads the newspaper, they enjoy bones that he’s collected from the butcher. They have a daily routine. Though they don’t go home with him at night, the dogs follow him around during the day as he walks the neighborhood with his broom and trash can.
Where do all the street dogs come from? Good question. Lots of them get dumped by owners who change their minds, are moving, can’t afford them, decide they’re not cute any more, and so forth. Instead of taking them a shelter or attempting to re-home them, they are unloaded on Santiago’s streets.
I’ve been told that people deceive themselves into thinking that “someone” will adopt them or take care of them. Turns out that’s seldom the case. These dogs usually remain in the neighborhood where they were abandoned, learning to fend for themselves. Sometimes, they form packs. Some are a menace to walkers, joggers, and cyclists.
There’s an old-fashioned mentality here that doesn’t believe in sterilizing males. Many of these street dogs are male. Oddly, many of them are a similar “medium” size, though their races vary. In my years here, I’ve only seen one puppy on the streets and I’ve never seen a pure-bred street dog.
Two years ago, I had the idea to write a story about a Santiago street dog. The result is an illustrated book titled, Love Me Tender. The protagonist is named Elvis. Together with his new best friend, Roger, he learns how to survive on the streets. Love Me Tender will soon be available on Amazon.
I’ve wondered how the street cleaner came to “adopt” those particular three dogs out of all the dogs that roam the streets. I guess his reasons don’t matter much, but these are the lucky ones. For the other 999,997, life is more difficult.
*The number of street dogs in Santiago is approximate, but they are estimated to number more than one million.