Written by Fidgit
When I first began planning this walk, believing full well no human would be nutty enough to join, I had planned to get a dog. At first I thought to adopt and bring one from home. Then, recognizing the logistics of that, I thought I might pick one up down here. Emails and advice began pouring in from strangers on breed and training. I got pretty jazzed on the whole idea.
After a few years with sled dogs in Alaska I know better than to put a premium on a pure bred, if you are looking for durability, mutts are the way to go. In the US, adopting a shelter dog is a great course as it discourages irresponsible breeding practices and you get a hardy, loving doggo. I am proud to be extended pack to some of the best dogs (and humans) in the world.
As much as I wanted to, I eventually had to acquiesce; it would be irresponsible to try to bring a dog on a hike like this. Beyond being an unpredictable and sometimes hostile environment, my early reasons were:
1) International borders would be a logistical nightmare
2) Many National Parks do not permit dogs
3) I am asking a sometimes nearly impossible amount of effort from myself to complete this hike; I could not give a canine companion the time they might needed to cover the kind of miles necessary
So, instead of seeking out a dog, I had to trust the right partner would find me. Neon is a much better suited companion for this endeavor than I ever could have hoped for. I can also always get my good dog fix by checking up on Travis, my dog wizard friend who owns Ponderosa Paws. If you want to add a little cheer to your day, go check out his site to see dozens of smiling muzzles.
When we got down here, I realized another reason it was better that I hadn’t brought a dog were the free ranging packs. Strays mingle with pet dogs (who are almost never kept in a yard or on a leash) and generally they run the streets. In Bolivia and Peru we’ve seen many of the street dogs with simple, bright string tied around their necks, indicating a government effort at vaccinating. While we heard about piecemeal efforts at public spaying programs in Chile and Argentina, it is still largely a pay process, and that is more than most owners are willing to put into them.
Because, you see, while north Americas are monodogamous, here they are not. Those with dogs, usually have multiple (up to a dozen) to help with moving animals. Even those north Americans who are polypupamorous are generally in a committed lifelong relationship. For all the positives and negatives of it, in South America, dogs come and go as they please. This freedom of movement is also related to the number of dog corpses we recorded as we collect data for Adventure Scientists Roadkill Project.
At first I was enraptured and romanticized that freedom, but ultimately it is counterbalanced by the neglect and abuse they experience. Beyond the starvation and mange, and human irresponsibility, we’ve seen outright cruelty. We’ve also experienced the repercussions of that when I was bitten in Chile, and the dozens of times we have been charged at.
We learned to stoop down as if picking up a rock and usually they will turn away. I imitate the hissing noise the locals make when they charge, and the dogs generally leave us alone. Encountering a friendly one is a delight for all parties involved, though the fear of accidentally picking up another mouth to feed and set of feet to worry about is very real.
The first dog to adopt us, we named Nomio. She came running out of a farmhouse in a small community along the Huella Andina in Argentina and walked with us for 3 days. She is the kind of dog I hope to have someday. The link above tells that story.
Since Nomio, we have enjoyed dozens upon dozens of companions, and learning to accept them and then let them go has been a journey unto itself. Today’s post is a photo album of some of the doggo friends we’ve made along the way.