Dogs, Dogs, Dogs.

9 Aug

In all of the Chilean cities I’ve visited so far (a grand total of 4 now), I have been struck by the presence of large numbers of stray dogs. From the beaches of Valparaíso and Viña, to the smoggy streets of Santiago, to the quaint downtown area of rainy Osorno, the overabundance of this untapped resource cannot be ignored. They stretch out across sidewalks; they romp in the park; they bark menacingly at Emo kids clad in black; they wander aimlessly up and down hiking paths.

Their care seems to be a matter of public concern. The other day in Santiago, I saw an old woman laying out strips of cardboard on the sidewalk for a stray dog to lay on during the cold winter night, and I’ve seen several dogs sleeping on such beds in other parts of the city. On another occasion I saw a large bowl full of what appeared to be dogfood left on the front step of a downtown apartment building. I’ve even seen stray dogs wearing old, de-sleeved sweatshirts that some compassionate stranger must have donated… I arrived in Osorno just today, but I have already noticed a plethora of stray dogs curled tightly in balls against the exterior walls of grocery stores and apartment buildings in the middle of the cold, rainy day.

I haven’t really investigated the matter closely, but I can’t recall seeing a single pet control facility or officer in my travels around the country thus far. No SPCA, no Humane Society, no dog catcher, no Animal Shelter. And I guess without a Bob Barker figure in their culture, Chile’s dogs go largely unspayed and unneutered, allowing them to multiply and multiply and multiply… I haven’t seen very many cheap, sketchy Chinese restaurants in the country either.

But speaking of dogs and food, I was surprised to find that Chile’s favorite fast food item is none other than the hot dog. They have chains with names like Doggi’s and Schopdog, as well as independent street vendors, that specialize in what they call “completos” (see Wikipedia’s article on the dish at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Completo). These hot dogs come in a variety of sizes and are generally topped with some combination of diced tomato, mayonnaise, and “palta” (avocado). You see them everywhere, just like the stray dogs, and they’re dirt cheap–the perfect meal for a starving teacher still awaiting his meager stipend. Just think of the possibilities if someone could find a sanitary, “humane” way to combine these two types of “dogs”… It would really be a thriving business, provided that the flavor of the avocado and mayonnaise could compensate for the assumed blandness of this low-grade meat (not speaking from experience, just considering the nuances of the canine diet and the loss of energy and nutrients when consuming from higher trophic levels…). Yet I can already hear the horrified gasps from some of our readers (“How could he even suggest such a thing? What a cruel, heartless barbarian!”), and I admit that I would probably have a hard time bringing myself to eat such a dish if I knew what it was, but as long as no one told me what was in it… what’s the worst that could happen?

The Completo Italiano

The "Completo Italiano"

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