Patagonia Part V: Perros

Everyone that knows me knows I love dogs. They know about my dog Namche and about how I really can’t get another dog. It hurt too much to lose her and my life is un-doggable for the foreseeable future.

Not everyone knows I loved dogs before Namche. I volunteered at shelters, watched and walked friends dogs when i could. I loved them. Always.

The dogs here are different than any country I’ve ever been in. I love them.

When I arrived in Buenos Aires, I didn’t see the usual unkempt street dogs. My previous experiences in South America in Peru and Bolivia had me expecting the throngs of brown, mid-sized, tick and flea infested, constantly reproducing dogs that basically would stop being friendly once they weren’t puppies anymore.

In southern Patagonia, mainly Ushuaia and Puerto Williams, I came across some dogs I bonded with. Some would hike the trails with you and leave. Some would ignore you or give some attention.

But it wasn’t until i got to El Calafate that I experienced (and I experienced it over and over again while visiting there) the “love em and leave em” dogs here.

What you essentially get is breeds of all kinds (Big. Small. Short hair. Long hair. Seemingly pure bred. Mutts. Labs. Shepherds. Poodles) that will lock eyes with you (or anyone that will lock eyes with them for that matter) and come up to you to embrace all the love and affection you are willing to put out. They are normally well-kept, don’t fight much with others, and steer clear of pissing off shop owners on the Main Street. And truth be told, it seems to be the same in every town!

Many have collars and appear to belong to someone. In fact, I’ve encountered the same dogs when returning to El Calafate. They are clean. Not mangy. Don’t obsessively itch. They don’t really even beg too much.

Then there are the dogs that people own at their houses and hostels. Balto, the dog owned by the man who runs my favorite hostel in El Calafate. He was like an old friend when I returned. My buddy Michael and I (Balto looked like his old dog) would fight over who would play with him.

Pascalle and I would ask dogs if they wanted to come along in the van. Kinda joking. Kinda not. None would take us up.

What’s the catch you ask? Well. Don’t get attached to them. Because they won’t get attached to you.

I came across one in El Calafate that looked and acted a bit like Namche. He looked at me like I was his long lost owner as if he recognized me from years ago. I sat on the stoop at the restaurant. “Oh my god!” I exclaimed. “What a sweet dog.” He loved on me and let me pet and scratch every part of his body. Completely connecting with me and giving me his unwavering attention for 10-15 minutes. “Oh my god I love this dog!” Time stood still. He took it all in. Played with me. Wrestled with me. Kissed my face. I paused. I for one second hesitated. He looked right and saw a woman walk by. Gone. Not even a look over his shoulder. Not even a hesitation.

Strangely I saw him again the next time I was there. He was pausing and trying to make eye contact with people like a seasoned street walker. When I saw him he gave me the same reaction. Love. Attention. Interaction. Then gone.

I’ve fallen in love with dogs here more than any other place in the world. I can’t keep track. Sometimes they wanna come in the van. But rarely will they follow me. Mostly, they just wag their tails, come up to me, roll over on their backs, and let me love them. Then they are gone.

And I never get sick of it.

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