A Dog in Colombia

Andrew keeps asking why it took us so long to get a dog. I can think of 8,000 reasons not to get a dog. That is the difference between us. But, we all love dogs and this was actually a great time to get one. We’re home a lot more than we ever were in DC, basically all the time, and the kids are older and will help out when forced. (The tragic deaths of three cats in two years also made us think it was time to go in a new pet direction.)

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Skinny and nervous, leaving the pound

Lupita was named after the most charming and juiciosa girl in Sam’s class. Lupita has made Aiden’s life complete. He says things like, “now that I have a dog and a cat, life is perfect.” One morning in December he was all sleepy at breakfast, looking at the Christmas tree, and I heard him say to himself, “I’m so happy… it’s Christmastime, and I have a dog.” We’re all pretty happy with Lupita. She’s really fast, like a mini greyhound, and she goes on runs with Andrew. She sleeps in Sam’s bed at night. And she is teaching me new things about Colombia. I’m learning about dog culture in Medellin, I’ve picked up some dog-related vocabulary and, I’ve let go of many old pairs of shoes.

Here are some things I’ve learned as a dog owner in Colombia:

1. The word juiciosa. This is very important in a dog (and a child). The most common questions I get about Lupita are about her race, and if she’s juiciosa. My dictionary defines juiciosa as judicious, level-headed and wise. But I think it just means well-behaved. Honestly, I don’t think anyone in our house is juiciosa (except the cat) but I always enthusiastically confirm that Lupita is very juiciosa. Gotta represent for mutts.

Lupita being juiciosa. Sam not being juicioso.

Lupita being juiciosa. Sam, not.

2. Colombians don’t like mutts. They may think it’s noble for someone else to have one, and countless times other dog walkers have told me that mutts are the best, most loyal, friendly dogs. But they all have purebreds. These are their favorites, in order: Boston Terrier, Chihuahua, Schnauzer, Bulldog, Jack Russell, Goldon Retriever, Lab, Pitbull. The small ones are the weirdest. Honestly though, the gene pool here is pretty small and there are a lot of weird dogs. But they look good, I guess, and looks are everything in Medellin.

This dog, being walked by the maid, is wearing sneakers.

This dog, being walked by the maid, is wearing sneakers.

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Lupita can’t even look. Too humiliating.

Frolicking with Terriers

Frolicking with Terriers

3. Leashes are optional. There are no leash laws or any rules concerning pets. Also, you’re more likely to advertise for a novia (a girlfriend) for your dog than to get it neutered.

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The upside of no rules is you get to bring your dog to a restaurant!

4. Many people are afraid of dogs. And the first question children ask when they approach a dog is, does it bite. (See #3)

5. Picking up poop is optional. One day I was talking to an American friend here about some bureaucratic nightmare she had recently endured (spending days paying a parking ticket) and I asked if she thought there was anything that was easier to do in Colombia than back home. She thought for a while and said, “you don’t have to pick up dog poop if you don’t want to.” If I (hypothetically) get lazy about the doo, nobody will ever chase me down the street and chastise me, or send in turds for DNA analysis.

6. When walking a dog with children, the ideal child:dog:parent ratio is 1:1:1. After a few unpleasant experiences, I vowed to never take Lupita and the boys out without another adult present. It takes some effort to keep Lupita from getting tangled in the leash or run over, but the kids, together, are worse. Sam often tries to assert his independence in the middle of the road, and drivers here are merciless. Once, early on, I took the boys and the dog on a big walk to the park. Aside from Sam and the dog almost getting run over, which was terrifying and stressful, both kids had to pee, they got in a fight while walking on a rock wall, Aiden pushed Sam off the wall, they got yelled at by a security guard for walking on the wall, Sam cried and then sat down because he had to poop and didn’t want to, the dog ate a stick, threw up the stick, and then tried to eat it again. I was trying to drag everyone home but they weren’t cooperating. And then, in a clear sign from the universe that I had made a terrible mistake, a bird pooped on my head. I almost lost my mind and told the kids I would never take them on another walk with the dog again. They slowly made their way back home and got yelled at again by a different security guard while scaling a grass cliff. It was such a monumental disaster, I have kept my promise and have not taken the two of them out with the dog, on my own, for 6 months.  Maybe things will change when they get a little older, but I’m not taking my chances for at least another few years. Now, one kid : one dog is a totally different story, and usually leads to some quality time and a nice conversation.

1 kid:1 dog:1 parent= lovely walk and chat.

2 kids:1 dog:1 parent= lots of poop, pee, barf, fighting, security guard reprimands, crying, bird poo.

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Getting yelled at by a security guard.

About to get yelled at by the security guard.

About to get yelled at by a different security guard.

7. Dogs cull the herd of toys and encourage de-cluttering.

We got rid of 90% of our belongings before we moved to Colombia, so I have been feeling pretty detached from stuff. Lupita has taken it to a new level. I have lost four pairs of shoes, plus Aiden’s flip-flops, Sam’s sneakers, and a sweatshirt. The kids have lost countless toys, stuffed animals and a watch. They haven’t seemed too upset about any of it (except for the watch, which Sam was really attached to).

Here is a small sampling of things Lupita has enjoyed:

I know, you’re probably thinking we should crate her. But she freaked out in the crate and ate the blanket and bed we put in there for her. And then she ate the hard plastic bottom of the crate. We gave her rawhide bones, in a variety of flavors and sizes, and they went untouched. After many tries we have finally found the dog-appropriate toys she loves; a large rope toy and a plastic bone. She carries them from room to room and for the most part leaves our stuff alone. We have learned to put our toys and shoes away, or suffer the consequences. And honestly, we needed that.

spooning