Street Dog

Altitude Adventures

In our first two weeks here, we napped twice a day! The altitude (8500′ at our house) was hard on our bodies.  Then we went down to one nap per day, then every other day.  Now we don’t nap much unless we really exert ourselves.  Gary bought a great quality bike from a guy who was heading back to the US.  It’s a hybrid road-offroad bike, so he can take it anywhere. When he rides it way down the mountain along the river trail, and then back up the mountain to our house, its nap time. I’m impressed that his lungs are able to manage the altitude and the uphill exertion!  I still get winded when I walk up the steep terraced hillside from our veggie garden to the house. Progress: I can now walk from the bus stop up the unbelievably steep curving sidewalk through our hilltop neighborhood, often without resting.  I love seeing that improvement.

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Dog in CuencaStreet dogs are uncommon in downtown (El Centro) Cuenca but become more prevalent as you get into the outlying areas.  Still, there are not as many as we encountered in Cotacachi, Ecuador, until you get to the outer areas of Cuenca.  In our area of Cuenca, Rio Amarillo, it seems like everyone has a dog, either running loose on the street, or captive behind a fenced or gated yard.  

Rio Amarillo is a barrio about two miles west of El Centro.  There is a mix of really nice houses and some plain ones.  It’s a very mixed income neighborhood, but a very nice one.  There are lots of dogs here.

Many people in Cuenca seem to own dogs for one reason…property protection.   For a majority, they are not pets, companions, or “furry friends” here.  Some live on the street or sidewalk in front of businesses, some wander the street in front of their homes, and others are kept behind fenced in areas.  Yet others are staked or chained near the property they are there to protect.  The neighbor behind us has a dog on a two foot rope, with a doghouse, near their guinea pig pens.  Since there are stray cats in the area, we assume his sole purpose is to protect the guinea pigs from the cats.  The guinea pigs here are food for the household.  That dog has no freedom. 

It’s unusual to see an Ecuadorian walking a dog on a leash but we have seen a few.  When we walk ours down the streets, the street dogs and the ones behind the gates go berserk barking and growling.  When we take a walk without our dog, the other dogs don’t bother us. I’m guessing it’s a territorial thing.  

Many of the dogs we’ve encountered, both on the street and behind fences, look like they could use a bath.  I’ve heard that most people never bathe their dogs in their lives. Some of them are downright mean, while others try to look mean, but you know they are just posing.  I learned not to reach out to pet any of them, especially the raggedy poodles.  Dirty, mean little nippers they are – most that we’ve seen. Again, most of the dogs seem unbothered by us, unless we have our dog with us. 

It is painful to see how badly many dogs are treated around here.   A dog can be a wonderful friend and companion if treated properly, and can and will still protect property if needed.  Some locals don’t see this.  They show little to no compassion for dogs and because the dogs are taught to be mean and aggressive, many are afraid of dogs. 

We have a loving, very friendly dog who likes to meet people.  When we walk her here, people avoid us out of fear they will be bitten.  Many are surprised and pleased that Star, our dog, is so loving and friendly.  Many Ecuadorians are amazed at how well trained and behaved she is.  At our hostel in Quito, the staff fell in love with her, and even all had their pictures taken with her before we left.  Star was a star to them.

As more gringos move in with their dogs and more locals see that there is another way to live with them, things should change for the better.  I acknowledge that the reason many dogs go uncared for is because it takes every penny for many locals to just feed their families, and pets need to be low on the priority list.  I also will note that many of the dogs on the street are very friendly and street smart.  Most dogs brought from the US would never survive the way these savvy dogs do, after years of cushy treatment.  

There is a reason for the way things are done in every culture and we acknowledge, that while we may not like the way some of these dogs are treated, this is the native culture and it is not our place to judge.  We will continue to treat our own dog and the friendly dogs we meet with love and compassion and maybe that example will be seen and followed by others.  

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La Petit JardinLast night, we had the pleasure of dining at one of the highest rated restaurants in Cuenca, Ecuador, La Petit Jardin, which happens to be in our neighborhood.  Our friends, hosts, and landlords, introduced us to this restaurant and are friends with the owners and chef.  We walked, almost a mile, uphill to the restaurant, through what many North Americans would consider a shady neighborhood, passing abandoned buildings, street dogs, and vacant lots.  Undeveloped areas like this are common in Ecuador, and not to be feared.  Eventually we turn onto a dirt road offering the same but with one beautiful huge house (casa) behind a fence.  One more turn onto another single lane dirt road, and we reach La Petit Jardin, situated in a beautiful house with gardens and a llama hanging out in the field nearby.  It is in the most unlikely location you would ever expect such a fine restaurant to be in, but it works.  

We arrive, the front door opens, and we are greeted by one of the owners.  The restaurant is empty and it looks like we are the first guests for the evening.  They only open Saturday and Sunday.  The rest of the week, the chef and owner, Giovanni, is shopping for ingredients for the next week, and spending time with his family.  Their residence is next door.

The Food

We are seated,  given our menus, which offer a limited but delectable looking selection of Entrees, Appetizers, and drinks.  After polishing off two appetizers, we order four different meals between us.  Trout, short ribs, a shrimp dish, and a chicken dish.  Wow!  They were all beautifully presented, and perfectly cooked.  I had the short ribs, which melted in my mouth.  Our friend Lucy had the trout and offered me a taste.  I think it was the best trout I have ever tasted.  I didn’t  try the chicken or shrimp but was told they were exquisite also.  We finished the meals with a bowl of ice cream, called helados here.  The ice cream was home made with local fruit.  DELICIOUS! La petit jardin

The Bill

Then, the big shock, the bill!  Four entrees, two appetizers, two Mojitas with Cuban Havana rum, one craft beer, and one desert.  $54.00.  We just had the most incredible dinner for four, for $54.00.  My jaw nearly dropped.  No where in the United States would you find a meal of this quality for that low of a price.  My kudos to Giovanni for being able to offer such a fine meal for so affordable a price.  That makes it easy to go out to a fine restaurant more often.  

We pay our bill, and say goodbye to Giovanni and his wife.  As we are leaving he says to me, “we are neighbors now, so we will see you again.”  He was exactly right, he will.  

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