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  • Writer's picturePru Warren

The International Allure of Dogs

Saturday, 827 3:15pm

What’s the deal with dogs in Lima? I haven’t found anyone to ask yet, but I will.

People have dogs here; I’ve seen dogs being walked. Very normal, very happy. I coo at every dog I see.

And then there are the street dogs. At least, I assume they’re street dogs; I don’t exactly know. Upon occasion, a dog will busily trot past, like he’s got somewhere to be. I saw dogs without collars, dogs with collars, dogs dragging leashes. Was there an owner huffing and puffing along behind, calling out the Spanish equivalent of “Damn it, Fluffy, get back here!”? I never SAW anyone calling for Fluffy, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t someone.

Or was Fluffy on his (or her) daily rounds? If I’d tracked Fluffy, would he have trotted busily to the local farmacia where the employees would greet him (“?Que tal, Fluffy?”), tie the day’s purchases around his neck, and send him back to Señor Viejo, just like every other Friday?

You’ll say that this is a Disneyfied version of life for an abandoned street dog, and I would agree with you. EXCEPT that more than a few of these street dogs were togged out in well-fitting and attractive dog coats, in flattering colors. So what’s the story THERE? These weren’t dirty, tattered rags; these were nice LLBean “let’s take King duck hunting with us next week” dog coats. The dogs weren’t writhing and biting and scraping along the sides of buildings to try to get out of the coats; the dogs were going on about their business with perfect insouciance. “I always wear the green coat when the weather is misty.”

So…what? Do-gooders in Lima, equipping the canine population with the basics in all-weather outerwear? If they were coat-ing the dogs, were they also taking Fluffy in for vaccines and spay/neutering? Was Fluffy cared for, or did the intervention extend to coats and no farther?

Or do loving, caring dog owners just open their door in the morning and send Fluffy out to parade through Lima el Centro with justifiable pride, certain that he or she will return at the previously-agreed-upon time? “Come home when the street lights come on, Fluffy.”

I don’t know. I mean to find out.

Twig went for a long walk along the beach path this morning. I’d theorized that she’d have to take a taxi to get there since between us and the beach was not just a 50’ cliff but also at least six lanes of traffic per side of a three-lane highway rushing along the shore…but I did not reckon on Twig’s probably Incan heritage. That girl LIKES to take a walk. Upon the advice of the guy at the hotel’s front desk, she walked WAAAAAY down that way to where a staircase went down the cliff to a pedestrian overpass.

Then she walked WAAAAAY up this way along the beach, to the much-farther second staircase, and then had to bushwhack back through Miraflores to get back to our hotel.

Along the way, she got a taste for the Miraflores surfing community. (Twig, a very happily married woman, noted with interest that there were lots of very fit greying men on those surfboards; she put on her glasses to better admire the view. And who could blame her?)

She took the charming photo at the top of this blog, of a dog sleeping on his owner’s motorbike. I’d lie and tell you I’d taken it myself, but the truth is that while Twig, in her somehow-elegant performancewear, was very demurely cruising the surfing population, Rusty and I had essentially gone back to bed after breakfast. We were reading. I made myself a nest in the one armchair, with my feet on the bed, where I alternately read a book (which did NOT take place in Peru; what a waste) and slept (which DID take place in Peru, so less of a waste but still slothful).

We regrouped at noon, checked out of our rooms, had the hotel store our bags, and walked to a local place for Peruvian chicken, although of course they only called it chicken… The food was very simple and very delicious. There were three different sauces put on the table, which Rusty and Twig identified. The first was ranch dressing; what a let-down…but tasty on the salad!

The second was a citrusy aioli that was great on both chicken and fries. And the third was a too-spicy-for-Pru yellow pepper sauce which I tried, even knowing it was spicy. I’m determined to at least TRY. Maybe I’ve outgrown my childish palate. (Not yet…but that’s not going to stop me on this trip, by damn!)

We meet up with the Lindblad team tomorrow morning at 6:20 (oh God, I wish that was a joke), so we’re spending the night at the airport hotel. Our drive over was as interesting as everything else in Peru. At one moment, I was taking bored pictures of the highway-side plants in a traffic jam along the beach (fab fan palms, maybe four feet high).

The next minute we were back in Lima proper, still in traffic.

Now, look at that photo. What do you see that makes it all look so…poor? I can’t define it. The houses are all lovingly tended. The place is immaculately clean. There’s a public transit system that devotes two lanes exclusively to the use of large and fancy buses—and those buses zooming along can make you pretty wistful when you’re sitting in your cab at a dead stop in traffic.

I don’t know what it is. Do I see poverty through hopelessly innocent eyes? Is this not poverty at all? It is said that travel is broadening—but I haven’t traveled enough yet to feel like I’ve got the answers.

Ooh—but as we neared the airport, the taxi driver made Rusty close his window and told Twig to put away her iPad. “Not good in this area,” he said, and made no other explanation. We decided later that he was watching out for us; that this area around the airport might be a reach-through-the-open-window-and-grab-what-you-can-before-running-like-hell region. Every lane featured vendors walking slowly through the traffic jam selling candies or nuts or whatever; if someone with less honorable intentions had walked past an open window, we wouldn’t have been the wiser.

So THAT was sort of exciting. And I envisioned a quick nano-second story in which someone reached in to grab the cell phone out of the hands of an Olympic sprinter who followed his phone out of the car and tackled the bad guy to the ground, to the honks and delighted shouts of all the others stuck in traffic. Six-second fantasy. Kept me entertained in the midst of car exhaust and offers to sell me peanuts (or maybe something more exotic; I—alas—cannot say).

And now we’re at the Wyndam at the airport. And by “at the airport,” I mean my view is of the parking lot just outside the terminal, with a “Welcome to Peru” sign that must be a hundred feet long.

If I was on the other side of the hotel, I’d be able to watch fatigued passengers stagger out of the terminal in search of a courageous cab driver.

Ours will be a peaceful evening; we aren’t planning on leaving the hotel until tomorrow when Julio of Lindblad will be our external brain and do all our thinking for us. Yay! After the luxurious haven we stayed in in Miraflores, the Wyndam Costa del Sol is almost like an army barracks…but it’s extremely clean and entirely pleasant. I find I have nothing to complain about! I see an evening of more reading and napping until I actually do fall asleep. This makes me feel guilty; I’m in Peru. Shouldn’t I be doing something… Peruvian? Maybe I could sell nuts in heavy traffic. And possibly score a new iPad. But no—the reading and napping sound like a better option. Buenas noches!

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