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Friday, December 13, 2019

American Pet Parenting vs the Dogs of Ecuador

Definitely not Ecuador.
Modern Doghood is a trademarked name for “proprietary formulas” of “nutritionally comprehensive and calorically balanced kibble and treat lines” that are “specifically formulated” for “our fur babies” (not wolves). It calls itself the first “digitally native” pet food line that’s cutting out the guesswork of what dogs want to eat through “D2D” or “Direct-to-Dog Marketing”.


A major difference between a pro-life culture and a culture that is not is the way people treat their animals, dogs in particular. Ecuador is 95% Catholic so people living there have BABIES. Real human ones, not "fur babies". Children are everywhere in Ecuador. Here in America how many of us know people who, not wanting children, fill the void in their lives by "parenting" 3 or 4 dogs?

Most of us currently have or have had pets - dogs and cats and various animals - but in the past considered it as "having a pet" or "owning a dog", not "pet parenting". The pets were not coddled. They were well loved and cared for but we understood they were animals, not human beings with eternal souls. And, yes, we admit that at times we loved our pets more than we liked certain people, however to treat a dog as a person was unthinkable.

Lonely millennial "pet parenting"
of triplets in America.
Today grocery store pet aisles for the "modern dog" are larger than the baby aisle. Along with myriad types of canned and dry dog food, there are dog toys, expensive dog beds, dog clothes, dog nappies, dog treats, dog dental chews, dog Halloween costumes, and books on how to "parent your pet".

I've met dog "parents" who say their dogs only eat fruit or are on a vegetarian diet. I remind them that by nature dogs are carnivores, not liberals. They say that their dog is on special medication because its nervous, or has indigestion, is allergic to meat or the heat or is a "picky eater" and can only eat carrots or whatever wild story their silly liberal veterinarian concocts. Their vet bills are astronomical - as much as $250-$300 per visit. At each "doctor's appointment" the dogs must have blood tests or skin tests "to see what's wrong with it" or be put on a diet because even the dogs here in America are obese.

I can tell you what's wrong with it. It's a DOG not a BABY! It isn't a human being. It's unhappy that it isn't free, that it wears a bonnet or some such foolish thing, that it isn't being treated as the creature God made it to be, but as a human being, which it is not.

It doesn't want to go to the dog park or participate in doggie play dates, or be exercised on a leash alongside the bicycle its owner is riding. It wants to freely roam in fields and woods, running and digging, lapping cold water from streams and rivers, hunt smaller creatures and eat them as is their nature. (I once had a dog that proudly laid a dead skunk on my doorstep. I buried the skunk far away from the house, only to have the dog find and dig it up and put it back on the doorstep where he thought it needed to stay.)

Before we move on to Ecuadorian dog life here's a silly current trend that horse owners have fallen for. The Horse Therapist! I mean, really...does one go to a university and get a degree in this absurd career? Recently a person told me, "It'll be a busy day in the barn today. The Horse Therapist is coming." 

I asked, "Whatever for?" 

"Oh, Pansy has to have a massage for sore muscles." 

Me: "Seriously? How do you know Pansy has sore muscles? What does The Horse Therapist do for something you're not sure Pansy even has? 

" the muscles!"

Me: "Like what...with her hands? Like a masseuse does on people?"

"Of course."

Me: "Yeah. We used to do that too. It was called grooming. Daily for 20 minutes each morning. Using a curry comb - and leaning into it which deep massages the horse's muscles - then two or three different brushes until their coat gleamed. No Horse Therapist needed. Just proper horse care known since the dawn of civilization. If you did that each day there would be no need to pay huge fees for The Horse Therapist."

There's a stark contrast between dog life in America and dog life in Ecuador. Ecuadorian dogs don't go to wine tastings or have their portraits painted by commissioned artists. They are not sedentary or obese. They are not "modern urban dogs" fed a "no red meat allowed diet" of veggies and fruits.

We have places to go and things to do.
In Ecuador one sees lean fit street dogs. Most of them are owned by families for protection but let out into the street to roam by day. These dogs are incredibly street wise, dodging cars, trucks, motorcycles and buses whizzing by, never getting hit. They play with each other, and definitely socialize with each other - often seen 3 or 4 together aloof and busily trotting by on the way to some clear business they need to attend to which only free dogs would know. They are very very busy with places to go and things to do.

They don't attack people, do not fight with each other, don't bother anyone. They're merely part of city life. I have never seen a dog in Ecuador on a leash. Never seen one in baby clothes. Never even seen a dog petted or talked to by people. They are largely ignored, left on their own to happily roam about as they please. Then they go home for the night where their people toss some sort of food at them which they gratefully accept - whatever it might be. Entrails of a chicken killed for the family dinner maybe. I have never seen a cat in Ecuador. Maybe the dogs eat stray cats.

No Ecuadorian would carry a dog around in their pocketbook. No one would talk baby talk to a dog for they are owned mainly for property protection. "So, while there is a defined human-animal bond, it differs significantly from what most of us are used to. In spite of this 'business-like' relationship, many dogs wag their tails and wiggle with excitement when interacting with their owners, even when such affection is not obviously reciprocated."

For instance, while in a restaurant, out the window we saw a large fluffy dog sitting on the sidewalk looking down the street. It sat and sat. Waiting and waiting. Suddenly it stood up and wagged its tail with joy and into our view came a young teenage girl walking home from school with her backpack. The dog was waiting for his girl! However unlike here in America where the girl would have leaned down kissing, petting and hugging the dog (which never would have been let out in the street in the first place) this girl never slowed or hesitated - she just walked past the dog to the door of her house (which we could see) with the dog jumping up and down with love and joy next to her. She opened the door, briefly touched the dog's head and they both went inside. Shortly the dog was back out on the street.

Ecuadorian dog: 
"I'll sleep where I want, when I want."
Since Ecuador is on the equator it has beautiful weather with no flying insects to speak of, especially in the Andes, therefore restaurants are open air with windows (no screens needed) and doors always open. Even street dogs can wander in and sit, looking up with mournful eyes hoping for a tourist to feed them. Restaurant owners quickly shoo the dogs out. Some use squirt bottles to spray at them. On Thanksgiving Day we were in a restaurant when three dogs wandered in and sat by us. The owner shooed them out, but missed seeing a sweet looking spaniel-type dog with curly white hair that sat in the corner hopefully looking at us. We didn't have the heart to make it leave. It didn't get any morsels of food (greatly frowned upon to feed a dog in a restaurant for obvious reasons) but we enjoyed its company curled up at our feet. 

Then there was the beautiful dog peacefully sleeping stretched out in the doorway of the family shop. One had to literally step over the dog to enter the shop. Every now and then the young owner would wake it up and make it move out of the way, nevertheless, it was still partially blocking the door, sleeping in the sun. There was a large black Great Dane owned by a local cafe/hostel entrepreneur who lived above his store. The dog would lie around the lobby then wander outside in the street at will. We would see him running with other dogs in the street and once saw him standing by three men intently watching them play cards on a board set up on a barrel. The men totally ignored the dog, never talking to him or petting him. He was...just a dog! Then the Great Dane would go home at night, eat leftovers from the day at the cafe, and sleep with one eye open to protect his owner and the building.

Whenever I see a young couple here in America walking their coddled dog dressed in puppy clothes, I sigh and mutter to myself, "Go home! Make a baby."