This post is a bit unusual as it’s about a friend Erin and I came to know in Ecuador. It’s about Holly, a true jungle dog owned by a British expat couple who own Bird Watcher’s Breakfast. Bird Watcher’s Breakfast was a wonderful place to eat breakfast outside while, you guessed it, watching birds. It’s also where we met Holly. I’ve talked a little about Holly before but never in-depth.
Holly was smarter than the average dog in a very street smart sort of way. When a car or truck passed her on the road, she would move over to the side of the of the road and carefully watch as it passed. Once I was afraid she was going to get caught in a barbed wire fence but she deftly slid right under it without a moment’s pause. She lived a life few Americans (and other westerners) can imagine for a dog. She had owners, sure but she had no collar, no tags, no fence to keep her in or leash to walk her on. Mainly Holly was a free dog, not feral and usually quite friendly but she went at will where she wanted.
The second time we saw Holly was when she decided to visit us impromptu during a hard rain. I was cooking for guests when I looked out the back window onto the porch and was startled to see a shaggy, black mammal jumping onto the porch. After the initially surprise I realized it was a dog. In the next couple months, Holly and her “brother” that we called Spaz (never learned his real name) visited us several times. The dogs would either show up out of the blue or follow us or guests to the lodge if they saw us passing Bird Watcher’s Breakfast.
Don’t get me wrong: I’ve been places where street dogs are a big problem. In parts of The Bahamas, Mexico, Madagascar I’ve been seriously worried about dog attacks and it’s not good for humans or canines. Also, there are a large amount of un neutered dogs wandering around Mindo and Ecuador at large free to spawn potentially unwanted puppies. That being said, in Mindo at least there seemed to be a sort of harmony between dogs, locals and tourists. I never saw dogs acting aggressive towards people beyond chasing motorcycles (but almost never cars for some reason). Conversely I never saw people acting more aggressive towards dogs than shooing them out of shops and restaurants. Even at a larger bus stop in Ecuador (which was more like a major airport than bus stop) with signs saying ‘No dogs’ we watched policemen petting wandering dogs. We saw dogs begging tourists for food at outdoor tables and a dog walk into a grocery store and nonchalantly start eating from a bag of cat food for sale.
All of the dogs we saw were healthy and well fed looking. I’m sure the dogs had their own problems but nothing too great and it seemed that all of them actually had owners. The dogs just visited the owners (or followed them through town) on their own terms, being their own free agents. Seeing this sort of life for a dog, including Holly, which was a prime example made me rethink the relationship we have with animals in the U.S. Maybe, just maybe dogs are actually capable creatures in their own right, able to in many ways live happily without everything being taken care of for them by humans. Then again there are the street dogs in other places that are mean, hungry, inbred and overpopulated. Perhaps there is some sort of balance though, that can be struck with humans and other animals, not just dogs but perhaps even livestock and wild animals.