Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Day 2

We started off today with the breakfast that is included with our hostel room. I'm in a lovely triple room with 2 other women, and my single bed is up against the window. The breakfast includes eggs (which I am choosing not to eat because it seems chickens in Peru are treated almost as badly as chickens in the US), bread, strawberry jam and freshly squeezed juice. Today (picture below), the juice seemed to be papaya or some other delicious tropical fruit. Yesterday it was fresh squeezed OJ.

After breakfast, a few of us headed back to the shelter. The task today: to complete building a wall that will end up being a secured storage area for the shelter. Before we got started, however, it was time to "walk" the dogs - all of them. Each day, sometimes more than once, the dogs get a "walk" to the beach. That means the shelter door is opened and all the dogs go charging out, at full speed, and take off racing to the beach. No leashes, no collars, just them and their energy. They sniff and run and bark their way down (disturbing the neighbors, no doubt) all the way to the beach which is about a 1/4 mile down. Once there, they play in the water and sniff. We were told to direct them with whistles and hand clapping - and it worked! Then, when we decided it was time to bring all 40+ dogs back, we clapped and whistled and started heading back . . . and they followed (or lead). Once back inside the shelter, they all lay down and fell asleep. Amazing experience.

I can't help but compare this experience to working at a shelter in the US. In Oregon, at OHS, I had to take a 4+ hour training on how to walk dogs. Then and only then, I can walk one dog at a time, on a leash, in a designated area. And I can't let dogs interact, and certainly can't walk those deemed "aggressive." Very different from today. I also cannot help but think that these dogs - despite being homeless dogs with flees and other risks, are perhaps happier than the homeless dogs in the US. They run and play and live in a pack. They breath fresh air and run. They sleep together and get fed. I know that this is the exception to homeless dogs in South America, and I am certainly not saying that South American homeless dogs have it easy. What I can't help but think is that human intervention to clean up the homeless dog problem results in more suffering to the dogs.

Back to the wall building: They (the shelter) have been robbed twice in the past few weeks, and had important stuff like their propane tank stolen. We're hoping to prevent that from happening again. Building a wall meant learning how to build a wall. We got a lesson from a master teacher, Jesus, who showed us how to mix the mortar to the perfect consistency, lay the bricks, fill in between them, etc. It took about an hour of teaching and showing and correcting before he set us free and went on to help other volunteers get necessary supplies from the town of Trujillo.

We worked all day on the wall - can't believe how long it took to lay the bricks and we're not even close to done. But it was worth it and a great skill to learn how to do and practice immediately. Around 5pm, the sun came out and the beach was beautiful as we walked to get a real meal. All in all a truly wonderful day.

I think tomorrow I'll go to one of the 2 spay / neuter clinics that are happening in Trujillo. So far, they've spayed and neutered about 15 dogs and a number of cats. These are all neighborhood dogs and cats who live with humans (they are not at the shelter) and are brought in by their humans who are interested in a free fix. I have learned that a spay in Trujillo costs somewhere around $100 US. This is outrageously high, given there are many people in this city who do not have electricity. It is no surprise to me that there is such a high street dog / cat population.

All my photos are on Facebook.



  1. Love the pictures of all the dogs at the beach. Makes my heart warm! Keep up the good work!

  2. Great blog Steph, and thanks for including so many photos. Really gorgeous story about the dogs running to the beach and merrily coming back when called. Our dogs didn't even do that - and they were supposedly trained (I use that word very loosely)

    Remember saying to Tara... come Tara, come Tara... pause, ok, you're right, you're better going that way. You know best. Very well trained indeed!

    Take more photos :)