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The Dogs of Mendoza

When I first arrived in Mendoza I took a walk to find the Parque Central, on the outskirts of the downtown area. I quickly got lost in one of those dead zones that are common to cities everywhere. Walking down a dusty road, beneath and overpass, flanked on either side by large, vacant lots, I came upon a dog. He was tan and black, with the stripes of a tiger, and his eyes were yellow. When I looked into them, he stared me down as I passed, and I was mesmerized. It was as though he saw into my soul, and I saw into his; I saw wildness, defiance, and hunger. I don´t what he saw in me, but he was still staring at me as I turned away. I turned back, but thankfully, he had moved on.

The dogs of Mendoza are lean and hungry, and they own the streets. They roam freely, with no collars and no rules, and a city full of scraps off of which to feed. They are always on the move; trotting behind someone for a few paces to see if they have food, or picking through an opened garbage bag, or even just cruising their turf.

They typify the following lyric from the Pink Floyd song Dogs:

Gotta sleep on your toes when you´re on the streets,
Gotta be able to pick out the easy meat, with your eyes closed.

And truly, Mendoza is a dog´s paradise. Though the downtown is fairly clean, trash is plentiful on the side streets and the pickings are easy. There is water flowing in most of the gutters. Furthermore their seems to be an easy symbiosis between the Mendocinos and the dogs. They seem to be owned by everyone and no one at the same time. Their loyalty extends only until the food runs out, and then they are gone.

They run around in packs sometimes, with the natural leader taking charge. There is safety and strength in numbers, after all. One dog will bump into another, and then the two will trot to the corner, where their other friend will surely show up sooner or later. Together, they will roam to some destination only they know, and which they need not (an cannot) speak. They´ll get where the getting is easy.

When time comes to rest, they will curl up on the corner of some doorway for a moment´s shut-eye, and never for very long. When you approach, their eyes will lift a little and they will chuff, trying to smell if you are dangerous. If not, they will drift back for a few moments to a place where the trash is full of raw beef, and the cats all have three legs...

There is a lesson to be learned from these the real rulers of the city. They know their turf...they know it. They are hungry, they are agressive, they are quick to act. They are always on the move, they travel light, they live by their wits, they stay sharp.

(I´ve since realized this phenomenon is not peculiar to Mendoza, by any means. This is pretty much the way things go in America Sur...the dogs rule, and cats are few.)


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