We always meant to write this post but we never seemed to have the time. In Otovala, Ecuador, our dog Louie got hit by a car. He was beloved by all and one of the clearest memories I have of the trip is all of us crying and kneeling around Louie’s body in the grass in the little park where we were camping. The people who saw it happen helped us find a site to bury Louie and one man even dug the grave for us. It was a sad time.
We stayed in Otovalo for more than a week. And a strange thing happened. Otovala was filled with street dogs, like everywhere else we had been. We were camped one block from the main square and people sold street food there all day and into the night so dogs congregated there. One day, as we walked back from the market, a dog followed us. We wouldn’t have really noticed it except it kept happening. Every time we walked anywhere at all in Otovala, the dog would show up and follow us, She really followed Ryan. He would leave the camper and walk anywhere and within 10 minutes, the dog would be walking right next to him. We would walk into a store and the dog would lay down outside and wait for us. Eventually she started sleeping in Ryan’s camping chair out front of the camper. Ryan asked if we could keep her and of course we all said yes! There was a vet across the street and we took her there to see if the dog was healthy and if she belonged to anyone. The vet said we should take her and his daughter suggested we name her Luce, like the word for light. So we called her Lucy but mostly we call her Salchi because she is so fat.
She is a sweet, gentle dog. She spent a few trial nights with us in the camper and could not seem to believe her luck. She quickly figured out the whole bathroom thing and was instantly house trained. She is very smart and quite savvy and will walk next to you without a leash. She still has some food issues (which is why we call her salchi, she is really fat as she cannot NOT eat). She will eat anything, dry pasta, raw potatoes, onions, anything. It took her months to stop eating everything at once without stopping. She was like a goldfish, she would eat until she threw up. Luckily she is much better at this as she seems to understand that we are going to continue to feed her. She was scared of the broom. And if you made a sudden movement around her, she would scream. We figure she subsisted her entire life on dropped french fries and old salchi (hot dogs). She joins Trek, the Canadian Border Collie, as part of our international pet crew. We have to use Spanish to give her directions but she is slowly learning English. She had some trouble understanding our strange customs (like water bowls and dog food and the car, especially the car as she would go inside and time would go by and the door would open and we would be some place different).
The stray dogs were one of the hardest things in all of South America. They were everywhere and sometimes they were starving. In the Atacama, we would leave bowls of water outside at night for the stray dogs. In every city, we fed the dogs that turned up at our camper. Some dogs were mean. We saw a dog bite a little boy in San Pedro. Max got bit by the dog in Puno. Most dogs were nice. Some cities had happy, well-fed dogs but most had skinny, sad looking dogs. It was a lot harder than it sounds to walk away from many of these dogs.