Having been fortunate enough to travel throughout South America, I have noticed one constant in all the cities I have visited- stray dogs. Peru was possibly the worst. Stray dogs everywhere. Chasing car tires, stalking the streets in packs, and eating out of trash bins. My heart bled for all these stray pups. Then I arrived in Argentina. I remember thinking, “surely, Argentina will be different.” But alas, just as many strays. My time on mainland Ecuador was brief, but the story was no different, los perros were everywhere.
Now enter the Chilean stray dogs. I immediately noticed something different about these fellas. For one thing, they were so chubby, mild mannered and generally the happiest dogs I had seen in a long time. I soon learned their story.
Let me introduce you to the Chilean Kiltro – a dog of Santiago, Chile.
Before Santiago was an urban city, it was previously surrounded by farm land. Farmers and their families had many dogs on their property and let their dogs roam free. There was no need to build fences to keep them in because their dogs knew where home was. Then, as Santiago progressed into an urban center, families began moving into the quickly forming city. However, they maintained their practice of letting their pups roam free. Later, the issue of dogs running free through the city had obvious consequences – ehem – doggie do do – so the city formed a dog pound to round up the strays.
Every morning the pound would round up the so-called, “stray dogs,” and take them to the pound. Then every evening, the owners of the dogs would pick them up, take them home, and then let them roam free again. This cycle continued until a bitter relationship towards the pound forced Santiago to abandon the idea.
Santiago views all the dogs on the street, the Kiltros, as their own. Everyone works toward keeping these Kiltros well fed and taken care of and in return, these pups love their universal owners. I heard stories from local Chileans saying that nothing is better than ending a long evening out dancing with a walk home with a Kiltro, both for safety and company. In the winter, Kiltros can be seen wearing little booties to keep their paws warm and if you see a Kiltro in need, and cannot personally attend to them, you can post to a Facebook group and someone will come immediately. So even the Chilean Kiltros have universal healthcare!
*facts learned from Tours4Tips Santiago walking tour
We are currently in New Zealand, follow along here!