We spotted the notice on a lamp post, inviting owners of salchichas (dachshunds) to a gathering in a park by the river the next afternoon, starting at 14:00. It was being organized by a Facebook page called Salchichas Uruguay. As we passed that park on La Rambla nearly every day, we decided to go that way the next day.
We had lunch in nearly Punta Carretas, and headed for the park. Even if we had not already known where the park was, all we would have had to do was to follow the stream of salchichas, all heading in the same direction.
And when we arrived at the park there were already a multitude sniffing each other, barking, yapping, growling, lifting their leg, and vacating their bowels. And that was just the dog owners.
The Facebook page had about 1000 members at that time and the organizers had expected 50-100 owners to turn up. They were quite overwhelmed by the response, and by the end of the day over 400 dogs had attended.
There were only two requirements for the owners; all dogs had to be kept on a leash and no females in heat were welcome. I could imagine the ensuing chaos if an owner had not respected the second requirement. It would have been comical to watch.
During the afternoon there were gifts handed out, a raffle was drawn, and prizes were given for the best dressed dog.
Every day we saw many dogs on La Rambla, most not on a leash, despite the busy traffic on one side. They seem be well trained and responsive to the owners and I have never once seen two Pocitos dogs growl or fight. Many run with their owners, and I have even seen one that swims along parallel to the beach, while the owner strolls along, usually talking on his phone.
There are many owners, perhaps older citizens, who employ dog walkers to exercise their pet. Over the three summers that I have been in Pocitos, I have got to know two of the many dog walkers, one who specializes in small dogs, and the other in large dogs. They told me that the maximum either have taken at one time is 14-16 and the guy who takes only large dogs is built like a weight lifter. His own dog is not on a leash, and trots ahead and stops at each light, until it is told it can cross. It is amazing to watch the human-to-dog communication.
We also saw dog walkers in Buenos Aires, but the ones that we saw were wearing special belts, to which they snap the leashes, leaving their hands free and eliminating the risk of a dog escaping.
In Mendoza, we saw many street dogs, especially in the park. In no way were they aggressive; they were more a nuisance, in that they wanted to be adopted, and they insisted in following one everywhere.
My eldest son, Andrew, had a similar experience in North West Argentina, where street dogs followed him and his friends from where they were staying, when they went hiking in the nearby foothills of the Andes.
We also saw many street dogs in Santiago de Chile. To cross a busy street, they sit at an intersection, waiting for the lights to turn green. Sometimes they cross with people, at other times by themselves.
In English the expression ‘leading a dog’s life’ can have two diametrically opposed meanings.
On the one hand it can mean something that is pleasant – the good life: pampered, well fed, warm, comfortable.
But it can also mean something that is unpleasant – a rough life: sleeping outside in all weathers and surviving on scraps.
In our time there, we saw very many examples of both extremes.