Sunday, March 1, 2009

Strays of Lima

Living in Lima, it's very hard not to notice the animals, or rather, the strays. They roam almost every street in almost every neighborhood. They nap in any available shady patch of sidewalk or road and stalk outside tiendas and restaurants.

These dogs, and the occasional feline, sit humbly on street corners not stirring at the human action going on around them, unless of course there is the promise of food. If this is the case, they quietly and delicately follow and beg modestly, as if they have taken lessons from cute overload, for whatever rations you can spare. If you can't spare any food, the calm beasts continue to accompany you either for companionship or to instill a bit of guilt, or maybe a bit of both.

Even the most intimidating looking of callejero, as they are called in Peru meaning street creature, provide nothing more than atmosphere to the avenues here in Lima. They criss-cross the streets, sometimes in motley packs of two or three comprised of different breeds and sizes, as if some sort of living landmark of this South American city. The sleeping dogs lie in the parks, roads, and in front of doorsteps unknowingly acting as one of the cities many attractions.

Although the callejeros are mostly passive, like any starving and lost critter, they can get feisty. Only on one occasion did we encounter such a dog. Walking home from the local bodega, we passed a pup that we pass every day; a stray that sleeps and roams in the area around the block from my cousins abode. This dog is normally of the calmest demeanor, as are all the dogs and cats in the all the neighborhoods and roads. Perhaps we passed during a day it wasn't fed, or perhaps he had gotten in a fight with another stray, but this particular dog on this particular day wasn't happy and it showed. He snapped up from his afternoon seista, began his barking and gave a half-hearted start to a chase. He was quite successful in shooting both of our blood pressures up. Although, this was just a warning, a "hey, don't mess with me today, 'cause I'm grouchy," it was a good reminder that here in an alien land. Don't get to comfortable; always stay aware. And perhaps give a second thought to that rabies shot.

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