on…stray dogs and their significance to civilization

Posted: 20/03/2011 in Travel
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Hypothesis: Locations with stray dogs are inherently more interesting, spontaneous and fun.

I was followed back from the El Bariloche bus station today by a couple of stray dogs, they must have followed me for a good  4 km. They weren’t threatened by me, they weren’t threatening towards me; I had no food. So why did they follow me? I think they were just slightly bored or curious, or a combination of both. This is by means a rare event, I was also followed by a stray in Mendoza for most of an evening; he even sat beside me at a restaurant table. The Mendoza stray looked fairly well fed and content, and like my new stray friends he didn’t seem to have any motive for his pursuit. I made friends with a stray in the bus station of Rio Gallegos, a place where I spent the night so I didn’t miss the bus to Tierra del Fuego. I think the longest stray pursuit was walking back from a national park near Pucon. I reckon on that occasion I was tailed for about 10km. My favourite stray was a dog I christened Pascal in El Calafate bus station. This was a long and boring experience so I was glad of the company. Pascal didn’t care much for my egalitarian viewpoint on not petting; he was very frisky and enjoyed jumping up and biting my backpack.

I have developed a great fondness for stray dogs, they are in our World but because they have a life without being constantly petted and fed chum every 3 minutes they kind of go about their business with a great sense of indifference. They are not dependent on humans so they live a kind of parallel life without interfering in the affairs of humanity. They have a streetwise world-weariness that I find appealing. In Santiago I noticed that they wait for the lights to change before they cross, and when two strays meet each other they don´t go nuts like two dogs in the park. Woof woof woof …my collar is better than yours,…my coat is shinier than yours…I have a higher protein content in my diet than you….my stools show that my diet is far superior. Yes, that’s the conversation of pet dogs in the park. On the contrary, the strays just sniff each other  then head off in the opposite direction. It’s a sniff of recognition not one of competition. I have so much respect for the strays that I don´t stroke them like you would a pet, just like you wouldn’t stroke an unknown human. It’s socially acceptable to dote on, pet and patronize lesser forms. Babies and toddlers rarely get a firm handshake; they get pointless questions and repetitive banter. I feel like I cannot condescend to this level with the noble strays I have met. For fear of losing their respect I do not pet them, I also fear rabies and fleas. I told a Chilean that you never get stray dogs in England…he said why? I responded that people care more about dogs than their fellow-man. The RSPCA was formed before the NSPCC. This got me wondering about the correlation between the number of stray dogs and society itself. I think a stray dog rating system can tell you how exciting and spontaneous a country is.

It seems that in the “developing” world there are a lot of stray dogs. I used the old “…..” because Italy also has a lot of stray dogs and that´s a G8 country that has a higher standard of living than the UK, actually 21 countries in the World have a higher standard of living than the UK. I wonder why we have such a massive economy (7th largest in the World) but we have such a low standard of living? This brings me back to my first point; we have almost no stray dogs. This may sound strange but a country that doesn’t give money or spend money on pounds, RSPCA, Puppy passports, dog coats, diamond collars, Feng Shui books for pets and goodness knows whatever other bollocks people waste their money on…should have more disposable income to raise the standard of living. Stray dogs is only the tip of the iceberg, we also spend on personal and private security, Insurance premiums and let’s not even mention Lawyers, especially divorce and family lawyers. Divorce is still illegal in Chile but they seem to have found a way round it…they don´t get married. I think one of the biggest ways in which we waz away our nation’s millions is on Health and Safety not to mention Environmental Health. Something which was intended to safeguard people has turned into a pseudo-religion. Everyone is second guessing everything and every weird court cases get blown out of all proportion before making their way into Urban Mythology.

I have worked in enough places to know that if there were inspections all the time almost every eatery would be forever closed. If there were an eatery that respected all the rules set down by environmental health freaks they wouldn’t have time to actually cook anything. The best food I have ever tasted in my life has been from places that would have failed on so many counts, luckily these meals were in countries that didn’t care about such trivial crap. I am aware that it´s there for our protection, and there are certain places… like ******** in **************, that deserve to be closed down. Despite the case of something other than mayonnaise in the mayonnaise I think the whole thing wastes a lot of time and money. The number of hurdles you have to jump through to even get near to opening a food vending establishment is insane, I think this is why in any town centre in England it´s so hard to find anywhere to sit (or stand) and have a snack or drink. The countries and cities with the stray dogs wandering about tend to have the highest proportion of good cheap eats.

People think that the main reason for travelling is to see the World’s sites. I believed this to an extent before I set off. However, now I think the main reason is to experience other cultures and ways of life, to have perspective. I don´t mean playing panpipes with Bolivians or painting my ass with white paint and dancing with Aborigines. This is seeing the other, the exotic through our own eyes.  What I really mean is seeing things from a totally different viewpoint. I like to see how other people do things, even simple things like having a cup of tea or crossing a road. In Singapore you wait for the green man before you cross a road, in Napoli you ignore the lights (if they actually work) and you cross in a slow and predictable manner so that drivers can slow down for you, or in rare cases actually stop. There is no correct way to cross the road as people and places are different. I think it´s healthy to learn from other people and use this outside perspective to change your own ways a little.

To think that you do things better or see the World more clearly is complete ignorance. In this respect I have been amazed at the spontaneity and dynamics of eating establishments in various places in the world. I resent the cost and complexity of going out for a meal in my country. I’m from a country where the kitchens are clean and the employees all have certificates, but the food is cloned and the experience is franchised, soulless and a constant disappointment. Are you enjoying your meal? The underpaid ‘servers’ will ask. In this question the server doesn’t care and even if they did we would never be honest enough to give an exact appraisal. We say “Yes it is fine thanks.” Then we cringe into our crinkle cut chips and add more salt to tepid plate full of mediocrity. I love the elemental nature of street stalls and market food in places like Bangkok and Hong Kong. Eating seems so central to life and there are so many restaurants and eateries spilling on to the streets.

Anyway, getting back to the original point I believe my country with no stray dogs, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, will be pretty much screwed for the coming years if we continue down the path of…..

Champagne Socialistic, nanny state, handholding, form-filling politically correct, box ticking race riot fearing, community caring, committee holding, show of hand showing, democratically crippled bollocks that chokes life and prevents spontaneous freedom. So until I return I´m going to enjoy drinking in unlicensed premises till 8 in the morning, eating from a shack that didn´t pass any tests and drinking moonshine from unlabeled bottles. I´ll probably get a little gut rot from time to time but I´d rather rot my guts temporarily than rot my soul for eternity.

Conclusion: Places with no strays have sterile, whitewashed super hygienic places to eat. Like eating in a dental surgery.

Places with stray dogs have exciting steamy, smelly food. They have authentic non bourgeois eateries for every man and his dog.

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