Nature Field Note

Introduction:

What is the most common animal in Chile?  Why dogs, of course! Although Chile is home to many beautiful creatures, the common dog is one beloved animal found almost anywhere.
The national animals of Chile are the Andean Condor and the Huemul.  You can find pumas in the mountains and even llamas on the streets.  However, the most common animal is the dog.  Dogs roam the streets  in Chile and even wander the lawn of the president’s office.

What does this creature or plant look like?

There are many different types of dogs here, and as many mixes as you can imagine. Collie, German shephard and lab mixes are common. I see beautiful strays and average-looking strays – curly haired dogs, shaggy dogs, short haired dogs, small dogs, and big dogs! Every shape, size and breed of dog that you can imagine lives in Chile. How many types of dogs can you name?

How did I feel when I saw it?

I was surprised to see so many different types of dogs in one place, but I like dogs, so I was happy. If you are scared of dogs, then you might feel uncomfortable. The majority of the dogs living here are street dog, meaning that they live on the streets.

Although I have gotten used to seeing dogs everywhere, sometimes it is a little sad to see how they live on the streets, especially when I see puppies. I think the people here view the dogs as part of the community, and they show an open, friendly and welcoming attitude towards them. The people are very peaceful. They do not want to hurt the dogs and so they let them live on the streets.

Where does it live?

The dogs live everywhere.  It is so odd when you are walking down the street and see dogs just lying in the middle of a corner of a busy intersection, sleeping.  People just walk around the dog, so as not to disturb the sleeping animal! It is common to not expect the dog to get out of your way here. You may pass 10 or 12 dogs every couple of blocks.  Some stay in small packs, but most are solitary and wander the streets alone.  They live under benches or wherever they can.

How does it use its environment to survive?

The street dogs here rely on humans to be kind and compassionate towards them. Although they are definitely animals, they rely on the food that people throw away and waste. Many people will throw their leftovers to the dogs. I have seen dogs eating everything from sushi to cake.  I have even shared my own lunch with a stray dog.  It is just hard to be selfish and not share when you see a sweet, furry innocent face staring at you with big, old puppy-dog eyes!

What can harm this creature or plant? Are we worried about it?

There are about 30 people for every one dog in Chile. That is a lot of dogs! Though the people of Chile admit that there is a problem with stray dogs, they protest at the inhumane killing of the animals. The dogs are protected thanks to the Chilean people’s compassion and sweet nature.   They accept the dogs and live with them.  The dogs do sometimes face problems finding food, staying clean and finding shelter. They can also carry diseases, and must watch out for cars. Spaying and neutering could help bring the population down, but even that would require a lot of time and energy from the government. So, for now the dogs are part of everyday life in Chile!

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