Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Local Wildlife

What you may or may not know is that Buenos Aires is crawling with critters: pigeons & other birdies, insects, dogs, cats and more cats. Ok, so not exactly wild animals, but I can't get enough of the free-roaming pets. As everyone knows, I'm kind of afraid of dogs, and usually only admire them at a distance. But the dogs here-both leashed pets and strays, are so cute and friendly that I want one myself. It's hard to resist the urge to go on a petting spree, especially since I'm not sure if it's rude or not to pet people's dogs. Sometimes I can't help myself, and my hand finds itself patting the furry head of someone's Golden Retriever. Speaking of breeds, dogs are like a status symbol in my neighborhood. Remember last summer when everyone North of 14th Street in NYC had an expensive French bulldog? (of course you wouldn't, unless your name is Temnete Sebhatu) But anyway, I bet half of those poor bulldogs are sitting in a pound somewhere, out of fashion now. Well, it's kind of like that here. Popular breeds are Golden Retrievers, shizus, huskies, and poodles, which are dragged around by little old ladies (I feel bad for the huskies-it's way too hot here for them!). And of course there are the dog walkers, who haul around like 30 dogs of various breeds and sizes, and leave shit all over the sidewalk. Jose, my beloved security guard, has 15 dogs (and 4 cats). Fifteen! Graciela says Jose is "loco," because dog food is so expensive. He told me that most of his pets are "mestizos" (mutts) he rescued from the streets, and that he lives in the Provencia so he has plenty of space for them. People take their pets seriously here. No animal ever seems to go hungry, even the strays. I was petting a group of cats in a trash heap in the park the other day and noticed plates of cat food set out for them, presumably by kind old ladies (like in the Recoleta Cemetery) who can't bear to see cats go hungry. Other hotspots for stray cats are greengrocers and the Botanical Gardens, where clusters of cats lounge under the pruned hedges. As if I don't look crazy enough as it is petting dirty cats, I've taken to photographing them on a regular basis. Some of my favorites are the little orange fellow how lives and few blocks from me, the little gatito who lives at the fruit stand on my way to school (the boys who work there are amused by my obsession), and this fat fluffy gray one that lives behind the fence of some sort of top-security compound. And of course Reni, Graciela's eccentric "boyfriend," who sleeps in between couch cushions and comes into my room at weird hours making all sorts of noise.
I've heard that only Westerners (ie America, Europe) make a big fuss over pets, but considering how well-groomed, obedient, and bountiful domesticated animals are here, I think pet obsession is a universal bourgeois privilege.

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