Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Argentina, Still in Mendoza, its a dog eat dog world.

(Pegleg and Shy)

This entry finds us in still in Mendoza and still dealing with motorcycle issues. But rather than bore everyone with more stuff about what can and will go wrong with a bike, I thought I would relate a little story about dogs and try not to bore you too much.

As I might have mentioned previously, we are camping in Mendoza, in the large and very nice Parque San Martin. The park has everything, a football (soccer for you Yanks) stadium, a large lake, a museum, a camp ground, and of course lots of green spaces everywhere. It has also a reputation for being very dangerous. For example most take-out places won't deliver anything here after dark (if at all)!

Nevertheless the campground is excellent if a bit loud, it also doubles as a place where pretty much all of Mendoza comes to grill on the weekend. They are usually full by mid-day on Saturday and Sundays. So what has all this to do with dogs, you might be asking. Well, the campground has a watchdog, a beautiful collie called Bruno. In addition to Bruno there are a number of other dogs which hang around, since the campers or actually the picnikers tend to give them scraps (not always voluntarily as they are pretty sneaky if you turn your back), much to the dismay of the management. Also, this being a park and pretty secluded people actually bring puppies and kittens and just leave them here. When we got here, there were two young puppies which hung around just outside the campground fence and would sneak into the camping when there weren't a lot of people around. Also a very pregnant dog seemed to have adopted them, along with another one who would often be seen playing with the two pups. As all of this was taking place near our tent, we ended up pretty much adopting the whole dog family. This of course contrary to our standing policy of never, ever, under any circumstances feed the animals.

(Peg and Shy, sooooo cute!!)

In short oder we were buying dog food, and giving them regular meals. The dogs then started sleeping in the tent, the first 2 or 3 days we would be kicking them out at all hours of the night, but we finally relented, and let the big dogs sleep in the back of the tent and the two puppies in front.

(Peg and Shy sleeping in the tent!)

Of the two puppies, one was very shy and the other less so. In the beginning the shy puppy would at the slightest provocation run and hide in the tent, and then stick his head out from underneath to keep a watchful eye on the situation, it took a long time before you were able to pick him up and pet him. The other a bit more reckless, and would let you pick him up, and would go wandering around looking for food. One day he went over to visit Rene and Axel, a couple from Lichtenstein who were camped a couple of spots over. Axel, put the puppy up on the top of his sidecar and he fell and caught his leg in the wheel spoke, breaking it. Axel and Rene then took him to the vet, where he got an injection and in the morning he returned to get a cast on. Poor puppy.

After a while it was clear that we were going to be taking care of these guys for a while (since we weren't going anywhere), so we decided to give them names. Since one was in a cast he got the name Pegleg. The shy one was logically called Shy. The pregnant dog we called Snow, as in Snow White and the seven dwarfs. The last stray we called Dwarf, or Zwerg (depending on what language we happened to be speaking), since he was so short.

Then things started getting complicated. First, Peg got an eye infection, so we had to take him to the vet and get him some drops for his eyes. A few days later he stopped eating, and we got really scared. We were taking him to the vet everyday getting him injections of vitamins and anti-biotics. He apparently caught something pretty serious. After 5 days he finally started to get his appetite back, but he looked really, really bad. So we were now spoiling him with his favorite foods, roasted chicken, and ham!! (We were eating plain pasta!!), to try and get him to put on some weight.

We also got Shy vaccinated during this time. He also got an eye infection and did not like his drops, so that got to be a daily fight (every 8 hours).
During all of these visits to the vet (most of which Katheryna did), Katheryna started asking around for shelters for the dogs. Rene had also made up a note which she put up in the vets office in case anyone was looking for pups.

(Snow and newborn puppies)

In the middle of all this, at 2 o'clockl in the morning we were awoken by some strange noices at the back of the tent (this is the side where our heads are). As I took a peek, the Snow was giving birth. The first had just made its entrance when I looked, and over the next two hours it was followed by 7 more! We would sneak a peek every few minutes to see how things were going. In the morning, we found 5 pups suckling, 2 dead, and one dying, rejected by the mother. Well, Katheryna of course was not pleased with the situation and decided to lend nature a hand. She put the dying pup to the mothers breast, and everytime the mother pushed it away, Katheryna would put it back. After a while the mother relented and cleaned it up and let it suckle. Katheryna 1, nature 0.

(The newborn puppies)

Our dog family had now grown considerably. We were now caring for Shy, Peg, Snow, Dwarf and 6 new born pups. Luckily Katheryna's search for shelter or someone to take a puppy was starting to bear fruit. There is a group who gives away puppies every Saturday in the middle of Mendoza and collects money for their shelter. Katheryna spoke with a lady there and explained the situation, apparently they didn't have room for more dogs, but as we were tourists she would make and exception and would take Snow and the new borns. So the following Sunday we took Snow to the shelter, amid lots of barking (there were dogs everywhere), and plenty of tears we left poor Snow and the puppies (which were just starting to open their eyes). The lady said that she was sure that she could find homes for the puppies without much problem, and Snow should also not be a problem as she is young and fit.

A few days later, through a contact that the vet provided we found a home for Shy. The guy didn't want Peg as he was still very thin and had his cast on, but he liked Shy. So plenty of tears and another dog had found a home.

Now we are down to Peg and Dwarf, and Dwarf we weren't going to worry about, since he is grown and could take care of himself and anyway he would often disappear for days at a time. The people at the camping were very happy that we were taking care of the situation and not dumping more dogs on them. Then it was Pegs turn to go to the shelter. By this time he was pretty fit, his cast was off, and he had put on considerable weight. Katheryna had not been able to find a home for him, and we were getting too attached to him, so we had to take him. More tears and Peg was gone. It had been a long and hard fight to get him fit and we had been really worried about loosing him, so we were at once relieved and sad to see him go.

(Dwarf, Zorro and Peg taking some sun.)

At the campground, there were a number of new dogs around, at least three very big dogs, and one puppy around 5 or 6 months old. The grown dogs were seen around for a few days but then were gone, but the puppy stayed. So guess who adopted him!! Yep, you guessed it. But this time, we made it clear to the people at the camping that we weren't going to take responsibility for him, and after a week or so of back and fort, they agreed to keep him. So now we could feed him without feeling bad about it, the campground even provided food for him. So the story ends, Bruno and Zorro (the new puppy) are well, Dwarf hasn't been around for a week now, but I am sure he is fine. There are still a few other strays who come around now and then, but we all discourage them from staying around, in particular as they often get into a tangle with Bruno. Zorro sleeps just outside the tent, and is a great watchdog. He now gets two good meals a day, and on Sunday stuffs himself with food he scrounges off the picnickers. He was seen carrying around half a chicken the other day, after stuffing himself, he sleep it off with all four paws pointing to the sky, and he didn't even stir when I cooked. Today the vet is coming to give him and Bruno vaccinations. The dogs may come and go, but we seem to stay..

An update, Bruno and Zorro are doing fine, Zorro is now sleeping in the front part of the tent. The vet has given him his first vaccination. He seemed to have a bad reaction as the following day(s) he had problems with his eyes. After three days it got a bit better, and the vet says that is should clear up by itself. We let him sleep in the tent since the weather was so cold (it started to snow) and miserable, that we just couldn't leave him outside. Bruno gets to sleep in the lounge, although the people at the campground try to discourage it.

Since the weather was so miserable they even offered to let us sleep in there, but we turned them down. We are "serious" campers. When I received my new mattress from Cascade, I put the old one in the front part of the tent so now Zorro, is not only dry and warm, but he also has a mattress to lie on. Who says we are spoiling him?

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