Sunday, March 20, 2011

Animal Control is Not One Size Fits All

What does a street dog do? How do they survive? Do they have any quality of life or are they just poor suffering creatures best put out of their misery?

As I got to know a few satos/ Puerto Rican street dogs, I discovered how much motivation and opportunity the feral dogs have to improve their communication skills.

When I got past being shocked and appalled at dogs not having homes with full food dishes and pillows, I looked to see what they do have.

Gradually I began to understand the social structure of a neighborhood of free ranging dogs. Their lives are humble and often harsh, but they find time to run and play. Unless they are sick or injured, we don’t do them a kindness by killing them. I mean putting them to sleep.

So I am terribly at odds with those who collect and euthanize the island dogs.

If you want to know how a dog thinks, you look at what they do. Dog lovers all talk about the things our dogs do, how clever or how silly. Do we shade our impressions with our own thoughts or beliefs? Of course! And don’t you think that our dogs pick up behaviors because of us? Hah, every time I hear the dog in the kennel giving a death scream, I know the answer to that one.

At times I’ve felt selfish because watching dogs go about their lives without our guidance intrigues me completely. The premise of my dog training school has been to improve our relationship with dogs. It’s not enough to have a bag of tricks on how to control the dog’s behavior. When I show people what the dog is saying, they pick up on it. The street dogs have taught me to be a good canine interpreter. I pray to learn Spanish as well.

In the course of studying the satos, I’ve learned how important they are to the ecology. Do you know how fast rats breed? It’s like bunnies on steroids. Do you know what rats eat? Everything! People tell me that they pick their fruit green to get it before the rats.

So if you don’t think Puerto Rico has a rat problem; thank a sato. If you do think we have a rat problem, perhaps we should talk about an island approach to animal control.

I welcome your thoughts and opinions. Thanks, Tricia

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