No. Not an insulting term for people of a different nationality than me. Just to be clear, I mean Canines. Canines in Foreign lands. Frankly, I think it’s an improvement on my working title of “Mexican Dogs”.
I was lucky enough to spend a week this winter in beautiful Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. Gwynn also spent a week at the beach – just one in more northern climes. He visited a friend of ours at her cottage while we were gone, a week straight of snow-frolicking and wrestling with her two dogs, and picking up a few bad habits along the way.
Dogless, I redirected my usual doggy time to observing everyone elses pooch. I’m not sure why I was so surprised to see so many people walking their dogs down 5th street in the evening. I know dogs aren’t limited to Canada, US and Europe. I just tend to imagine them being far less pet, and far more work elsewhere.
I think most cultures have, to some extent, a sweet spot for our furry friends. And the differences in their treatment of dogs is one of the things that stands out most to me about being in a strange country.
In France, dogs are permitted in restaurants and cafes, and generally most places. If someone had their dog very well trained – chances are, that dog wasn’t on-leash. And I’m talking about Paris, not some very rural community where leash laws are kind of ignored. Dogs there are welcomed into far more places than they are in Canada – but they also have higher expectations placed on them, in my opinion. It’s very much a society of “You are welcome here, but you’d better behave yourself.” Another big difference I noticed was in equipment – simply put, male dogs in France still have it. A British woman I walk with on occasion was baffled at the North American predilection towards neutered males. Her female dog is altered, but her male is fully equipped.
The downside I found when I was in France was an apparent lack of responsibility on the owners’ part for dealing with business. You know… business. Charming cobblestone streets, beautiful treelined paths – it’s PARIS, and P is definitely for Picturesque… but also for Poop. Watch where you step.
A friend recently returned home from a two year contract teaching English in Vietnam. She told me about how many street dogs and street cats there were. We have wild cats – in fact, we have a wild cat problem in Toronto – but wild, roaming, dogs is outside my realm of experience. She told me about how many of these animals found homes with the temporary immigrants who came for limited-time contracts in Vietnam. While it is possible to bring your beloved Vietnamese pet home with you at the end of your time there, after vet bills and vaccines and all the hoops you have to jump through, it comes out to a very expensive second plane ticket home. A common occurence there is for more newly-arrived friends to adopt departing friends’ animals, passing that creature on when it’s time for them to depart as well. I’m frankly not sure if I could bear the idea of parting ways, but I find it sweet that people make such a point of finding their street-dog or street-cat a replacement caregiver before they leave.
I found Mexico to be a bit like Canada, and a bit like France, and a bit all its own. All the male dogs I saw were fully equipped, and stores didn’t seem to have a problem with dogs coming into them with their owners. The streets were spotless. Maybe it’s because I was mostly in areas where lots of restauranteurs and shop owners were basically right out in the street, watching you , or maybe it’s simply that the dog owners of Mexico believe in not leaving a mess behind (after my own heart). Whatever the reason, the streets I went down in Playa Del Carmen were cleaner than my own neighbourhood, when it came to dog business. Possibly because most of the places I saw dogs in were quite busy, most people had their dogs on-leash. Very different from Canada, nearly every dog I saw was a naturally short coated animal. Makes sense, considering that, visiting in the middle of their winter, I experienced the warmest of Toronto’s summer conditions.
It’s when I travel that I wish Gwynn were more travel-sized. I miss him immensely when I’m gone, and feel a bit of irrational jealousy of people just going about their usual day with their dogs at their sides. I love it, though – seeing those commonalities between myself and the people whose country I’ve travelled to. It really doesn’t matter where you go, you’ll always find someone out for a walk.
Plus ça change, plus c’est pareil.