Foreign Dogs


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.

Feb2011 350

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.

Afghan Hound With Short Hair

Even the Afghan hound I saw there had his hair cropped shorter than this, to deal with the heat

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.

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14 Comments

  1. We got Aladdin from Leon, Guanajuato, Mexican. That’s his home land, but we live in Chicago, Illinois, USA. He made a 36 hour car trip, no questions asked at the border, trip. The life for dogs down there is much different than his life here. Definitely not like France, Canada, or the United States. You’re lucky to have had the chance to travel and meet foreign dogs and see such different cultures! Not every dog is as lucky 😉

    • Your dog’s experience in mexico is kind of what I pictured for most not-farm-dogs there. That’s why I was so surprised at how many people brought their pet dogs out for evening walks through the marketplace. It’s wonderful to hear happy stories about stray dogs finding a home and a family to care for them – Aladdin’s a lucky guy!

  2. I love that so many European countries allow dogs into so many different places. Here, in South Africa, there are some places that allow them but mostly not. However, you are right, anywhere you go in the world, you will always find people who’s hearts have been won over by dogs.

    • I would love to have the freedom that people in Europe have, in terms of bringing their dogs places – the simple ability to go out downtown for the day with my dog, and stop at a restaurant (indoors or on the patio) for lunch would be wonderful. I would be able to bring him out to so many more activities and places – he’s well-behaved enough that I could, if laws and public opinion weren’t so against it.

  3. I never really thought about how different places deal with dogs. Interesting! My dog was always the rowdy, bark-at-all-moving-things type, so we never could take out with us.

    • At least she barked at things that were actually there 😛 my dog’s current issue is randomly barking at the front door. When there’s no-one at the door, near the door, walking past on the street, driving past, or… existing at all. Just barking.

  4. I wish we were more pet friendly here in the US. I miss my guys terribly when I travel too.

    • It would make a huge difference – as it is, it’s hard to find hotels when we visit family that accept dogs. I suspect it’s even harder for you guys, with two of them!

  5. When it comes to travel, it is definitely better to have a small dog. I wish I had thought of that before, not that I would give up my larger dog for anything at this point. It just makes it hard as we would have to find other arrangements for her if my husband and I ever want to travel anywhere long distance together.

    I really enjoyed reading your descriptions. The last time I traveled to Europe I wasn’t nearly as passionate about dogs and didn’t really notice any. Can you imagine? If I ever get to go again, my radar will be more appropriately adjusted, you can be sure of that!

    I hope you had a great time!

    • I wouldn’t change Gwynn for the world, but yeah, seeing people walking through the airport with their tiny-purse-dogs, I wish he were travel-sized. If only for the duration of the flight!
      We lucked out this trip, a friend who owns a dog (and is definitely a good dog owner) offered to take Gwynn – he got 3-5 hours of walk/frolic/play every day, plenty of grooming, and lots of love while I was gone. It’s tough, though, and leaving your dog with someone else, even if you trust them completely is… nerve-wracking.
      You get even more sensitive to noticing dogs when your own is so far away! I didn’t have gwynn yet when I went to Europe (which is good, because by the end of 3 weeks, I’d have been a wreck!), but I was in full-on dog-research mode, trying to find a dog type that would fit with my lifestyle for ‘if and when I get a dog’, so my radar was on full!
      Mexico was wonderful, thanks 🙂

  6. Better be careful. Pretty soon you will be planning your trips around your dog and where you can take him…lol. We were in Mexico many years ago and went to a zoo like place with alligators and snakes. They had some wild dogs in a pen. They called them “Indian Dogs”. I figured the real name didn’t translate or they were trying to make it seem like they had some exotic species. 🙂

    • lol, there’s a reason we do a lot of camping! guaranteed pet-friendly 😛
      We didn’t get to see any alligators this trip (last time… long time ago… there were tons of iguanas that would come out and lie on the paths to sun themselves), but in the touristy area, there were men with a baby tiger and a baby leopard on harnesses, offering to let you take a picture with them. Once the initial Squeeee moment passed, I felt bad for the poor animals – that is definitely not where they belonged, or how they deserved to be treated. I suspect I’d have felt a bit bad for these ‘indian dogs’ too. Though at least they weren’t being mauled and ogled by hundreds of strangers on a busy street I think there is actually a breed of dog in the states called american indian or something like that – kind of a husky/cross. Maybe there’s the (probably not at all husky-like) equivalent in mexico.

  7. Not something I ever gave much thought, but something I’ll definitely be more aware of when traveling from now on.

    • I think I mainly noticed because I was feeling a bit of separation anxiety myself – no dog? no problem! just obsess over those of other people!

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