Don’t Adopt a Dog


There are many free-ranging urban dogs in the streets of La Antigua Guatemala. As we’ve mentioned before, a lot of people help them by leaving some food and water by their door. But there are some who go a bit further, and take them in to provide them with a home. It’s a thing that happens sort of by chance, really.

For instance, the manager of a local English public house, Shaun Fagan, never thought about adopting a dog until it just flat out happened. “I was working, and this decrepit, horrible fucking creature came in. No fur, no teeth, broken tail and stinking up the bar,” he says. “To get rid of him, I gave him a little bit of bacon. So, I came over and his little, broken fucking tail was wagging.”

The dog followed him everywhere he went for the next five days. “When I got home, I thought I had finally lost this fucking thing. But, suddenly, he was scratching at the door. So, I let him in and gave him a bath,” he recalls. He eventually named the dog Daz, after a laundry detergent in his native country, and took him to the vet. Eventually, Mr. Fagan went on to live elsewhere for a while, and took Daz with him at a relatively low cost.

A dog crosses the street in La Antigua Guatemala. Photo: Santiago Billy

According to the local veterinarian, Dr. Eduardo Rosales, street dogs often have several health-related problems. “The things they face are usually malnutrition, rickets, fleas, mites, fungi, and allergies,” he explains. He also added that the cost of treating most of these issues, plus neutering the dog, is usually inexpensive-just under $100.

Dr. Rosales often sees dogs that have just been rescued by people, and he’s noticed that it’s usually the ex-pats who do this sort of thing. “No longer do you see foreigners with purebred dogs,” he points out. “I’d say that 8 out of 10 dog-owning ex-pats have street dogs.”

For Luis Noriega, a volunteer at a local animal shelter, this makes perfect sense. “They’re in La Antigua, and maybe find some sort of a job. Then, they have their friends, and they find a cheap apartment somewhere. So, they fall in love with the lifestyle. Then, as people do, they adopt a dog either from the streets or a shelter,” he explains. And, as most would agree, that’s a very admirable thing to do. However, according to Mr. Noriega, taking in a dog is not something that should be taken lightly. “Much more than adopting a pet, you’re actually rescuing a life,” he points out. And failing to understand that sort of compromise is what could turn a sappy adoption story sour by giving it an unhappy ending.

“What happens if there’s some sort of emergency and you have to keep traveling? Or maybe you fall in love with someone and you want to move on but you can’t take the dog with you”, Mr. Noriega continues. “The moment a dog changes a person’s lifestyle, it becomes a problem. So, a lot of these dogs are tossed back on the streets or abandoned at hostels. Eventually, they wind up back at the shelter.”

Needless to say, you don’t want to be that person. So, unless you’re willing to make a full commitment to it, don’t adopt a dog.

A local walks his dog in the streets of Antigua Guatemala. Photo: Santiago Billy/Comvite

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