No one knows how many stray dogs roam the streets of Antigua. The one thing everyone knows for sure is that they’re a common occurrence. “It’s not a problem that has a very strong presence”, explains Sergio Rodríguez, the spokesperson for the Municipality of Antigua. “Most of them don’t really travel in packs and they’re not really aggressive.” According to Rodríguez, these free-ranging urban dogs tend to be quite friendly as they depend heavily on people.
“It’s really important to point out that business owners in the colonial city have a very positive attitude towards these animals,” points out Rodríguez. “Many of them place bowls with water and dogfood for the street dogs roaming around.” One such business owner is Claudio, who owns an Italian restaurant. “I love animals. I started out randomly feeding the dogs whenever I got the chance,” he says. “Eventually, I began buying dogfood for them and placing it by the door”.
He recounts that, at first, most dogs were very shy. “They would walk over with their tail between their legs and their heads down and approach the bowl very carefully. Over time, they become more confident and sometimes walk into the restaurant to look for me. They’re very thankful creatures.”
Mr. Claudio explains that most people in town are very pet-friendly, and no one really complains about the dogs. “There was this one time,” he recalls. “One of the regular dogs was in heat so a bunch of other dogs hung out here. I put several bowls for them and they ate it all. After a few days, they peed and pooped right across the street, so one of the neighbors got really mad about that.”
There are dogs who are lucky enough to get “adopted” by several businesses on the same street. Such is the case of the dog on 6th avenue in La Antigua, Guatemala. “He hangs right outside, sleeps across the street and eats next door,” explains Shaun Fagan, the manager of a local English pub who nicknamed the dog “Jerry”. A staff member of the hostel across the street, where “Jerry” is known as “Chanchito”, points out he doesn’t really sleep there. “We do have a bed for him,” she says. “He comes in in the afternoon after eating in the restaurant right across the street, but he doesn’t really enjoy sleeping here.” Regardless of where he sleeps, one thing is certain: Jerry/Chanchito is always there the next day.