Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Village Life Part 2: Animals

People and animals live in pretty close quarters here. I always hesitate on the customs form returning to the States when it asks if I’ve been on a farm. The answer is no, I haven’t, and I have entered any animal enclosures, but you can’t walk down the street without inadvertently stepping in animal feces of one kind of another (which is why we have dedicated indoor shoes).

The most numerous animal in town has got to be cows, which is probably why “moooo” was one of Baby Girl’s first animal noises. Many people have herds that are corralled right in town. There’s one pen just on the other side of our next door neighbors. Most are Brahma-type cows, and they are bred for meat. There are a few male Holsteins in town, but the vegetation in the area is generally not good enough to support milk production. These cows can be kind of aggressive, and it’s always a little daunting when someone’s driving a herd of them down the road at you!

Horses are fewer in number, but still pretty common. There’s something pretty nifty and wild-West about horses galloping through town. On several occasions one of my workers would lend me his horse to get out to the site, but not before I used it to drop Baby Girl off at daycare. Our neighbors have several dozen horses, which they hitch out front of our house, and use for harvesting cane, paja, and wood from the forest.

Pretty much everyone in the village owns chickens. These are not cage-enclosed, grain-fed chicken, these are crillollo chickens. They run around the streets, eat what they find, get served table scraps (including pieces of other chicken – yummy, cannibal chickens!), and are free to reproduce and often have a longer life than caged chickens. Locals claim these birds are more flavorful, and they generally are, but you can also get some really tough suckers that are barely fit for soup!

Cats and dogs are ubiquitous, but are not pets in the traditional sense. Cats are mousers and semi-wild and dogs are used for security and hunting in the montaña. Many families have multiple dogs (like, three to six) and they are largely untrained and unsupervised. Dogs roam the streets (or just sleep in them, making them kind of like the turtle shells in Mario Cart). Some of the dogs are cute and nice and well-behaved, but many of them are mean, flea-bitten, and all but abandoned. It’s really quite sad, seeing very mangy dogs with wounds from fighting with other dogs. The area could really benefit from a neutering program. The animal control plan currently consists of quietly poisoning dogs if they bite children, rather than pet owners taking responsibility for their animals.

So, with all these animals running around, it’s no wonder that BG wants a kitty or a puppy of her very own. I think it will come as a shock to her when we return to the States and there aren’t animals moseying down the road. Steve and I, on the other hand, are kind of looking forward to it (and not having to worry about the quantity of poop on our shoes).

 Next installment: Houses

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