Dear Costa Ricans,
As proud dog-owner, I am delighted to see how you respond to my shar pei during our walks, saying such things as “Que lindo!” (How beautiful!) Let me first correct some errors I have made. For example, when you asked me if he was “macho o hembra” (male or female), I had no idea what you meant. Since I understood that you were giving me a choice, I went with Macho, which turned out to be correct. However, when you asked me if he was “bravo,” with no other option, I assumed you meant honest or brave, so I said yes. And, when I later learned that you meant “vicious,” I had no way of finding you to correct my mistake. I hope that common sense ruled and that you figured it out, since only a crazy person would smile at you while saying “Sure, the dog that’s three feet in front of you could tear your throat out.”
Language barrier aside, I would like to make a few suggestions as to how you might do things a little differently with your dogs. Now, I know that you don’t take kindly to arrogant gringos telling you how we do things better in our country, but, in this case, I fear it’s true. Here are some strategies which might make you, your dogs and me lead happier lives.
Dogs need exercise. Different breeds need different amounts and types of exercise, but all need it. For the uninitiated, when your dogs are hurling themselves against your front gates and barking like they’re on fire, this is an indicator that they could use a good walk, if not a long run.
Every dog needs an Alpha. Not sure how to say this in Spanish, but it means someone who is the leader. Did you know, for example, that dogs do not need or like to bark for hours on end? Did you know that they’re trying to tell you something and that you can and should stop this behavior? I see you sitting in front of your houses surrounded by madly yapping dogs and smiling helplessly at me. Think of it as a cry for help; telling them to stop will only make them, you and your neighbors more content.
Please don’t let your dogs roam the streets. At first I thought there were a lot of strays in our neighborhood and was amazed to see the dogs I was encountering on my walks in fact belonged to you. You are probably not aware that some people are afraid when they see dogs running up to them (thus the questions like “Es bravo?”). Also, one never knows how any two dogs will react to one another, and, without you there, your unleashed dog might decide to do something unexpected. As much as I love dogs, at my advanced age, I can do without the adrenaline rush from seeing your pet launching itself at me and my dog while he is searching for a place to poop.
I hope you will accept this advice in the spirit of good international relations. I know I’m the foreigner and this is your place, but I do think we can learn from one another. Maybe, someday soon, you can teach me something, such as how to be patient and accepting and not take life and myself not so seriously.
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