Writing about SadDog! made me remember a part of our trip to Peru that we hadn’t shared yet. As regular readers will know, our trip started off with several days in Cuzco, the capital of the Inca (or Quechua) Empire. It’s a dirty, busy, bewildering, beautiful, magical city, where the architecture itself seems frozen in a perpetual struggle between the Spanish and Quechua cultures.
It’s a city where you can get nosebleeds from walking up a hill too quickly due to the insane altitude.
It’s a city where you can pay $50 or more for a plate of guinea pig (“cuy”), which tastes like deer jerky that is both fattier and tougher than normal.
It’s a city where you can wander down an aisle of the farmer’s market and be greeted by an array of llama snouts hung out for sale.
And it is a city where you will see dozens if not hundreds of dogs wandering about, minding their own business, with no collars, tags, or other signs of human interference.
These aren’t strays, mind you. They are definitely dogs that belong to people. The dogs of Cuzco are well fed, well groomed, and not at all jumpy around people – they’re neither skittish nor aggressive.
In fact, for the most part they simply ignore you.
This is not something that I consider to be normal dog behavior. I’m a dog person, by which I mean I am a person who enjoys interacting with dogs and with whom dogs typically enjoy interacting. I’m not pushy but I’m definitely friendly, I’ve learned tricks for letting nervous dogs get to know me before I try to play with them, and I have it on multiple leg-thumping authority that I’m great at finding “that one spot.”
But the Cuzco dogs just weren’t having it.
There was one occasion where I sat down next to a dog that was busily doing nothing in a nice patch of sun. I reached over – quite unconsciously, it’s a reflex – to pet him, and he pulled away ever so slightly. I reached a little further, and he pulled away a little further; again, and again. By this point I was grinning and he was rolling his eyes at me as if to say, “Human, please. Just… no.”
I took the hint, if a bit late.
And it wasn’t as though these dogs were unhappy. By and large the dogs of Cuzco seemed quite content to trot around on their various canine errands, minding the humans about them in much the same way that young small mind adults – in other words, as unfortunate but concrete obstacles that occasionally try to interfere with your day. The dogs weren’t stressed out or excitable, and seemed to greet other dogs with a minimum of territorial fuss – being in such close quarters, I imagine, made them act as one enormous pack, but in a quite sensible, demure way that almost felt British.
So if you ever go to Cuzco, don’t try to pet the dogs. A friendly wave and, perhaps, some judiciously saved table scraps is all they really want.