The Dogs That Don't Belong to Anyone
There are an estimated 750 million street dogs, village dogs and dogs sometimes called strays in the world. And while they may not have owners, that doesn’t mean they keep their distance from people.
We asked Times readers on many continents – both English and Spanishspeakers – to share some of their experiences with such dogs. Some were rescued. Some appeared like apparitions and were never seen again. All made a strong impression on the people who shared their stories, and on us, too.
One of the Neighbors
As in any Indian town, street dogs are prominent residents of my hometown, too.
My younger brother once brought home two stray puppies, whom we named Jimmy and Tommy. Tommy died young from rabies, but Jimmy survived. He had a shiny black coat and an adorable disposition.
Every day when I came home from college, he would run to me with his tail wagging and jump all over me in joy. It was unadulterated love. He became a part of our life and a part of our neighbors’ families as well. He would go to one neighbor for lunch, take a nap on another’s porch and have dinner at his own house (i.e., ours). He lived a quasi-street-dog life.
Sadly, a few years later, he died from rabies as well, leaving us heartbroken. These stray puppies are growing up to be the future Tommies and Jimmies. – SOMA CHOWDHURY
Absolutely No Rescues
Before we arrived I was adamant. No matter how many sad and abandoned animals we saw, there was absolutely no way I was going to rescue any of them. I’m probably the biggest animal lover you’ll ever meet, so that realization was hard for me. But we had three young, healthy pets. and I couldn’t endanger them in any way.
But then Soya wandered into the right yard at the right time.
It was raining. And dark. And cold. We showed up at a friend’s house, and there she was. A tiny black puppy out in the rain.
She had followed people into the yard and sat there shivering and looking miserable.
It really didn’t take much persuasion. By the end of the night she was in our house. By the end of the weekend she had a name, Soya, which is Tajik for “shadow.” She’s our permanent street dog. – KRISTEN CROCKER
The Happiest Dog in the World
I met the happiest dog in the world. He lives on the beach and belongs to no one.
My girlfriend and I named him Lobito (“little wolf”), but eventually we learned that the locals of La Guaira call him Guasa. He might have German shepherd blood, given his intelligence and looks. The visitors of the beach and the “tolderos” (stand vendors) give him leftovers, and every weekend we bring him kibble.
Since we met him, he made friends with our Dalmatian, Blondie, and every time we reach his home – a plot of land by the sea that he shares with a toldero named Gabriel, and his hens – he runs to us and kisses us. Unlike other solitary and stray dogs, Guasa or Lobito looks healthy and happy. Once we thought about taking him with us to the city, but taking the sea out of him may well be like letting the air out of him. – DANIEL GARRIDO
A Lover of the Arts
This is a very cultured dog. He likes the arts. He lives in the National Gallery of Art in Caracas, Venezuela, and the museum guards take care of him. You can see him by the door, greeting you. He’s very calm, social, and everyone loves him. As curious as it seems, almost all of the museums in Caracas have their own stray dogs. – SANDRA SANTINI
The World’s Most Spoiled Street Dog
I used to live in India and had a neighborhood reputation for looking out for street dogs. One day a friend found a two-week-old pup who had been abandoned by its mother and was badly infested with maggots. I took the pup, thinking she might not make it through the night and intending to leave her with a vet in the morning. The vet ended up giving her a good prognosis, so I decided I would foster her until I found her a family. Weeks turned into months, and I hadn’t looked very hard for a new home. It’s now almost three years later. My street pup received official Indian state travel papers and made the trek from Mumbai to Chicago with me. She’s the world’s most spoiled street dog. I even have a tattoo portrait of her. – LAUREN DEAN
A City That Cares for Dogs
We have many street dogs. About 20 live in our neighborhood park, and another five by the taxi stand, where drivers built shelters for them.
Municipalities routinely vaccinate, fix and tag them, and place recycling stands around the city where dog food is dispensed in exchange for empty bottles. Neighbors generally take care of them – there is even a Facebook group where we can check with one another to find out the latest on our neighborhood dogs.
One best friend is Sofi. She follows us as we go for several hours of walking around the city, patiently waiting for us if we stop for lunch or coffee. If we run into her on our way to work, she walks us to the metro station.
We don’t feed her – it’s all about affection and company. – CHIAKI YAMAMOTO