Sunday, January 18, 2009

Goofy dogs and Laguna Nimez in El Calafate

There are a lot of dogs on the streets of El Calafate. They are cute and goofy, and not at all scraggly or ill-fed, as you would imagine strays to be. They look healthy, well-fed and have an enviable air of contentment about them.

What is distinctly different about these dogs is that all of them have an aura of importance about them, and run about with such an intense look of purpose on their faces, that I was tempted many times to follow them and see what exactly their important mission was!

They weren't your usual mutts. They looked like pedigree breeds, and came in all shapes and sizes. What I suspect is that while some of them are strays, others have homes (those that wear collars), but are allowed to roam free, so they all get together and have a party all day long.

If you even nodded at one, he would instantly adopt you and start trotting at your heel as if you were family. We were thus adopted by several of them whom we couldn't shake off, and so I had to stop talking to or making eye contact with many of the extremely cute mutts that we passed.

There is a market on the main street, where we stopped often to buy fruits, yogurt and bread. There were always dogs outside this market, lying patiently at the entrance, and looking at the shoppers going in and out with hope.

This cute little fellow sat still and watched us go by. I don't think he was a stray, but he made such a pretty picture against the pink walls of this house!

There is a bird refuge in El Calafate: The Laguna Nimez Reserve, which has about 70 species of birds frequenting its peaceful environment. It is a treat to birders, but the trick for them would be to get there without attracting canine company!

We took a walk there one evening. On our way there, we were promptly adopted by one girl doggie. As the three of us were walking towards the refuge, we saw one other traveler coming away from it, with two dogs in tow. Seeing the three of us, those two dogs instantly left her side and hopped over to us with a look of "ok, we're here, what are we doing now?" !

This would be bad news to birders, but we were just there for a little walk, so we were ok with their company. As we slowly walked along the narrow trail in the refuge, the three dogs stayed by our side. There was a pleasant breeze (not the gale force winds of the previous day), and the pink stalks of grass in the refuge were moving as if to a symphony.

The girl doggie stayed by our side for most of the walk, but the two boys ran loose with wild looks in their eyes. They were bursting with joy, and were in doggie heaven! There was a peaceful band of birds near the water's edge, and before we knew it, the two boys were charging at them, causing the birds to simultaneously take off in flight.

They came back to us looking very proud of what they had done. I hope they aren't damaging the environment for the birds, or hunting them ... stray dogs aren't allowed into the more fragile national parks in Patagonia for this reason. But they definitely looked like they had been to this refuge many times before.

It was also quite clear that the two male dogs were trying to impress the girl by our side - they were trying to outdo each other to see who could roll more in the slush, and come back looking more like a total clown. The girl didn't look too impressed though, and stayed very close to us even as the two wild boys kept running off, looking more and more dirty.

Without their company, this walk would have been just another pleasant stroll with beautiful scenery and birds to watch ( and not bad at all!). But with them by our side, the walk was charged with the joy of being alive!

When we turned back, they left us to adopt another man who was walking further into the refuge. These dogs love their life - it was plain to see. In their goofy grins, wild eyes and generously friendly nature there was an infectious quality, so that they left us with wide smiles on our faces too.


Jude said...

How sweet, definately sounds like doggie heaven.Unlike here wherethere are abandoned dogs round every corner looking very dejected and malnourished.

Blu said...

They certainly dont look like they are in need of a decent meal, they do seem to be content. How strange, I can pick up the vibes from your pictures. My dog scares the birds off in my garden silly so and so!

~vagabond~ said...

Awwwww! This post totally made my day! Loved, loved, loved the stray dogs. And yes, you're right...they dont look like the typically stray dog...they look content and happy to roam free. Reminds me of this one stray dog we came across on our visit to Monument Valley...I've got to blog about that some day.

Laguna Nimez looks beautiful. Keep posting...I'm enjoying reading them all. :)

pRiyA said...

oh, they are such adorable dogs and very happy too, to have their freedom and no leash.
i love that pink house with the doggie in front of it. so cute.

T and S said...

The pictures show that you had a wonderful trip to Argentina.

Beautiful images, Thanks for sharing...Thomas

~mE said...

lovely post bindu, the highlight was "they all get together and party all day dog..:) Dogs :D"

pink dogwood said...

Thanks for taking us along in this journey. I can just imagine being there with my kids and my kids begging to take them all home with us:)

I too love the pink house with dog - absolutely adorable.

pink dogwood said...

Thanks for taking us along in this journey. I can just imagine being there with my kids and my kids begging to take them all home with us:)

I too love the pink house with dog - absolutely adorable.

Mridula said...

Bindu, I am exactly the opposite, I do not know why but I am really truly scared of dogs, strays, pets, cute, nasty, Labradors even!

meb said...

Loved this post bindu... I have had dogs in my life forever. Can't remember when I didn't have one or two and then also 4. That was a challenge.. all mutts and all got along with each other.

Obviously from your pictures, these dogs seem to be friendly with each other as well. Basing that on the fact that when one person is leaving the area, they turn to follow the person entering, joining any dogs that may already following.

Again, thanks for the post. Most enjoyable reading and seeing.

Barbara Martin said...

Beautiful post and how interesting about the stray dogs. They certainly don't look like any I've seen: not malnourished or shy of strangers. Happy go lucky I'd say.

On my blog I have something for you. I expect it will introduce others to visit your wonderful postings.

GMG said...

WOW! Patagonia has been on my plans for ages; read everything about it - Chatwin, Sepulveda, Coloane... Too busy now to get some time off; but one day I'll be there. Meanwhile I enjoy your pictures!
Thanks for your comments at Blogtrotter, still around Delhi!!

Shayla said...

They sound like the perfect tour guides. I'm very impressed with how happy and healthy they are.

The scenery is beautiful and *gasp* the colors in those grasses and the sky are fabulous. Getting the travel bug...

3rdEyeMuse said...

as much as I have enjoyed all the previous trip posts, I must say that I am simply grinning at the images this one brought to my mind (on top of the gorgeous photo's you shared). :)

thanks again for your wonderful travelogues!

Sepiru Chris said...

Hmm. I think I just found another kindred spirit through the web.

I came here via Barbara Martin to see what the other award winners were like. And I like. Very much.

I shall be back, soon too.

Happy travels and may the trail rise to meet your feet.


ArtSparker said...

What wonderful ambassadors, I love the shot of the dog lying on the ground with its paw up, to stay passersby for a belly rub.

bindu said...

Jude - it really was!

Blu - that's a compliment from one who takes such great pictures. :)

Vagabond - I knew you'd like this one. :)

Priya, Thomas - thanks!

~mE - they really did seem to be having a party! :)

bhavana - I know what you mean!

Mridula - I used to be scared of stray dogs when I was younger, in India. In fact, I've been chased by a band of them once! So I can understand. :)

Meb - they did all seem to get along. With the number of them that were about, I never heard any growling at all!

bindu said...

Barbara - thanks so much, for the award!

GMG - Glad you liked the post, and welcome. I do like your travel blog too!

Shayla - I think I see a vacation in your future! ;)

3rdEyeMuse - glad you liked it!

Chris - welcome, and thanks! Hope to see you here again.

ArtSparker - I know! He was such a big baby.

painter girl said...

Wonderful wonderful post! I felt like I was there with you and the dogs romping around in the slushes. What a bright spot to my day.

Maya said...

Bin - all the dogs look cute and I can totally identify with how you felt walking with them.


Anonymous said...

Hi Bindu, I've just got back from Argentina today and this is spot on about the dogs in El Calafate! It was as if they had a purpose, they were so serene but at the same time always watchful, like they were protecting the town's inhabitants. The party was at night though because from our hostel on the edge of town we heard them barking all thru the night. Very strange...