pawprint.gif SPEAKING
pawprint.gif BIOGRAPHY
pawprint.gif DOGS without BORDERS ~ Book
pawprint.gif LOS MUTTS ~ Book
from DOG ~ Book
pawprint.gif CAIRO CATS ~ Book
pawprint.gif SHADOWS in the SAND ~ Book
pawprint.gif GIFTS

Dreams can become reality

After living in Africa for 12 years,
Lorraine returned to America
with DOG and Bruiser.

While exploring the states
Lorraine made her dream of
working while traveling a reality.

The Pack of three then journeyed
south in an old Chevy van.

The DOGBLOG reveals their current adventures.


Lorraine, MamaD and her pups at Playa Blanca, outside of Iquiqui, Chile.
Though I only knew MamaD for a month, I believe she discovered
the Holy Grail of dogdom - human love and unlimited amounts of food,
probably for the first and only time in her life. - photo Isabelle Guerrero.



Fidel at Playa Blanca, Chile, the most timid of the initial pack who greeted us. Atacama Desert in background

street scene

Others who greeted us at Playa Blanca, Chile, after long days of driving and mechanical problems from Bolivia. Jerry, top left, and Peper, bottom right, were killed on the road leading to the golf course.



While searching for Bruiser in the daytime, I met Carlos who claimed to have 12 dogs. I met about five of them. I'm not sure if he's homeless of not. But never before coming to Chile, have I seen so many homeless men accompanied by dogs. Chilean dog loving is a phenomenon affecting all sectors of society. At the first gasoline station I went to, I was told of a saying similar to our expression, 'Man's best friend.' It is, 'Mejor Amigo des Hombre.'


Sadly, while wandering the streets, I also saw many dogs who will never leave the compounds of their wire fenced garden.


When I searched at nighttime when the traffic had lessoned, I came upon dogs who lived in their caged garden compounds in front of houses during the day, but were let out at night. There were other dogs who led a life in reverse, caged at night, released during the day.

living statue

Most of the time when I was searching, I left Dog in the van as I was trying to cover a lot of terrain on my bicycle. The van never left the spot on a street not far from where Bruiser had opened the sliding door and taken off. It was an area they both knew best in Iquiqui.

While waiting for a response from Ronni Hall about where Bruiser might be, I took Dog for a walk on the beach. I believe getting away and taking a breather is a crucial element in recovering a lost pet. I laughed while watching Dog chasing after a golf ball. When I got Ronni Hall's email, I could then understand it more clearly. You won't be of service to your animal if you are tense.

living statue

I found Bruiser at 4:30 a.m. the next morning, after him being missing two nights. He was 1 1/2 miles away from where I'd parked, and 1/2 a mile beyond the furthest point I'd searched.

When I revisited this location a few days later, I was amazed to see everything Ronni Hall had mentioned and which are in the photo above and below; the grasses, which are almost foreign in this desert city, the high white wall, hot pink bougainvillea blossoms, a truck emptying who knows what into the sea, and a camp-like compound.

living statue


Also, was a litter of the next street dogs, or 'quiltro' as they're called here. Bruiser wanted nothing to do with them.

Memorial to MamaD

street scene

MamaD and her three pups showed up one morning at Playa Blanca. I gave them some food, and not wanting to be involved, left later that day to camp elsewhere. I returned the following morning, certain they'd have moved further afield as I hadn't seen them in the two weeks I'd camped there. As I pulled into 'my spot', my van broke down and I was literally grounded for the next four days, making it impossible for me to ignore their plight when they showed up later that day.

street scene

I haven't often seen dogs this thin in S. America. Since most countries don't have a decent sanitary disposal system, there's often enough garbage laying around for dogs to survive. But Playa Blanca is a few miles outside of town, and the owned dogs have first dibs on whatever holiday-makers leave on the beach.

living statue

The pups seemed tired, as did their mum. Their entire time is concerned with finding food.

vendors orange

Two of the pups fell ill, possibly because instead of spending their nights in areas more sheltered, they stayed by the van which was more exposed. Feeling responsible, I put them in the front seat for many nights, figuring at least they'd die warm.


I had no idea my actions were being watched. Hector appears and assures me that after I leave, someone in his family will feed the dogs. At this point, I'm sure the male pup will die, and possibly a female too.


Hector leaves for Santiago, but Luis and Isabelle come around in the mornings to give the dogs food. In addition to helping me feed MamaD and the pups, they have their own three dogs, plus a few neighborhood dogs, some of which they've sterilized either surgically, or are giving a six month injection to prevent pregnancy with a drug which has been used in Europe for over 30 years. For more information click on:


Almost instantly a special bond is formed between Isabelle and MamaD.


Amazingly, both pups recover, and I find the female a home. This takes the pressure off Luis and Isabelle somewhat.


MamaD is happy with what she sees as her new pack but my dogs, despite appearances, are not happy. I make plans to leave. Then I loose Bruiser.


While searching for Bruiser, I mentally commit again to leaving once he's found. But a few short hours after being reunited, we return to Playa Blanca and I discover MamaD's front paws are grotesquely swollen. Isabelle and I take MamaD to the vet, both of them in the back, Dog, Bruiser and I in the front of the van.


The vet says she's been both bitten by a dog, and had one paw run over by a car. Most dogs would hobble around on three legs, but MamaD finds it easier to stand and walk short distances on two!


The same day of the accident and Bruiser's recovery, Luis and Isabelle hear the cries of a young female pup in a dumpster. 'What could we do?' Luis asked.


For the next four days she spends most of the time in the front seat of the van so the pups can't play with her as this causes her much pain. After all Bruiser's been through I feel horrible, but with Luis and Isabelle being gone all day, there's no other solution. And it does mean that Bruiser spends the nights on the bed with Dog and I, which makes me happy.


We return to the vet after a few days of anti-inflammatory medicine to have a cast put on MamaD. When Luis and Isabelle pick her up the next day, she seems fine. They leave the vets to buy an Elizabethan collar for her. When they return, she's having respiratory failure, and is dead within 30 minutes, apparently from an allergic reaction to the painkiller the vet had just injected.

street scene

The evening is spent digging a hole in the garden and burying MamaD.

street scene

I leave a few days later amidst sadness and relief. I stop at a animal cemetery, the first I've seen outside of the Best Friend's Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah.

vendors orange

Thousands upon thousands of pets have been buried here since 2004.

living statue

This family arrives with their beloved Osa who'd died at the vets. I wasn't clear how, and though they gave me permission to take photos, I didn't want to intrude on what was obviously a very difficult and sad time for them.

living statue

How did one woman
two canine companions
transition from suburbia
to the adventures
you're now reading...?

On a Mission from DOG

Walking Adventures in Africa

tells how it all began
is available for purchase at

On a Mission from DOG


Animal Lovers
Lovers of Travel


Do you enjoy following
our adventures?
How did the dream begin?


September 14, 2008

Apologies for being lax on blogging and for uploading new pictures. My new camera broke, and it took 3 weeks to get a quote for repairs. I was then told it'll cost just over the same price for a new one. So, I'll be buying new, though I need to save a few pennies first. In the meantime I've taken my old camera out from hibernation. What a klunker! It doesn't work properly either so I'm shooting very little. It'll happen... Until then, here's what I wrote to those who receive my updates. If you'd like to receive updates also, please drop me a line!

I've put a number of new articles I've written for magazines in Australia, England and America up at . Some are informative, others for escapism. Peruse at your leisure.

A number of people have asked when I'll be reprinting Shadows in the Sand. Now that On a Mission from DOG is finished, this is my next priority. It's been exciting to revisit my first book again. Coincidentally, a friend told me last week that USED copies of Shadows in the Sand are available on for $285! That's over double from a year ago, and over five times the original price. I don't receive any profit from these copies, but for those who already have Shadows in the Sand, you have a collector's item. I'm thrilled this has happened while I'm still alive. ;-) To see what this classic book is about, check out: and drop me an email if you'd like to reserve your copy. My price will be considerably less than $285...

I realize many of you have never listened to an audio book. It was all new to me too before this year. For the rest of the month, I'd like to introduce a new idea. For five dollars, you can download the introduction and first 6 chapters of On a Mission from DOG. If you like what you hear, you can then download the remainder of the book, for ANY amount you'd like as long as it's in multiples of five dollars! For example, you can pay $5, $10, $20 or whatever the book is worth to YOU. .

I'm sure it's appeared to anyone that I've been living a life full of fun and relaxation while traveling around South America in a van with two dogs-this couldn't have been further from the truth. I've spent too much time in strange cities searching desperately for shops to buy supplies, mechanic's, laundromats and internet cafes where I could connect to the internet, essential for earning money through my work. Dog and Bruiser suffered.

I tossed affection to them as one would a bone-while working, inbetween cooking dinner and cleaning up, and before drifting off to sleep. Rarely did I allocate time to do nothing but give the dogs my time. And isn't that what we most want from those we love, our time, pure and un-adultered? The scenery was great, but I was still living a workaholic lifestyle. I wrote in a passage from On a Mission from Dog, that it was through Dog and Bruiser that I'd learnt the power of love wasn't in the receiving, but in the giving. I needed a refresher.

In the last update I wrote to say I was almost in Santiago. I never made it. Instead I found a wonderful spot which resembled the craggy hills of Tucson with cactus leading down to a crashing Pacific Ocean. Bruiser bounded over hills green from early morning mists. I gave Dog belly rubs and stopped not when I was bored, but when she wandered off. When was the last time they've been so happy? Again and again over the course of the past five weeks, I've squashed restlessness and the desire to head south and reach my goal of Santiago. Here there are no predators to fear, few other dogs, and no traffic.

Instead of burying myself in work, I've spent hours just sitting with the dogs, while doing nothing more than stroking their fur. While I've lain next to them, I've begun hearing noises I've never heard before. Am I hearing more, or are they saying more? Or both? The dogs wear grins more often-so do I. I've vowed that no matter how much work I have, I'm on vacation the rest of my life. And ironically, I'm getting an incredible amount accomplished.

I hope in the coming months and years, all of you can give yourselves the gift of time. Thank you for listening.

August 21, 2008

I wake up as always, surrounded by fur. I stroke both Dog and Bruiser, disbelieving how lucky I am to have both with me. This is a precious time. I feel cocooned in love. We take our time on our morning walk, encounter a donkey who'd been to our camp before and return 'home'. The men drive by and honk, and I wave and grin.

August 20, 2008

I notice tire tracks leading up to where my 'neighbor's' live. I could almost have guessed they'd return today, now that the van is fixed. Fresh tire tracks mean nothing to Bruiser, but even though the men's camp can't be seen from where we are, I watch him sniffing the air, and he also has the information as me.

August 16, 2008

It begins raining, and continues all weekend. Later I discover that's a rare occurrence. It also brings a very cold wind from the south. Hunkered down in my van, I've glad I choose to stay put.

August 12, 2008

Well, what a fun time at the mechanics! I've had great luck through all my travels. I walk away from ones I don't feel good about. There was another one yesterday that seemed good, but I had a feeling the owner would want to talk with me all the time. And I couldn't understand his Spanish. Another priority is the shop needs to be in an area where I can walk my dogs. An odd criteria for some, but essential when you can't leave them at home. This IS our home.

This shop deals exclusively with leaf springs and so I got to see how they're made from a long, flat piece of metal, into a series of leaf springs. Now it seems right it's a bit expensive - by my standards, probably cheaper than the US. All this took place in a small warehouse type building filled with the usual tools, plus grinders, a small hot brick oven used to first heat the metal, before the ends are then shaped into a loop which attach to the vehicle. It was all fascinating, and the men were all good guys. Alas, none of them were enthralled with Dog and Bruiser. However, there was a cat in residence which captivated Bruiser...

The men range in their curiosity about what on earth a woman is doing alone ("I'm not alone, I've got my two dogs," I always respond...), to accepting it very nonchalantly. The chattiest of the men, who speaks a tiny bit of English, is also the one perhaps a bit irritated at my travels, while at the same time fascinated. I've seen this before. I think there's an element of machismo in there, and it didn't help when I was clear I was perfectly happy staying in my van at lunch with my dogs and working. I think he was irritated by what he perceived as independence. I saw it as not wanting to leave my dogs to go to lunch...

The son's owner is 22 and has a son four months old that he adores. He also loves skateboarding and rock music from the '80's, so we chatted about our favorite bands. Speaking of music, though I usually hate grocery shopping in big stores, at least in Chile it's accompanied by great, often rock music, as opposed to muzac.

When there was too much crashing from the men taking out the springs and putting new ones one, I took the dogs for a walk in a neighborhood moderately generous with canines. Almost all loose. And as usual, no problems. Yesterday after leaving here, we stopped in a wealthy neighborhood so I could get a grip after being given the job estimate. I was slightly in shock... All the dogs we came across were 'behind bars' in people's gardens and looked like they were isolated not only from their owners, but from their own kind. A sad life - one of quiet desperation. Undeserved. And I'm sure it didn't occur to most owners that it could be very different, and that the animal who guarded them, could also be their companion.

August 11, 2008

My good mood took a nose dive. I haven't reached the ultimate in enlightenment. :-( Basically, all the springs on the rear of the van are shot. Another one gone as I searched for hours for a mechanic who had time to do the job. April was when my bad luck with the van began. Since then here's what's been done:

Minor distributor problems (this involved an expensive towing job)
Tappet on engine gone - metal fatigue.
Few holes in radiator - metal fatigue.
Rear brake line snapped by bad road - metal fatigue.
Two new tires
Front ball joint split in two - metal fatigue.
New spare battery to power the computer etc.
Seals in rear brake cylinders replaced, and rust bored out.
Alternator rebuilt
And now rear leaf-springs to be replaced tomorrow.
Rear shocks will have to wait, as well as new front springs...

My $750 van is starting to cost. I'm grateful I'm not paying the typical $80 an hour mechanic fees of the states. I feel as long as the engine and trannie hold out, I'm fine and will easily make it to Patagonia. Fingers crossed....

August 10, 2008

I KNEW something else was amiss besides the muffler. I kept hearing another sound. I've lost another leaf spring. They desperately need replacing, but I'm guessing parts could be costly. Could be wrong.... Also the rear shocks are shot. I'm sure this is causing stress to the ole van. I'm wondering what the priority is, shocks or leaf springs? Can't afford both. Shocks will be way cheaper I'm sure. Would prefer having the work done here, as opposed to the big city of Santiago. I'll look for a mechanic when I drive into town tomorrow.

August 9, 2008

I bring out varnish for the desk just as the first wind in 10 days begins. I'm on a mission and refuse to stop. The wind catches the stir stick and knocks the can of varnish onto the rocks. Still not deterred, I run back and forth between the rocks and van dipping a cloth into a puddle of goo. Lovely. And wonderful for the environment - not. The desk looks great but of course now all the parts aren't flush. Sigh...

August 8, 2008

I continue sanding down my desk and doing major clean-up now we're truly out of dusty environments. In the afternoon we take a hike like we haven't done since living in Kenya, following goat tracks and clambering over rocks that look down over the sea. It's spectacular. I'd worn shorts for the first time in ages, and my shins get scratched. Dog pants with excitement and muscle spasms she's been getting seem to be diminishing. I think it's a sign of happiness...

In the evening I do a chunk of work in no time, and with no effort, for a new book. I'm convinced THIS is the way to work - pondering more before actually opening up the laptop.

August 7, 2008

Yesterday I'd gone into town all excited because I was going to buy a modem for my laptop which would let me have access to the internet wherever there's cell phone access. But it wouldn't work on my computer. I'll have to wait until Santiago where there's better tech support. I was disheartened and angry. I had such high hopes...

Today I decide it won't bother me. I'm in a terrific place. Do I really need to be tied to email? Because once I log on, I'm hooked... Instead, I spend time with the dogs. REAL time, not just having them next to me while I work. I take time out, lots of it, to just lay in the sun next to Bruiser. Such a simple joy for both of us. More than joy, sheer unadulterated pleasure. It comes to me that this, more than anything, is what they've wanted - my TIME.

I decide I'm on holiday the rest of my life. I want to take inspired action and work, not just automatically pull out the laptop. It feels like checking IN to a different way of living - one that I've been aiming for. I'm now ready.

About noon the red truck leaves their camp and stop at ours. The same two men as before get out, and the same one as before hands me a bag. "For your dog." I open it. Half a chicken rotisserie. And sliced luncheon meat. And a large bag of olives. He hands me a can of beer. Then a large bottle. And they're gone down the track. Just like that. Asking nothing in return, not knowing if I'll be here when they get back Sunday. I'm stunned. And a bit sad I'm so shocked. I don't remember ever getting this nice of a welcome reception when I've moved into a neighborhood.

August 6, 2008

I got an email from a female email friend whose ex-boyfriend had encouraged her to be more cautious in regards people she'd just met. This all is interesting to me right now, cause a few days ago I wrote in my blog that I'm camped near a bunch of men living in make-shift houses or tents. And I thought, 'There's going to be people out there who think I'm crazy... a lone woman with no protection?'

And when they walked over to where my van bearing gifts of bread, canned fish and pasta for Bruiser, wasn't that a convincing ploy to get into my pants? Well, they haven't been back. True, they could've been disappointed I'm not twenty-something. But men usually don't care about age if it's sex they're wanting.

I'm not stupid or naive. I've traveled in 35 countries, many times solo. If I don't felt ok about a situation, I don't stay. Is it possible women have a heightened sense of intuition about these things? I have no idea. But I know I've counted on it for years, and knock on wood, it's never let me down.

When I was in my 20's I had a boyfriend who thought I was naive. He claimed whenever he met another man head-on while walking down the street, there was tension, and the possibility of aggression. Well, I argued about this, as this was not my experience. And I would always walk in far rougher areas than he. But now I realize, he was right. That was his experience, partly because he's a male. I'm not.

Here's an excerpt from On a Mission from DOG which pertains to this:

"When a woman goes walkabout, people generally ask, "Will you have a man with you?' I doubt statistics exist, but it's possible women are far safer traveling by themselves.

There are places and times when having testosterone raging in a body next to you is a very good thing. I like testosterone. But the hormone equates with territory, fences, and walls. Estrogen on the other hand, means doors, paths and bridges to the other side. I wouldnÕt want to be in the middle of a bad situation with a man whose immediate response is, 'Me man. Me here to protect woman.' Animosity can escalate to arguments, arguments to physical violence. Perhaps, a far better traveling companion for a woman, is a dog."

August 4, 2008

Last night Bruiser wanted to sleep outside and guard. He hasn't been able to do this in far too long. It's too dangerous for him while in a city, and in the country, I'm scared there could be good people walking around late at night. I vaguely tried coercing him inside with some food, but he sidled away. He'd been a very difficult dog to catch if someone wanted to grab him.

So I put a cushion outside along with some water and dried food, and leave the sliding door open in case he wants to jump back inside - which he does, but not till 3 in the morning.

He's happy here, as is Dog. In fact, I haven't seen either of them this happy in a long time. Too long. No one else would probably be able to tell, as they're not very demonstrative dogs. Bruiser especially is slow to trust. Like a cat, you have to earn his respect and confidence. Dog is easier, but also like a cat, she's a fastidious cleaner and picky about food. But I can easily tell the difference in their mood. They're making more soft and subtle noises when I stroke and cuddle with them. And because I'm more relaxed, I'm giving them more affection. I'm giving them TIME. Instead of sitting glued to my laptop while working, I take more time out and just sit with them, so that all my attention is focused on them. All three of us are happier.

I get ready to leave to go into town and suddenly there's a horrific thud from the underside of the van. When I'd pulled in on Friday, down a steep track with many rocks, there had been some odd noises, but when I'd checked underneath, everything looked normal. I check again, and again everything looks fine - except for the tailpipe which has been bent like a straw with a crease in it. I try moving the muffler, but it doesn't budge. What it sounded like is the entire suspension dropping an inch. Everything looks fine, except, does the suspension look lower? Visions of spending days camped in a mechanic's yard spring into my head - along with charges I can't afford.

The track I came in on is rough and a steep hill up. Can I risk climbing up that hill? I'd discovered five makeshift houses and tents nearby and a red pick-up truck went back and forth about 4 times yesterday, much to Bruiser's happiness, as he got to bark ferociously.

Just as I'm heading up that way to ask them if they're going into town, two men come walking down the hill. One has a styrofoam container which he hands me. "It's for your dog." The man had already asked if my dog bites, so I tell him it's good if he gives him the food. It's leftover pasta and Bruiser devours it. The man in the meantime has handed me a can of fish, and bread. Just like that. This is Chile.

I explain what's happened and they tell me they'll stop by when they head out in a few hours. I return to the car, feeling much bolder knowing there's help nearby. I start the engine and smokes pours from a break near the muffler. Could all that noise I'd heard have been the tension of metal snapping at the muffler? And was my fears about the suspension just be because I'd had a problem 1000 kilometers back? I drive a bit, get out, check, drive more, get out, check, and decide it is just the muffler. Metal shifts. Seems odd, but.... the van is old, and the hill is very rocky and steep. I'll keep an eye on it.

August 3, 2008

We follow goat or maybe sheep tracks heading towards the sea. The dogs are ecstatic, and Bruiser runs over a hill. Oh, we've needed this for so long. A real walk. There's miles of trails here. I want to stay. I have a broken camera and might not be able to have it fixed till reaching Santiago. I'll make more enquires Monday.

August 1, 2008

Never mind about the dogs, but I wake up excited and happier than I've been in ages. On the morning walk we explore another road. In poorer countries, it would've led to a village. If there's a road, there's a reason it's here. But Chile is a wealthy nation by South American standards, and here are tracks which meander through beautiful areas just for sheer pleasure.

Both dogs, instead of trailing behind me, bound in front, sniffing all the interesting smells. When we get back to the van, I catch a glance at myself in the mirror. All the wrinkles are still there, as they should be, and I look happy. You can get rid of the wrinkles, but you can't fake that look.

July 31, 2008

I'd promised the dogs we'd been heading for the mountains and stay put a while. But as soon as we'd left Iquiqui, the sense of relief all three of us felt was palpable. It was just the three of us - no one else, no complications, just us. We all began to unwind. I wondered then if the real message from Bruiser when he was lost had been, 'Can we just get away from here?'

I'd told a few people I wanted to be in a place with wild animals they could chase. What I really wanted was for them to wake up in the morning and be excited about going outside for a walk. After months of camping in farmland and cities, Dog was usually apprehensive of all the other dogs. Bruiser often just bored.

After a day spent in La Serena doing internet and buying supplies, I headed back north a few miles to an area I thought looked spectacular. It wasn't till I pulled off on the ocean side that I realized just how magnificent it really was. One of my favorite places in America is Arizona, specifically the area surrounding Tucson, and we'd spent a lot of time there. Here again were two differences - the cacti weren't as tall as the saguaro, and this landscape dropped down to the ocean. And for some reason, every variety of cacti here is blooming, even though it's winter. Paradise.

The dogs, Bruiser especially, seemed especially interested in all the smells as we walked along a dirt road which had only one set of tire tracks. Every fifty yards was a campsite - all empty, and all free. Just like everywhere else I'd seen in Chile. In all the countries we've traveled through since leaving America 2 1/2 years ago, this is the easiest place to camp since Arizona.

The only drawback to this place - or benefit depending on how you viewed it - was that we were very close to the Pan-American Highway, with trucks barreling through. There's always a drawback wherever you are. This was one I could handle. I contemplate about staying a while, and getting a bit more prepared for the snow I'll be camping in upon reaching the Santiago area. We've been on the road a week. I could use a break and so could the dogs. I'm no longer frantic about getting to Santiago. We're only a stone's throw away. Or, less than 300 miles. Almost all dead straight.

If I stick around for the weekend, it'll be interesting to see if, like as in Arizona, a bunch of city yahoo's show up with assault rifles to kick some butt. I have a feeling not...

July 30, 2008

I feel great. I've got about 450 miles remaining until reaching Santiago, Chile, mountains and trees. Spent the night camped in the desert. We see footprints of wild animals and the long dead remains of an antelope-like animal.

July 29, 2008

We cross a marker which says 1000 kilometers to Santiago, yeah! It's like we're almost there... Further on completely barren terrain sports a few green plants, somehow surviving off the moisture which settles in the night. It reminds me of what I've heard Namibia is like, but there, elephant and lion also survive. Further on still, the desert is suddenly green and filled with olive groves. We wander and Bruiser sniffs everything excitedly. I cry with joy. The first trees in quite some time...

I buy supplies in a lovely little town of Chanaral. I define it as such because it has a good feel about it. I leave the meat and veggie market and go into a small supermarket to pick up ice. As I'm leaving, three dogs wander in, just as a pigeon, who'd been hobbling along the floor with a wounded wing, flies out! No one says anything about the dogs, and I assume this is part of their morning round.

July 28, 2008

Bruiser lays down immediately we're on the road. He realizes it's our new routine. It helps the road is very smooth. I search for internet places but I see none. We drive. And stop at noon to have a two hour break for lunch. In the afternoon after another hour and a half of driving, my mind contemplates the need when traveling to consider your animal first. About that time, the road gets rougher, and Bruiser becomes stressed. Many would say ignore him, and he'll be fine. I used to. All it accomplished was to make me more stressed with feelings of guilt. I want to continue, but take a side turning. There is nothing, but terrain which doesn't look appealing even during magic hour. We go for a short walk and I decide we'll continue. The van is in cohorts with Bruiser and it sounds like the engine has flooded. We rest a bit longer until the gas has subsided

July 27, 2008

Another great sleep but I wake up overwhelmed with the thought of driving thirty hours to reach Santiago. I play mind games, calculating how far that would get me if I were leaving the Bay Area in California, negotiate how many hours a day I should drive, how many tankfuls of gas that is - all I've done before, and none which has worked. It's a long way.

After a short morning bicycle ride it's clear. Thirty hours gets me to forest like what I left in Kenya, where we walked everyday. Obviously it won't be the same, but suddenly I'm energized. I can do this. For five years I've been searching for places to replicate those walks, and though there's been some great walks, none have reached that pinnacle. Why not just return to that forest in Kenya? An electric fence has been built around it to get poachers, land grabbers and loggers out. I'd have to pay to get in, and it's doubtful the dogs would be allowed in at all. We keep searching for the next best thing...

While driving, I look at the map again. Wait a second. I'd been told it was 30 hours, but when I calculate, it's only 22!!! It's enough of a difference to make me euphoric - until I notice Bruiser shaking. It's still a long drive. After a minute he relaxes, but not enough to sleep. Meanwhile, Dog is next to me, fast asleep as she always does when on the road.

After a few hours we reach a town where I need to buy gas and some supplies. As we enter, Bruiser starts shaking uncontrollably - a reaction I'd noticed happening in Bolivia. He's begun associating towns with explosivos, or fireworks. Although not fireworks, because these aren't pretty. Used during demonstrations, weddings, or any occasion. Hell if you've been in a war zone or have a fear of gunfire. I'd been told they don't do this in Chile or Argentina. But the fear has already been implanted. I hope Bruiser forgets, and relearns that from now on, this won't be happening...

Outside of town we take a break. A long one, and when we resume, Bruiser actually sleeps. I relax. We pass the Tropic of Capricorn!

Before reaching Chile's largest northern city of Antogafasto, I search for a place to camp. I find a little paradise. A restaurant perched on a cliff. It's Sunday, so there's lots of people, many of them walking down many, many steps to reach the beach. It's late afternoon and I know they'll be leaving soon and we'll have a quiet night. The sand stone cliffs are absolutely gorgeous and there's a little island not far out which is shaped like a window to the Pacific Ocean. But the smell.... I wonder if I've parked downwind from the toilets? No, it's guano, as hundreds of birds make their home on the cliffs, and bats live in the caves below.

July 25, 2008

The dogs and I awaken incredibly happy. I've slept 10 hours, much needed from weeks of tension in regards the continuing dog situations and working. I suddenly scream, 'We're FREEEEE!' No longer do I have to maneuver around puppies who are inadvertently always in the way. And no longer do I have On a Mission from DOG weighing on me.

At 9 am, a huge group of people arrive on the beach about 100 meters away and put up tents for the weekend. We won't be staying in this spot! At the same time, a dog also makes an appearance. Another dumped dog, trying to exist on whatever garbage people leave - and there's always a lot in Chile. I cut off the bottom of a plastic Coke container laying on the beach and take the animal water, and some food. She recently had pups. Bruiser looks at me as if I'm flirting with the devil. 'No, don't worry. No more involvement,' I say reassuringly. After she's eaten, Bruiser chases her off.

On our way to the main road to head south, we stop at the cemetery again. After a few minutes, a sedan pulls up and three people get out. The man grabs a shovel and starts digging a grave. The mother and daughter open the trunk of the car and stroke their dog Osa, who's only 1 1/2 years old. The entire family is sobbing. It's heart-wrenching. The death happened at the vet, but I can't quite make out what happened. It's the first animal they've buried there. I ask to take a few photos, and though they agree, I feel intrusive. In ten minutes, it's all over and they quickly get back into the car and leave, as if the sooner they get away, the quicker their pain will go too.

Though the road is easy, a straight coast road, after 1 1/2 hours, I realize I'm too tired to drive anymore. The past six weeks have taken their toll. I find a wonderful place to camp near the ocean with huge boulders, completely hidden from the road. I fall asleep with the sun on me and wake up sweating and disoriented about where I am. We walk, I take glorious pictures of the dogs, my dogs, without any others, against a backdrop of the mountainous Atacama Desert dunes. I make a fire, the first in too long. I connect with Bruiser, and I feel it's really the first 'quality' time I've spent with him since being reunited a week ago.

At the end of the day I say, 'What a great day!' And realize, it's the first time I've said that since leaving Bolivia... I need to make sure I keep the physical and mental well-being of the dogs and myself as a priority.

July 24, 2008

At 8 am I say my last farewells to Luis and Isabelle and the pups and head back to town once again to get the alternator fixed. The floor of the van is drenched. A few days earlier I'd inadvertently backed over my two five gallon water containers, destroying one, and apparently making a leak in another. I take out boxes, repack and replace everything onto plastic. It'll dry when we go inland.

When the alternator is fixed, I bid farewells again, grateful that though Chile is an expensive country by S. American standards, the job only put me back $80 - far less than it would be in the states. They tell me where I can buy new water containers. I search the market, but don't find any. I'm almost in tears, not from lack of success but because this is also a food market. For the past six weeks I've been shopping in supermarkets which initially was a great joy. It lost it's appeal. This market is filled with indigenous people and other Chileans selling their goods. The prices are better and there's REAL tomatoes. Why is it all over the world supermarkets have such tasteless tomatoes? These by comparison are rich in flavor and appearance.

I do last remaining errands and we head out on the coast road. I'm tempted to stop in Playa Blanca just to make sure the pups are ok, but think better of it. Instead, I put out food and water for the dumpster dogs and leave a note in pen on one of the containers for Luis and Isabelle who also feed these dumped animals. One of the females I'd first seen near the carcass of a dead dog. I wasn't sure if she was ready to die, she certainly looked it, or, was feeding off the long dead body. She's looking much better, though I've never seen such a bad case of mange. She has almost no hair. But, where she cowered before, now, she lets me get close when I put the food down.

A few kilometers further south is a huge cemetery for pets. The dogs and I wander through row after row of beloved animals. There must be at least 1000 animals buried here, all after 2004. Many with wonderful little placards, dishes which once contained food, toy animals, crosses and pictures. I'm overwhelmed. All I feel while walking around is LOVE.

We've driven very little, but it's been a long day. We head towards the beach and find it deserted. No houses, no people, no other animals. It is so what the three of us need. We take a walk, eat dinner and collapse.

July 22, 2008

MamaD is dead. Luis and Isabel went to the vets later in the day than planned, about 6 pm, to pick her up. She was ecstatic to see them having been there 24 hours to get a cast put on her leg. The vet said she needed an Elizabethan collar or else she'd chew off the plaster within a day. While they went to buy one at a store, the vet gave MamaD an injection of pain killer - Dipyrone, a drug not used in the US at all, and in most other countries only used for animals. Luis and Isabel returned to find the vet pumping MamaD's heart as she dipped in and out of death for over 15 minutes. She finally slipped away.

The vet said she had an allergic reaction to the Dipyrone. This is the second dog Luis and Isabel lost to this vet in the same way. So I wonder about the validity of his Virginia Maryland University degree. We went to this vet because when MamaD had the accident, it was a holiday and he was the only vet open who had an x-ray machine. But these weren't the issues crossing my mind as Luis stood next to the truck, wiping away tears, while Isabel sat in the back cradling MamaD.

My first thought was this: if an animal can choose when it dies, this was MamaD's decision. Luis and Isabel couldn't take the two pups AND MamaD into their home. They already had three big dogs, and their area is fenced. Me finding a home for the third pup had alleviated the situation, but not enough. Besides, the day MamaD had the accident, the same time Bruiser was still lost, they found a female pup in the dumpster. 'What could we do? We had to take it,' Luis had said.

Could MamaD have sacrificed her life so her two remaining pups could have a home? Even on the first day I fed the Pack when they were clearly in extreme hunger, MamaD had stepped aside so her pups could eat. Another thing happened which sounds very 'woo-woo', and easily fabricated after the fact. In the days after the accident, and before the plaster was applied, she was in the front of the van. Initially I felt horrible about this as Bruiser had been found, only to be rejected from 'his place' upon his return. But he didn't seem to mind, and it meant he slept on the bed, something I like. In that time, I'd caught MamaD looking at me with incredible seriousness, so much that aloud I'd asked her, 'WHAT???' What was she trying to convey?

The rest of the evening for me was a bit odd. Two of Isabelle's classmates were also present and a grave was communally dug in the garden. Isabelle ceremoniously wrapped MamaD in a sheet which had lace along one side. It was clear that Isabelle was bringing her Catholic background to this situation, and was in tears most of the time. It's quite possible that though I'd had more contact with MamaD in the past month, Isabelle had more of a connection with MamaD. Either way, the gravity of the scene seemed out of place with my thoughts that perhaps, this was for the best. The two pups, would now be taken in by the family and never want for anything - except perhaps the freedom to wander freely. When I suggested this concept to Isabelle, she agreed.

My other primary thought was, 'What a waste.' All that time invested in her care, and she's dead. But was it? MamaD who was most likely dumped on the beach when young, for the first time in her life knew love, not from just me, but from the family of Luis and Isabelle. And an abundance of food and fun walks. She had the luxury to relax. She died happy.

I couldn't help wondering what would've happened if I'd never been involved? If I'd never fed them that first meal? But I did. And what if the van had not broken down on the beach, so that then I had no escape, and seemingly no choice but to feed them? But the van did break down. And the pups did get sick. And Hector did come around to tell me that after I left, the Pack would be fed. And on and on. At every juncture, a choice was made that seemed appropriate given that time, situation, and amount of knowledge.

One thing is for certain. I've been involved in a few situations where the animals are not my own, and I rode a fence between involvement and non-involvement. It's never worked. Either an animal is mine, to give the best life I can - or not. Fortunately, starving dogs are not a common sight in these parts. Lean and searching for food, yes. But usually not starving.

July 21, 2008

Alfredo, the man who'd invited me to dine with his friends for lunch once before, invites me again. In the discussion, we talk about where I will go from here. Argentina, or south through Chile. I've been debating this for some time. Suddenly, it's no longer an issue. I realize my logical mind has been fighting with my heart. Gas is double the price in Chile as what it is in Argentina, and other things generally a bit more expensive. It makes sense to head south via Argentina.

But I want to be in Chile. And I want to find a spot to hunker down for a while with the dogs, in an area with mountains, trees and rivers. I'll find it quicker in Chile. And there's something else. I was in Santiago two years ago for a writing convention. Only a week, but going there would mean I was seeing a familiar place for the first time since Costa Rica. It gets tiring when on the road for long periods of time if everything is always new. Traditional nomads revisited the same area again and again. Modern day nomads need the same.

July 20, 2008

Loosing an animal is a painful and frustrating experience. I'd like to share my experiences in the hope it'll help others in this situation. Bruiser is not an animal that's just gone off wandering. Each of the three times we've been parted have been unique situations, which initially seem dissimilar. The first time escaping from a new family in Kenya, in territory 1 1/2 hours from where he'd been a community dog his entire life. The second time jumping from the van a few miles from where we'd been camping in Costa Rica, scared by fireworks. And the third I feel, just thinking, I'm fed up with being stuck in the van while waiting for Lorraine, and managing to open the sliding door and taking off.

One of the keys is to not give up and to do your best to quell panic, eat, sleep and make sure you're strong, so you can be useful for your animal. Time needs to be spent 'away' from the chaos. As Ronni Hall the animal communicator I used to help find him says, 'How can you hear in the middle of the eye of the storm?' The animal IS out there somewhere. It's a matter of putting your knowledge of the animal and terrain together with the information given you by the animal communicator and your pet. It's a three way process.

In Kenya, because the terrain was so vast, my first priority was finding out if he was dead or alive. The first email from Ronni Hall confirmed he was. But every first email she's sent to me, has given me little information. It's almost like I need to get some initial searching out of the way. I'm guessing with Ronni Hall, the first conversation is like a conversation with any new 'person'. It's exploratory.

During this incident in Chile, my second e-mail to her was to obtain specific information to continue my search. I wrote her: I'd like to tell you the terrain, and what I'm now telling Bruiser. And if you connect with him, if you can tell him too. There's HIGH desert/sand mountains on one side of town that slope down to the sea. I need him to head to the sea. That's a few streets from where I lost him and where I'll keep parking. I fear he headed away from the sea. I just don't feel him here. I feel I'm in the wrong place. It's a maze of streets....

And here's the important part. While waiting for her reply, initially I bicycled further afield. But I returned to the van, where Dog was sleeping, and we went for a walk on the beach with a golf ball. I laughed and loosened up. In Greek mythology after Persephone is abducted by Hades and taken into the Underworld, her mother Demeter is beside herself with worry. It's not until she meets another goddess who tells her obscene jokes, that Demeter is able to see the situation clearly, and answer clarifying questions. Such was the case when Ronni Hall replied to me.

Here was the information I received from Ronni Hall: Bruiser's not hurt, but is tired. Sitting down. Was by some weeds. Something had gotten his attention - he showed me a hot pink flash he needed to check out. He told me different places have different smells and feelings and it can be very confusing, dizzying, hard to find your way and find center, balance. He is not down the cliff to the surf. By buildings. Camp? I saw a truck. There's a wall. Kept hearing a wall. Big white wall. Crouched down almost hidden. Afraid to come out.

I'd like to explain that Ronni Hall has never met myself or my dogs. We've never even communicated by telephone, solely by email. In-between the times he's been missing, we've shared a few emails where the topic is publishing. But that's all. She doesn't know who I am as a person. I have no ulterior motive to publicize or promote her. Her speciality is not locating missing animals, but other areas of the human/animal bond, but she's assisted me in locating Bruiser three times, on three different continents. This time, I was in a city with lots of traffic. I waited less than two hours before contacting her.

You'll be given advice by people. Listen to it. But also realize, no one knows your animal as much as you. Every time Bruiser was missing someone would say, 'He'll be near markets, restaurants. A food source.' As much as Bruiser lives for food, that wasn't the case any of the three times. Each time, he fled away from areas inhabited by lots of people, because despite his bravado appearance, he is leery of strangers.

Despite going to bed early, I couldn't sleep from excitement that the next morning after receiving the clues from Ronni Hall, that I'd find Bruiser. This is an important mental key. You're going out to FIND your animal, NOT search for them. You could SEARCH for years. You will FIND only once. I slept until midnight, and dosed for the next three hours. Just after 3 am I sat bolt upright. I'd finally drifted into sleep, but now was not the time. I wanted to go out into the city when the traffic was at a minimum.

I was ready in five minutes and headed away from Copec and town, and the areas I'd been searching. I had one crucial clue in Ronni Hall's email. "He is not down the cliff to the surf." That meant, I'd been searching in the wrong area entirely, as the area around Copec was only at a slightly higher elevation than the sea. So he had to be further south. For reasons I don't know, I knew he wasn't north along the coast, and though I'd searched east towards the sand mountains, I hadn't gone beyond a certain street, as that didn't feel right either. This new information narrowed the search considerably.

The other clue was the high white wall. Just over a mile south, was a very long wall, dividing houses from the busy four lane highway that ran alongside the ocean. But as I approached, I knew it wasn't the right one. In fact, I hadn't realized until that moment, how many high white walls there were. I fought off frustration and fear and the feeling that though I had these clues from Bruiser and Ronni Hall, the legwork was up to me. It still seemed a daunting task.

When Bruiser was lost in Kenya, the first clue she gave was 'tall grasses'. Panicked, I was angry and thought, 'Well, that narrows the search down to most of Africa!' I wasn't angry this time, but this was a perplexing clue. Iquiqui is a desert city. Weeds don't grow and flourish in sand. But the only weeds I'd seen were in a few badly maintained parks.

Ronni Hall mentioned a camp, (with a question mark) and a truck. I knew that this must mean a construction site - a wide sprawling space with some activity. But as I drove south, there seemed to be very little construction in this area. I passed an Esso station. This was one of only three gas stations I'd gotten gas after arriving in Chile. At each one, I'd met men who cared for dogs. This one was no different. I'd thought of stopping there before, but didn't. It was almost half a mile beyond the marker I'd mentally set.

I headed further south than Esso, and got out a few times with and without my bicycle and called in areas where there were white walls or construction going on. But never weeds. And none of the places felt right. I tried another place which had large expensive home overlooking the ocean and called Bruiser's name, loud as always, completely uncaring if the Gringa looking for a dog at 4:30 in the morning woke anyone up. Nothing. Just my voice echoing off the walls. I came to a huge pile of dirt that must've been delivered for construction purposes. I needed a pee. And I needed to think about where I'd go next, as I was now returning north again, and the cliffs weren't very high. Squatting with pants down, I contemplated the dilemma of where to go next. And suddenly a dog came out of nowhere. In front of me was Bruiser.

As with the two times before, it was a surreal experience to have what seemed almost impossible to attain - a reunion with a beloved animal - there in front of me. The fantasy became a reality. He whimpering excitedly and circling me again and again, and me struggling to pull up and zipper my pants. Not exactly a Kodak moment, and if a film was ever made, that scene would certainly be altered. Though the emotion would not.

And then, he walked away and into a construction area. He was wanting me to follow, so I did. As with the first time I tried to find him in Kenya (I hadn't lost him, as he was not yet my dog - you'll hear this story in On a Mission from DOG), it was clear that he had spent much of his time hunkered down, as all the smells on this little avenue were new to him. This was confusing to me, as wasn't this where he'd been spending his time?

A few days later, we returned to this spot. When I stopped the van, Bruiser looked at me with eyes wide with horror. What was he thinking? When it became clear we were going to walk here, he was excited and eager to explore. A new daytime world was revealed, one I hadn't seen with my poor night vision. A high white wall, some of it covered by hot pink bougainvillea blossoms. Was this the hot pink flash he'd wanted Ronni Hall and me to see?

We continued down the drive past the construction site in the direction of the sea. The scene awaiting me was incredible. Another high white wall, this one with graffiti, and below that, an area of at least twenty square yards of more grasses and weeds than I'd seen in all of Iquiqui. Lush and green, fed by run-off water. His water source and the weeds Ronni Hall had said he was hiding behind. Further down, closer to the ocean, was an area fenced by netting which looked like a camp of sorts and beyond that, about five trucks, all pouring something via hoses into the sea. The remaining clues.

The morning we were reunited, we walked back to the van and I gave him food and water. The next priority was letting Ronni Hall know he'd been found. We drove back to the Copec station which has wifi and is open 24 hours. But there was a bigger priority. A walk to bring the three of us back together as a pack. Now 5 am, the traffic was much less. And since it was a holiday, there wouldn't be the normal rush in a few hours. So we roamed through streets I'd searched for Bruiser, over to the supermarket which they'd only explored a little before and after I'd shopped, and then a huge empty lot which had been home to a circus the past weeks. All before dawn. A joy and one I didn't allow myself often enough, too often saying to them, "I'm too busy, another time, I need my sleep, I have work to do..." Certainly, we walk everyday, but too often it's not the walks they deserve.

There was a more personal part of Ronni Hall's e-mail that needed exploring. She wrote: He got very serious and said he had conflicted feelings to tell you. The effect of the travelling to different places has gotten very hard on him. The unfamiliarity in his life right now is very stressful. He wanted me to relay this to you in the best way possible and was very concerned how you would take this as it is what you do. He wants to stay put for a while. He needed your attention right now. He says you'll find him but you need to hear this message. He's tired.

The message hit home. Bruiser IS tired, and has been for some time. I'd wanted to e-mail Ronni Hall about this previously, but there always seemed to be other priorities. I'd expected to be in wild country where they could sniff and chase wild animals long, long ago. I never dreamed it would take so long to get there - a combination of working while traveling, and putting so much time and energy into On a Mission from DOG, that I had no time or energy left to pursue money producing articles which would let me head south with enough gas money to make faster progress.

How long had I been promising them, "We'll be there soon. Just one more week..." But the wild places I promised, never appeared. Certainly we'd experienced some amazing and wonderful places. But not what would make them the happiest - or me. Having these two dogs accompany me wasn't just about companionship. We had a firm partnership. I wanted them to be as happy as possible.

I've promised them for weeks we'll be leaving 'in a few days'. I'd been side-tracked by a mother dog and three pups, finishing On a Mission from DOG, as well as a delayed magazine payment, which was preventing me getting brake work done. My plan is as soon as the money comes in, (any day I've been promised), we will head south, then east into Argentina where money will buy me more gas, and then head south until we reach those mountains, grasses and wild places. It's long journey, at least 35 hours. At that point, I'm committed to either camping for months in one place, or finding a little place to rent.

In the coming days, a few people asked where I'd found him. When I replied, 'Near the Esso station,' they all had the same reaction. 'That's not far,' as if to imply, it all made sense, and therefore, an easy search. Easy to say in hindsight. Though Iquiqui has vague boundaries, like many cities, it is still a maze of streets, obstacles, and dangers. And I was searching in the wrong places.

If using an animal communicator such as Ronni Hall isn't appealing to you, as a preventative measure there is also a device called Global Pet Finder which uses a GPS tracking system. It doesn't work in S. America, but it might in your area. And if you loose your animal and want to contact me for any reason, please don't hesitate to e-mail.

July 18, 2008

I have much to say and many thoughts about what happened concerning Bruiser being lost, and then found with the great assistance of Ronni Hall. How many people can say they've lost a pet, and then found him THREE different times, in three different countries, with the help of the same animal communicator? Please be patient, the story will have to wait a few days. ALSO, if you've ordered On a Mission from Dog, some glitches are being sorted. Should be all ready for download in a day or two.

We returned to Playa Blanca at 6am, only to discover MamaD's front paws both swollen, one grotesquely. Isabelle and I took her to the vet, who said she had bite wounds, and was then run over by a car - four bones in her paw were fractured. Later in the afternoon, I discovered one of the original pack also had a fractured leg, and another a sprain. All this happened during the full moon. The waves have never been higher at high tide, or the waves so furious. I'll be updating as soon as I can, but my first priority is to get brake work done, buy supplies, take MamaD back to the vet, before leaving here. I've made Bruiser a promise. We're heading for the mountains to stay put a while.

While your waiting, please check out the wonderful African sounds at On a Mission from Dog. I've also uploaded the Introduction that I'd love you to hear.

July 16, 2008

At 4:30 am, after looking for an hour, I FOUND BRUISER!!! He was missing about 36 hours. In the later afternoon, I'd received the following email from Ronni. It hit home. I knew definitely, that everything she'd 'heard' from Bruiser was correct. I went to bed very excited that I was going to FIND him. As with the second time, I wouldn't be 'searching' for him, I'd be 'finding' him. I distinct difference. I had some idea of where he might be, and it was NOWHERE near where I'd been looking. Let me tell you, this woman is fantastic. This is the THIRD time she's done this with Bruiser, and is responsible for me finding him every time. Check out her website: . I will put up more details tomorrow. Right now, we need to go back to Playa Blanca, and I need to get some sleep. Despite going to bed early, I've only slept 4 hours in the past two nights. We'll be leaving here in a few days.

Ronni's session to find Bruiser.

Bruiser's not hurt, but is tired. Sitting down. Was by some weeds. Something had gotten his attention--he showed me a hot pink flash, he needed to check out. He told me different places have different smells and feelings and it can be very confusing, dizzying, hard to find your way and find center, balance.

He is not down the cliff to the surf. By buildings. Camp? I saw a truck. There's a wall. Kept hearing a wall. Big white wall. Crouched down almost hidden. Afraid to come out.

He got very serious and said he had conflicted feelings to tell you. The effect of the travelling to different places has gotten very hard on him. The unfamiliarity in his life right now is very stressful. He wanted me to relay this to you in the best way possible and was very concerned how you would take this as it is what you do. He wants to stay put for a while. He needed your attention right now.

He says you'll find him but you need to hear this message. He's tired.

Will check in again in a little while, but that came in crystal clear. Very conflicted as he feels its against what you do.

July 15, 2008

I look for Bruiser from 2 to 4 in the morning. I'm not a night person and I'm always surprised how much activity goes on at night. I call constantly while bicycling through the streets. Nothing. The first time I lost Bruiser in Kenya, the story which is in the book On a Mission from Dog, he wasn't mine. But by then, I knew we were supposed to be together.

The second time was just over a year ago in Costa Rica. I'd planned to leave the country in a month, but knew I could and would not without him. He was gone four days, spooked by fireworks going off while I was in the bank. I searched endlessly through the small town before contacting Ronni Hall. I was looking in totally the wrong area, and once she put me straight, I had him the next day.

Again, I'm searching the same streets, over and over and feel he's not here. But Playa Blanca is about five miles away. In Costa Rica, Bruiser headed back to our campsite, but go lost en route. I'll return to Playa Blanca in a few hours. I need to get another hour of sleep. And hope I can connect to the internet to see if there's a reply from Ronni Hall. Damn. I wish I could connect here in my van all the time... Very frustrating. The signal says I'm connected, but I'm not.

What I don't understand, and which is really irrelevant, is I was sitting inside the internet cafe, I was right by the open door, when he got out. I heard nothing to spook him, and no barking. And yet, when I returned to the van, dog was alarmed about something.

By 9am, I've gone back to Playa Blanca to let Isabelle and people know that he's missing, and where I'm camped in case he comes back. I've also heard back from Ronni Hall, but the info is from last night when I could no longer connect and possibly no longer valid. I need to keep looking.

Typically, Dog seems totally unconcerned. If only we could communicate with our animals better....

It's 2:30 and I have to stop searching as the traffic's too heavy. He won't hear me calling and it's too dangerous if he hears me and runs. This is a daunting task, and discouraging. But it seemed that way the other two times too.

The good news is there's plenty of food sources around. Lots of bags of garbage he can rummage through. And, a few water sources. Not many, and he'll get dehydrated. I see him with me again. I've promised him for so long we're close to the mountains, where there'll be wild animals to chase. We've had darn little. It's taken too long.

If you're interested in searching for lost dogs, I wrote an article last year for Fido Friendly when Bruiser was lost in Costa Rica for four days. You can read it by downloading the pdf:

July 14, 2008

I've lost Bruiser. We went into town because I needed to do internet work, and buy food. I parked in a new place, and went inside the internet cafe, as I wasn't getting a signal at the gas station. After a half hour, I went outside and the sliding door of the van was slightly open, and only Dog was inside - and looking a bit scared. He's opened the door before if it's not jammed shut.

It's now been six hours, I've bicycled all over and called, and nothing. This is the third time I've lost him, the first in Kenya, the second in Costa Rica. Each of those times I found him with the help of an animal communicator by the name of Ronni Hall. I've emailed her again. I'd planned to spend the night in town - to do internet things, not look for Bruiser. I'm going to sleep early and when the traffic dies down, and it's quiet, I'll go out looking again. He's never been lost in a city before. He's always frustrated we don't go on more city walks...

July 13, 2008

I work. At mid-day, I take a break and Isabelle and I discuss the dogs, and how well they've progressed. We're standing outside her house on the street with the Pack, Bruiser and three other dogs she feeds. The a huge Alsatian and another big dog that Bruiser is wary of, comes chasing along the road after a car. The vehicle slows, but with the two other dogs chasing, the Pack decide they'll chase too. Suddenly, the female pup is underneath the vehicle and gets rolled, jumps up, and chases down the beach in the direction of the last house. She doesn't look injured, but she doesn't stop. I go after her.

(For all the people alarmed that we're standing in the middle of the road, it's more like a long private driveway that splits - one side going to houses and the beach, and another to the golf course. Unfortunately, many people speed, and in the month I've been here, two dogs have been killed on the side leading to the golf course. Freedom comes at a price.)

The first place I look is under Marco's house, but she doesn't appear to be there. I return to Isabelle, who's also looking. She's on her way to town, and will look on the road. I return to the beach and ask a few girls if they saw her and they point past the last house. Way up on the hill, I see a black dot, and two big dogs approaching. The dot doesn't move. One dog investigates, then leaves.

As we get closer, I can see for certain that it's the little female pup. I call her, but she just sits. It's not until I'm about twenty meters away, that something clicks in her, and she comes bounding over to us - completely unscathed. No blood, no cuts, no injuries. A very lucky pup.

Late afternoon, and one of the man's guests who I'm borrowing electricity from, goes to his car to leave. And then returns, dishing out huge amounts of dog food for the Pack. (And Bruiser, who's liking being with the Pack more and more. ;-) He has 15 dogs he takes care of. I can't believe this place. The people are great, and though I'm sure there's cruelty to animals, this little neck of the desert, is terrific.

I feel very emotional, in a good way. I'm getting lots of hugs and kisses here, the first in many, many months. It's not that people have not been friendly before now, they have. But here, I'm getting invites into people's homes. I've been a bit of an oddity before now. Not only am I a woman alone, but I've beeb driving in places where you don't see women behind the wheel. In a tourist town in Peru, a local woman asked me no less than 15 times if I really had driven alone from the states - just to make sure she'd understood correctly. I was with a traveling English couple, and they laughed at the woman's incredulousness too.

The most common question asked me is, "Are you alone?" To which I reply, "No, I have my two dogs." Which usually brings laughter, but separates me once again. I've sensed people don't know what to do with me. I know a woman who was traveling alone in the states, who experienced the same thing. In Chile I may be different, but not a complete oddity. I'm really enjoying this time.

July 12, 2008

I'm sure if MamaD was asked three weeks ago for a wish, it would be to have so much food she couldn't finish it. The never emptying pot of soup... She's gotten her wish. This morning after I fed the dogs, Isabelle and her husband put out the biggest bowl of dog food I've ever seen. The first arrivals were three dogs up the road they usually feed. The Pack waited patiently, and only when the first group were done, did they move in. No squabbling. And they ate, and ate, and ate. Bruiser waited on the sidelines. I pulled the female pup away a few times as she looked like she would pop.

All day long, the two pups looked like they would never eat again, and I didn't feed them dinner. MamaD rolled splayed on her back like a beached whale. She got her wish. How her life has changed...

I can't believe my good fortune. Completely broke because the money has yet to arrive from the magazine, yesterday I did something I've never done before - I took the battery I bought a week ago back to the store, and got a refund, and then went to Home Center and bought another, cheaper one. I thought this would give me about 15 hours of computer time. Alas, it only made my computer run for five hours. I need much more than that to finish the editing on my book.

A few days back, I'd been invited to lunch at the vacation home of one of the men here. It had been an amazing event for me to see four of the people who live here, all having lunch together, in true Chilean style. Good food, and such friendly people. So I returned to this man today, who was in the proprietor of the pueblo's house. The proprietor has an incredible collection of antique guns, swords and knives and I was able to show him my knife from Sudan.

The end result was the first man, and then the second one, both invited me to use their home as an office. A wonderful offer, especially since one house is three stories with an office looking out to the ocean, but I have an office, and I'm accustomed to working with my dogs. So, I'm now parked outside the first man's house and a electric cord connects us. They then both left, the man leaving his house open for me to take a shower (cold alas). I barely know these people, and they are so generous. Every time I've seen them, they offer me food.

Being stationed outside one of the houses, means of course, the Pack comes to. This works well, as I want them to be more assimilated into the neighborhood.

July 8, 2008

Two amazing things happened on our morning walk - Dog accepted MamaD's offer to play - after almost two weeks of being acquainted. After everyone was fed, Bruiser lay down near the pups on what was once HIS foam mattress, but which was taken over by the Pack. Alas, once he got off, it was claimed. I put another down which is usually on the front seat, but the pups pounced on it, delighted to inhabit something of King Bruiser's, who usually growls at them like a lion. He gave up and came back inside the van to sleep undisturbed. Isabelle also fed the Pack right outside her house - their second meal. All is going well, and I'm working well. The male pup is being groomed by MamaD, and the female is rolling on her back, cavorting. The male is a lap dog, and when on a walk, spends all his time wrapping himself around my legs, inadvertently tripping me, while the female, like her mother chases around the dunes. All their lives have undergone a complete transformation in such a short space of time. The only thing I'm concerned about is them scaring people. But, there are other scary dogs on the beach, all owned. It's more accepted here to have a dog bark at you. And, they'll do so less after I leave.

July 7, 2008

I'd purposefully left the sliding door open last night, as I wanted to sleep with the chilly air. When I wake, I roll over and far in the distance, over the crest of the barren hill I'm on, I see waves crashing a kilometer away. When I arrived yesterday late afternoon, a 4x4 was practicing going up ridiculously steep hills and balancing on the crest. One 4x4, not a shlew of 20. And all for free. Chile appears to be the freest country I've been to in a long time... perhaps ever. I like it here.

I resume work on the final stages of the audio version of On a Mission from Dog, and because the files are huge at this stage and take so long to open, I learn how much I can accomplish while waiting, and glue red tassels bought months ago, to hang from around the vent, and above the sliding side door. There's a lot of red inside, and I love it. The interior is improved regularly, in direct correlation to the rust which increases on the exterior...

At four in the afternoon, we return to Playa Blanca. The pups and Mama Dog are waiting for either Isabelle or myself, near her house and go nuts as I drive up. I'm sure they could care less who arrives first. Though very windy, we go for a lovely walk along the shore. The golf course dogs, an unfriendly pack which Mama Dog may have had trouble with before, are cowed into submission when the two pups, Bruiser and Mama Dog challenge their aggressiveness.

With one less pup, everything seems much, much calmer. And I'm glad adoption day is over. I feel the right dog went to the right home. All seems well in the world.

Isabelle and myself had agreed that it's best I move nearer to her house so the dogs will orient themselves closer to her. It seems like the transition is going smoothly. And the new location is glorious. An old expression is, 'A change is as good as a mile.' I had been restless to be on the road. Now I'm content.

July 6, 2008

Incredibly, in the morning all three pups are a bundle of energy and I take all three dogs, plus three pups walking, though running by the house with the attack bird. It's slow going the rest of the way as the male pup wants to stay with me, and continually blocks the path. The other two cavort. It's amazing to watch. My thoughts wander to the adoption, and I hate separating this happy bunch. But four pit mixes on the beach will never work. I secretly hope at some point Isabelle and her family will take at least one of them in. I also ponder my involvement in all of this, not being sure my intervention was ever a good thing, but not seeing what else I could've done. The two pups would probably have died, as they'd never have been able to keep up with the mother, and the well one, would be living on the beach, where he was doing very well at acting cute and begging from strangers, instead of going to a home.

SPA Pet Adoption - UPDATE -
Even though I've always been a proponent of sterilizing animals, there's always a part of me that is apprehensive about interfering so much with another species, when as humans, we don't have our own population under control. But today, confronted with so many small puppies, all of them utterly adorable, and all wanting homes, all my previous doubts ceased, and I firmly believe governments need to provide FREE spay and neuter.

The Adoption wasn't so different than what you'd see at any adoption in the states - except in quantity. The first thing I saw after parking were a litter of puppies underneath a bench - abandoned. Then, people selling purebred puppies. Then, a long line of people, waiting for the the SPA van to show up, so they could either give away puppies, or get their animals vaccinated. All the puppies were tiny, six weeks old maximum, and very cute. In contrast, mine were 3-4 months old.

I'd brought two. The friendly female, as well as the female who'd been sick. Isabelle and I had discussed if I should take her, and we decided to give it a shot. I'd had reservations, as the night before she seemed feverish, but I couldn't be sure.

I was a bit of an oddity, as standard procedure is to give them your ID and contact details, and your pet, and agree to take back your animal if no one adopts it by 3 pm. I have an Arizona driver's license, which is an unknown element as collateral, and no contact info. Nevertheless, they agreed to take the two. You put your animal into a wire enclosure less than six feet square, and potential adopters are able to observe the selection. The cage was wall to wall pups. I put my two in, and they were instantly assaulted - not by people, but by pups a third their size. The tranquil one, continued to be fairly tranquil, but the very friendly one, who'd already shirked at the unfamiliar city sounds, as well as so many dogs and people she didn't know, underwent a complete personality change and became quite fearful. There was only one solution - escape, which she tried to do relentlessly, climbing up the pen to escape captivity. I fussed initially, and then left to return to Dog and Bruiser who were trapped in the car parked in the sun.

When I returned less than ten minutes later, the tranquil one was gone. Panic. She'd also been attempting to escape, had she fled? And gotten hit by a car? No, she'd been adopted. I scanned the surroundings, and found her, sitting as tranquil as usual, at the end of a bright pink harness. I calmed down. They seemed a nice family, and had another dog on the end of a lead. I'd already met a girl who spoke English, and I asked her to translate, just to make sure the family understood, that I'm a writer, and wanted to know her progress. And as conniving as this is, I also realized it increased the pups chances of being well taken care of. I watched, as the pup, now named Dixie, who'd pretty much refused to be led on a lead, walk calmly down the busy street, despite this being her first time in the city.

The people at the SPA eventually asked me to hold the 'friendly' one, as she was so disruptive trying to escape. I held her in my arms, and remembered how brazen she usually is, and chases with her mother all over the hills. And, how she is so good at begging. Maybe I hadn't completely misread this situation. She wouldn't have a permanent person at the beach, and there was no way for her to know that. But in the past week and a few days, I've given her the least amount of attention, partly because of the sick pups, but partly because I never really liked her, and she's done find. Isabelle will provide food. After almost two hours of what was surely torture for her, I take her back.

I pay for her to have shots, they give her an injection, and explain I have to return in two weeks for the second half. Whoa. I explain that's not possible and why. They take her picture and say they'll come to Playa Blanca. Later I give Isabelle the receipt and number. We'll see what happens. A few people I've spoken with thought very little of this organization. What I saw, was fine. And they had a ton of volunteers of all ages. VERY impressive.

Female pup was ecstatic to be back in the van. So ecstatic, she crapped on the floor and then of course walked in it, leaving a trail everywhere. Sigh. Dog and Bruiser, especially Dog, if unhappy with the situation before, were doubly so now. So after dropping the pup off at the beach, feeding all of them twice in two hours, and cleaning up the mess, we leave, as usual, having great difficulty getting Mama Dog and the two pups not to follow. I'm exhausted.

I think one of the reasons I love having two dogs, is a certain amount of attention is focused on me, or, on our Pack. It's solidifying, and gives me a sense of stability. I like the idea of being with a significant other much of the time, yet have always been with men who are not interested in so much togetherness. I have that with animals. But, having three pups, and three dogs focused on me is too much. I need my space too. So Dog and Bruiser and I are alone, on a desolate hill, with the sea in the far distance, and piles of refuse not so distant. But it's quiet, and it's just US. And tomorrow, I'll be able to write undisturbed.

I recall the events of the day, and of how the female pup, no matter how much she's fed, will growl at her siblings over food, and will go and 'hunt' food from people whether she's hungry or not. In contrast, the other female was not motivated by food. Is that what makes a street dog survivor? Bruiser, now off the streets for five years, is fat in our beach location because of the garbage he can scrounge. He has always been food motivated, and on the Kenyan streets, looked great as a street dog. Would Labs be good at being street dogs too?

July 5, 2008

By the time I'm ready to leave the camping spot from hell, at 8 the next morning, there is only a few cars around, and none interested in giving an 'old woman' a jump. Using the lights last night, negated the juice I was building up in the battery. Then, the morning crew began arriving - fisherman, and I got a jump from one of them.

I discover now I have money in my account, and buy a glorious battery! Great friends are fantastic! I spend ages at the COPEC gas station, without getting a signal. But life is moving forward again. I wonder how the pups will be when I return... And tomorrow, I'll be taking at least the one well pup, if not the Mother Dog, to the adoption in town. Many people at the beach have admired her. And she looks so different now, healthy and strong.

I realize there's a zillion stray dogs out there, but few in such bad shape that I feel they need help. Dogs here are so interwoven into the fabric of society in a way they're not in the states. In America, the dogs have separate places they're supposed to go, and ways they're supposed to act. Here, they're everywhere, and do everything - whether it's acceptable and liked, or not.

Couldn't connect to the internet at two different places. At the third, I discover the owner is from Iraq and we correspond in a mix of Arabic, Spanish and English. It is fun, though disorienting!

I ask some police officers how long I'm allowed in Chile. My van is for three months, but think if I have to renew after a month, as in Bolivia. Not so, I'm good for three months too. This means I can take my time getting to Argentina.

I'm in happy and grateful tears. I arrive back at camp and the two strong dogs run to greet me at where I get water. That's normal. What hasn't been, is that the two weak pups, come too. I see the nice family are home, and I want to talk to them about Mother Dog and if I should take her to the Plaza tomorrow, or not. I talk to the woman, Isabelle. Or try to, as two of the pups, especially the male who I like the most, jump in her arms. And she, happily hugs them and makes cooing noises. She'd been to feed them this morning, and noted also that the two weak ones were not eating the dry food. I said I thought they would probably die once I leave, as I'm giving them chicken and fish. It was very clear, she was prepared to do the same, and has done in the past, and was adamant I shouldn't take Mother Dog to the Plaza. So, they'll be feeding and caring for all the dogs, minus the well pup - if I can find her a home tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

The other great news is that someone else is putting down at least water for the dogs are the big garbage dump. If I was in America, I'd be preaching that this just produces more pups. Here, I'm not so sure. The food source of garbage dumps isn't going away. This just makes their lives a little easier.

In the afternoon, I give Mother Dog a 'shower' with shampoo and put on a collar which I've glued red tassels to, like you see Hispanics in the US have in their cars. I hope that people will notice the tassels, before the fact she's a pit mix and treat her kindly. By the time of our late afternoon walk, the two ailing pups are eating dry food. And I realize I can't take all six dogs with me for a walk - even if three are pups. It's just too crazy. So I stick them in the front of the van and shut the separating door. The walk is relaxing, and I notice Mama Dog endearing herself to Bruiser. Though Dog won't switch... She can't wait to get out of here. And hopefully that will happen shortly. All these good things happening after a week of money, van and dog difficulties. I want to build on this.

It's a Saturday night, but the beach is eerily quiet. This is good. Mama Dog is very protective of me, her food source, and now with three pups feeling better (one may have gone downhill again - while the male is in fine form dry humping his sister...Πit's all a crap shoot) that's a lot of barking and 'bravo'. In contrast, my dogs, especially Bruiser, have really stepped down to let her take over. Bruiser hardly raises his head if he feels there might be a threat. He's also gotten fat. We need to be somewhere we can get better exercise, and where there isn't piles of garbage. Despite being well fed for the past five years, Bruiser is still the most cautious of eaters, making sure not one crumb is remaining - unlike the others.

July 4, 2008

I've been debating the irony that they might go to a home where there's plenty of food, but no freedom. I've seen plenty of people drive to this beach with their dogs, but only let them out on a lead, and in some cases, not let them out at all. The flip side is they stay here, but are too hungry to enjoy the freedom and fun they have with me. It's been a joy seeing Mama Dog chasing all over the hills with one pup. Would she ever get that again?

I follow a system called The Work (, which I realize I'm not following, hence the reason for being so exhausted right now. One of the teachings, is the understanding that there's your business, the other person's business, or God's business. And I've been trying to play God. It's my job to take the dog's to the Plaza to see if I can find a home for them. It's God's business what that home is like. And how do I know what is best for the dogs, or, what kind of home they'd prefer?

Mid-morning, a VW camper turns up. It's a Chilean couple, artisians, who are on the road for three months, heading north. They don't speak English, but speak slowly for me in Spanish. It's soooo nice meeting other travelers. I've met so few. My agenda is just so different than other travelers who are on holiday.

My car battery is dead, and I need a new one so I can run my laptop and WORK! I used to have a second durable one, but this became completely dead with age a few months ago, and I haven't had the money to replace it. Problem is, I'm not sure if I have money in my account. I drive to town late in the day, leaving the pups, who once again, I don't think will make it. They'll eat chicken and fish, but one doesn't drink liquid, and neither will eat dry food. I think I'm loosing them.

i don't have the right amount in my account, but ask a friend if I can borrow some, and hope there is the next morning. I can do nothing without battery power. I decide to camp at a beach in town. It's Friday night. How was I to know that it's THE place for anyone under 30 to party on a Friday night? The long straight road down to the beach is turned into a racetrack by 11 at night, and I'm woken on and off by loud competing music till 7, when the traffic slows. What a night. I can't leave, because using the headlights the night before drained my already low battery.

July 3, 2008

The pups, though not great, have defied death. They drink and eat a little chicken and fish, then collapse. The male pups suffers the most, having come closer to death's door. I put them back in the van. I worry about taking the Mother to the Plaza to find a home. She has the look of a fighter, and she could end up in the wrong hands - or, be used for breeding, since I have no way of permanently sterilizing her.

On a quick second morning walk, we go up to the golf course. On the way back, a dog escapes from the managers house, and comes running over to us to meet dogs he's never seen. I've never seen him out. The woman dashes back inside, and comes out with what I think is a lead. Instead, it's a long piece of metal covered in clear plastic - a 'training' device, which she then starts hitting the dog with, saying, In the HOUSE! She pulls up so hard on his collar, the Retriever type dog can't walk. These people have three dogs, and probably see themselves as dog lovers. But having a choice of no freedom, and non-intentional cruelty, the Mother Dog is better of loose on the beach, amongst dogs she knows - as long as the lovely family keep putting down food.

At 9 a.m., family members show up to feed the dogs. I give them an update, the woman gives Mother Dog a big hug, and they go to work. Mother Dog, wants to follow. Ah, loyalty is fickle. But this is what I want to see. It's funny, because I don't feel that 'special' bond, with any of these dogs. But I do care that all animals are treated well.

I went into town to do email, buy food, the usual errands of life. I can't wait to get to Argentina, and I'll buy something so I can do email in the van WHILE traveling, instead of hopping into internet cafes. It's seemed silly to do this before, as I'm either in places far from signals, or not in the country long enough. But I could be in Argentina six months. It's big.

I'm gone for hours, and arrive back exhausted, what with stress of the pups, trying to work WHILE traveling, and dealing with life in a different language. I fantasize about going to see a movie, or going out to eat dinner. Something so mundane, can seem so luxurious when you're on the road.

July 2, 2008

I get a great night's sleep - much needed. I get work done in the morning, and wash some cloths. Before noon, I return to Playa Blanca, making a pit stop at the big garbage site where I'd fed four mange covered dogs the days before. Three were very unaccustomed to human interaction. Today, they run down the hill barking furiously. They stop when they see I have food, but won't come close. The two containers of water are both dry. I refill everything.

I have no idea what I'll find at the beach. I'm surprised to see the male pup standing, though not really walking. However, not vomiting. He looks better, though is badly dehydrated. He's almost interested in eating a piece of chicken, but not quite. The female pup doesn't move, other than a slight wag of the tail to greet me. The best thing is seeing a bag of dry food near the mattress. People can be so kind.

After my elation, I realize that three living pups is a problem. This wonderful family can't be taking on feeding their own dogs, plus four more. Agh.

A few hours later the mechanic drops by and after me for the third time suggesting he take one of the pups, and he in turning saying I should ask his assistant, who also doesn't want one, he suggests me taking them on Sunday to the Plaza, where people go to give away and adopt 'mascota's. Perfect. I don't know how the two sick pups will be, but the healthy one just happens to be the friendliest. I look at the Mother. She's white, and permanently dirty. I'll clean her up. And buy flea spray...

We go for a long walk, all five of us, me leaving the two sick pups in the front seat of the van. They have drank some chicken broth, and one has even eaten a small piece of chicken. It's not much, and I had to start the male on a dropper, but the look in their eyes is different. The road to recovery. In contrast, the Mother and one pup are a bundle of energy and it makes me realize how much older my dogs are, who are much more sedate.

We stop by Marco's house, who is on his way to town where he'll sell the oysters he's dove for. He's had a bird for a year, like a cormorant, who dropped in and never left. From the beginning, it's swooped down on the dogs - dangerous, because he tries to attack with his beak, and will aim for the eyes. Fortunately, he initially just pecks. Marco is alarmed, but other than waving your arms, there's not much anyone can do.

July 1, 2008

I brought the male pup inside last night. When I left her outside, it took 10 minutes before she was shivering. Initially, she was vomiting every half hour, but then after a few hours, drank water, the first time in a few days. At about 5:30, I brought her up to the bed with me, Dog and Bruiser, and held her. She then seemed calmer. It may have been nice to be warm, but she's used to curling up with her pack. I'm the next best thing.

When I went outside, the female who lost her appetite and then regained it, was in bad shape. And the very healthy one had mucous in her eyes. On the morning walk, the two bad ones had no desire to follow, but the Mother dog and healthy one leapt and ran. It's nice seeing the Mother act like a puppy. I'm sure she's not even two.

It was a cold night last night, and it'll be worse in July. I found a black sweatshirt on the beach and cut it up and sewed pieces onto the three pups in the hope it'll keep them warm. Especially, if two die, the remaining one will suffer. I need to leave them all out tonight. My own two need to be the priority, and I don't want them in danger of being ill. I'm not in a house. There's no way to separate them. What happens, happens.

I go into town again, again the ordeal of rock throwing and shouting to make sure Mother Dog and pup don't follow. I'm gone for about five hours, and return to find them in the exact same spot. We all (minus the two very sick pups) go for a walk, I feed them and fold the foam mattress over and tie it so it's like a cave. Old clothes I'd planned to drop off at a poor village are added and they seem quite happy with it. And then, I leave. More rock-throwing and yelling, but less. I realize I'm worn down and lacking sleep because of all this. Myself, and Dog and Bruiser need to get away for a night. And, the pack need it too. I'm not going to be here much longer. Besides, I find myself yelling at the two that are well, as they're so boisterous, they sometimes leap on the ones not well, and make it difficult for me to care for them. Leaving breaks my heart, until we're in a desolate place we've camped before. Desolate and empty being exactly what we need right now. I wonder who will be alive when we return. My guess is, all of them. They're hanging in there. Not sure for how much longer though...

As I drift off to sleep, I wonder if it's because of me, the pups are in bad health. I don't know where they were sleeping before, but it was probably sheltered, or at least less windy than the beach. They moved, because I was there. So many times, I've recognized by doing something what I thought was good, actually made matters worse for an animal. And that if I'd just left the situation alone, all might have been fine.

I also fear the family have all left for Santiago, as I haven't seen them in a few days, and when I did, they were pouring water onto their plants - a sure sign of pre-departure... If that's the case, there will be many days when they have no food, apart from what they can get at the garbage site.

June 30, 2008

Woke up again a bit depressed about being stuck here, and without power so unable to work. I'm always so committed to my deadlines, and have been continually frustrated by the delays in getting On a Mission from Dog finished. I'd had my heart set on it being finished by the end of June. I did some soul-searching and after an hour, realized everything was ok. I wasn't a failure. I got to work cleaning and fixing things in the van. Life was indeed pretty good. By 1 p.m. the mechanic came with the part, and the van was fixed within an hour! He's an older guy and probably very familiar with these cars.

I got everything together so I could go to town and get money from an ATM to pay him. This meant, leaving the pack. A trial run of how it will eventually be. I left the mattress and water and drove away. They followed. I stopped, threw some rocks and shouted, and got in the van. I just sat there for five minutes. I think when I drove away, they'd disassociated me with the vehicle and didn't follow.

I was sure I'd have money from a magazine to pay the mechanic and buy more supplies, but no. It'll be a few more days. I'm hoping to borrow from a friend, and will return tomorrow. With less than $3 in my account, I drove to the store and bought chicken livers for all the dogs and myself. I cook them up and the dog who's in the middle, ate ravenously. I'd hoped they'd stimulate his appetite. The male pup is too far gone. He hasn't eaten anything in two days and vomits bile. I've taken the refrigerator out from underneath the middle of the front seat, and put him in a box in its place. It'll be cold tonight. At least inside, he doesn't shiver. He might make it through the night, maybe not. One of the females could be going the same way. I have no idea what's wrong, it makes me realize how little I know in regards animal (or people) ailments. I do know that he'd need a drip, and antibiotics to get started. And being stuck, I can't provide that. I'm not even sure if I should. It's possible this is the course that life on the beach is supposed to take. To involve myself more means how many more puppies would be born here? Yesterday, while waiting for a ride into town, I saw a female dog by a big dumpster. Older, mangy and the same one I'd seen when I first arrived. When I saw it before, it was gnawing on the carcass of a dead dog. Survival of the fittest. I don't feel I'm doing any favors if I try to keep one dog alive who perhaps shouldn't live. But it's all playing God. I took him outside, and he immediately curled up with his siblings. I brought him in again, thinking it would be better to die in the warm. When we're about to die, do we really care?

I'm very glad Dog and Bruiser had all their shots a month ago in Bolivia.

8 p.m. A man drives up and gets out. I think it's Marco and go to see, especially as the Pack Mother is ballistic and she's so protective now. It's the father of Luis, and he comes as a representative of the whole family. His name is Hector, and he's brought the dogs some food. He tells me, very slowly to make sure I understand, that he is leaving for Santiago, but he'll be back in two weeks and he'll make sure either he, or others in the family, give the dogs food and water. They already put water down in three separate bowls. I'm not sure about injections for sterilization, but I've decided I'll at least do that for the mother for the first six months dose. There are so many people here who are so good. It's at times like these I desperately wish my Spanish was better. A LOT better.

June 29, 2008

The male pup isn't going to make it. He threw up and peed in the night, today, he's shivering a lot, won't eat, and his eyes are runny. He's always been a bit thinner than the two females. I could be something quite basic and simple. The mother decided she didn't like being restrained and chewed through the rope. After I'd tied her, it quieted down here anyway. I remembered in the night that there's usually taxi's that come and go from the beach. I hope there'll be one this morning, Sunday, as I now have no more food.

Evening. What a day. Hitched a ride into town with a lovely man. Everything after didn't quite go right. I had little battery power on my laptop, and I discovered that the outlets here are not compatible with my plug. I did as much email stuff as I could in about 20 minutes. Then I discovered a magazine I did work for had not paid me. I had $25 in my account. A taxi back would cost $10. I had to buy dog food. There was a special on one brand-10 kilos for $10. I intended buying eggs, and a few other things with the remaining money. I had a little Boliviano money remaining, and walked up to a mall to change it, but the place was closed while I wandered around, panicking a bit. The whole thing went find, but exhausting, as only mental tension can be. I just hope the money will be in my account tomorrow so I can pay the mechanic-assuming he comes!

After I got back and gave all the dogs lots of food, I spoke with a 'neighbor.' Luis said that a few months back, the government laid down poison in Santiago and killed 3000 dogs. The same government who several years back, implemented a free spay/neuter program for low income people. Same issues, same problems, same limited solutions. However, they do have injectable sterilization from the vets at about $1 a month. The shots last six months. I'll probably do this for the mother, the pups are probably too young.

June 28, 2008

The mechanic was supposed to come yesterday, but didn't. Then today, since he discovered the part needed to come from Arica, further north. It's now dark, and I assume now he won't be here till Monday after he gets off work. Today, is Saturday. I'm stranded. The battery is dead cause I ran it down running my computer, so I feel frustrated I can't work without a jump start, and then, only limited amounts. I'm low on people and dog food. Very low. We've been low on food before, but I think I feel bad because I've got four dogs outside who were making some big improvements, in such a short period of time. I'm cooking up the remains of the vegetables, and one piece of chicken. Two of the pup's bellies are round. They're all playing, even the mother, who looks like in her possibly two short years of life, it hasn't been easy. My guess is she was dumped here when young, as she doesn't resemble any of the dogs in the neighborhood. All I can do, is give them de-wormer and food, and hope they do ok until it's Chilean summer, and more people come to the beach. Being free is fine, if you're not starving.

I'll have to go into town tomorrow, hopefully catch a ride from someone, and go to the ATM, buy food, and especially dog food. It's amazing how fast food goes when there's hungry mouths. And it's never ending...

8pm, things got more complicated. Mother dog is guarding. But it's a Saturday night and there's people walking around. Someone was about to ask me to control 'my dogs' when I told them, they're not mine. Mine are inside. However, they wouldn't be acting this way of I wasn't here. So, for the moment, they are mine. I got a collar and lead out, and have tied mother dog to the bumper. Not something I want to do, but I don't want her to 'get in trouble' because of me. As soon as I'm gone, they'll be nothing to protect.

This is why people don't get more involved. Life, suddenly takes on another twist, and it's not always easy, pleasant or down the road which you wanted to go. I didn't want this. I wanted to finish recording On a Mission from Dog, which is only two chapters away from completion. But now it's in front of me, I not going to turn the experience, or the dogs away. And I know, that once this trip is completed, this could, be one of the highlights, as opposed to a traditional tourist site. All this, because my van isn't running...

Interestingly, I'm no longer in a funk about being 'stuck'. It's possible, there's no where else I'd rather be. I am, living my life.

June 27, 2008

The pack slept on the two mattresses all night, except when they were barking at anything they thought was a threat. In the morning, I cooked up half a chicken with vegetables. I realize the mother hardly eats - either because she wants the pups to eat the lion's share, or, she's just not that aggressive. So I put the pups food in a frying pan, and gave her additional food and fed it to her from another bowl I held up too high for the pups to reach. Meanwhile, my own two ate in the van. Now, for the first time in who knows how long, the pack are not running around frantically for food, but sleeping in the morning sun. Resting. But for only an hour, then they're up again, searching. It's winter here, and several months will pass before this beach will have enough people with scraps on it for them to eat at all decently.

If this was America and I took them to a shelter, they'd be euthanized in three days. Pit mixes don't stand a chance in the US. At least they do here.

It's going to be hard to leave them. I love just watching them. Already I know I'll look at the photos I've taken of them, and wonder how they're doing. They in turn, will just go back to their usual foraging routine. It's physically hard being a street dog. Emotionally, it's difficult being a human attached to them.

And yet there's a part of me that feels almost used, as silly as that sounds. There's something so genetic, and impersonal about the dog/human bond.
Dog searches for Human/Meal Ticket
Dog finds Human/Meal Ticket
Dog shows appreciation for Meal by guarding property of Meal Ticket, and attempting to keep other dogs away from Meal Ticket (this happens within HOURS of first food)
Dog attempts to secure bond by giving affection, judging carefully what human will allow
Human is snared

I realize that because other cultures are surrounded by dogs constantly, they're far more savvy about this than Americans. To give that first morsel of food, means you're suddenly surrounded by an endless stream of hungry mouths. I believe, that this is sometimes why the harshness directed towards dogs. Was the expression, Give them an inch and they'll take a mile, intended for dogs?

It's so like the N. Californian coast here with rugged rocks, the smell of seaweed. But the camping is free and the weather glorious, even though for Chileans, it's winter.

June 26, 2008

I spend the night worrying the mother and her pups won't be there when I return the next day. I wake at 3:30 and never go back to sleep, so begin recording at 5. I drive back before 8, and just as I'm maneuvering the van into the 'right' spot, there's a huge clunk, as if I'd fallen into a hole. Instead, it appears part of the suspension has collapsed - possibly work I'd had done in Guatemala over two years before, hadn't held. Great. Earlier, Dog had hurt her foot getting out of the car, landing badly on a new step stool I'd put in place as she's getting arthritis. I think I need to go slowly today....

The mother and pups appear less than an hour later. I bring out the pot of soup, and they devour it. I'd meant to save some for tonight for Dog and Bruiser, but I still have half a chicken. I also give them some wonderful seaweed soup I'd made. I keep contact to a minimum, though I'd love to touch them. I realize the accepted thinking in the US is to not feed street animals, because if they have enough nutrients, they'll procreate. The garbage will continue to be dumped here. Even after I've given them a good meal, they frantically run to the garbage pile to see if there's more scraps. Theirs is a tough life. I just want to make it easier for a few days. One is still shivering. As soon as the bowls are clean, I return to the van and close the door. I need to regroup before dealing with the van. After a year on the road, I don't fight these things and become frantic when they happen. I've collapsed in an ideal spot. The van, can wait. I have enough food for a few days at least.

While all the other dogs in this arena have collapsed and are sleeping, the mother and three pups are still restless, and still searching for food, burning up calories they can ill afford to loose. Despite what I've given them, as well as a woman in the neighborhood putting down something on her way out the driveway, like us all, they are creatures of habit.

By one p.m. the four newcomers have taken over my old mattress, which I put outside everyday for myself, Dog or Bruiser to sit on. They are very sweet. Bruiser hasn't been exactly overjoyed to have these interlopers around, but as always, has been acquiescing as long as they're not too close to the van. Well, now, they're very close. But, it's windy today, and he's happy inside. In the end, I let my dogs make the call. Bruiser has let them stay. The four dogs, look delighted to have some comfort. I'm happy to give them a break from life on the road. The only problem is when any new vehicle comes around, they see it as their job to bark the people away. How many thousands of years has this been occurring, to adjust so lightening fast to what they perceive as a new home?

By 4 p.m. I decided I better do something about the van. The house at the very end of the beach has a few animals, one, a large sea bird who has swooped down on both Dog and Bruiser. Very aggressive. But they're obviously animal people, the man is often outside working on projects, and they've said hello. We discussed the problem, Marco knew exactly what I was talking about, and it seems he was just on his way to town, and says he'll talk to his mechanic friend. We'll see what happens. The beach is certainly not the prettiest, but when you look out to sea, the view is glorious. I'm in no hurry.

Well, wouldn't you know it, a mechanic and his assistant were here in two hours, and an hour after that, the broken ball joint had been removed, and he was on his way. He'll return tomorrow with a new one. Everyone has been so nice, with offers of water whenever I need it, and food while I wait for the van's repair. Marco informed me the seaweed I'd eaten, which I'd seen carried away by the truckload on another beach, is used for soap and shampoo. Oops. I'm not dead yet....

I fed the pups and mother again, and have thus far avoided touching them. Possibly more to prevent me from becoming attached to them, as opposed to vice versa. They are really, very sweet. This will be a tough parting. I think I should leave on Sunday, that's the day when there's the most people around having bbq's. They'll be sidetracked with getting food from others. They're used to people leaving. They're not used to someone feeding them as regularly, or as well as me. Funny as I should say that, as they only appeared yesterday morning...

June 25, 2008

I certainly never intended staying on Playa Blanca for as long as I have. I've been here for two weeks, except for the two days I camped three miles further along. After I'd returned, two of the dogs were missing. One of them, Pepper, had become disturbingly attached to me, even though she had a home where she was clearly loved by the other dogs in her pack. And so one of the reasons I left, was for some separations, as I had no intention of taking her with me. Her owner said he thought she'd wandered further down at the golf club, a large sand course. But I fear she is dead. The other missing one, is dead. Some accident happened at the golf course. I'm not sure what.

Today, a pit bull mix female showed up with three jet black offspring. Clearly hungry, I gave them all a few bowls of food, while above, another pack barked incessantly, but ran if I approached. The father of the three came over, and nuzzled the female. He has a home, she does not. I shoed them away after they ate.

Bruiser is not happy when I feed others, but is growing accustomed to me doing so, and listens when I tell him to leave them alone. The female and pups have little chance of adoption. All the houses here have dogs, and plenty of them. The four of them will always be scrounging. But at least, they won't be picked up by animal control and killed.

Later, they reappeared by the side of the road to sleep. One of them shivers, and I wonder if he's ill. Yesterday, when shopping at the supermarket, I mistakenly ended up with a huge chunk of meat I didn't purchase. Obviously, meant for the dogs. I cut some of it up and give it to them. The three pups eat ravenously, but oddly enough, the mother spits out the uncooked pork. I leave a bowl of water on the other side of the road where they sleep. Not many cars go down here to the entrance of the golf club. They seem to be street savvy. I hope they are.

I want to follow and photograph them on their daily routine. I haven't physically touched them, but I know they haven't eaten this good in some time. I've broken the cardinal rule. Feeding them doesn't solve anything, but I wonder if there's anything to actually solve? If they live, they live, if they die they die. They're happier today for the meal. Will it mean all three pups will have a better chance of surviving, and then go on to procreate more? Maybe. Maybe not. But sometimes we all need a lucky break. The free meat, and me giving it to them along with dry food, is their lucky break.

You can experience a lot staying in one place.

One of the interesting things about being in a more Western country, is that the police have not come around once to ask for my papers, nor have I been asked for papers at a road block. A welcome relief.

En route to taking the dogs for a walk, I go to Luis's house with a dictionary to find out what happened to the two dogs, Peper and Jerry. I don't know how I got it so mixed up the other morning. It's clear that in those two days I camped elsewhere, both dogs were hit by cars. They drive fast here, and like other Latin countries, they just assume a dog will get out of the way. What doesn't help, is some of these dogs were in the habit of chasing some of the cars that passed to the golf course. So both, definitely dead, not missing. I'm fairly certain if I'd have stayed around, Peper would still be alive, as she hung around me and the van as much as possible, abandoning her pack, even though she was clearly loved by them. I had such a clear sense that she would've given all of them up to travel with us. They say cats are the ones who are fickle. It's possible dogs are just lazier about finding a better home. But if one appears, they'll go.

After the walk, I move to the other side of the golf course. I'm not sure if I'm allowed to be here, the track leads south along the beach for quite a ways. I have food to cook, and know I won't get any peace if all the dogs are around. Latins seem to have developed an incredible tolerance for sharing their camping areas with canines, and just ignore the animals that gather. I can easily avoid feeding the owned dogs - it's the ones really in need that I can't dismiss. Also, I've moved because I want to finish the recording of On a Mission from Dog, and it's a bit quieter over here.

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