The Story of Butch
“Are there many humans here in Quito?” I asked Pack Leader as soon as we were stuffed into a normal car-car by the kind-smelling older human who came to meet us. (If he’d had a tail, it would have been wagging fast.)
“Almost three million.” Pack Leader grinned at my surprise. “And you thought Vancouver was big? By the way, it would take a puppy pile of more than three thousand wolves, standing on one another’s shoulders, to get to this altitude. What’s the matter, Major? Feeling a little woozy at ten thousand feet?”
“The air is less jangly here,” I informed her. Humans have no clue about magnetic fields and few of them so much as a decent sense of direction. I think that’s why they built computers—to make up for what their gods held back from them. I wasn’t going to get into that discussion again, however. “It seems very quiet for such a big tribe of humans. Do you suppose there are many dogs?”
“Wait till morning,” Pack Leader said. “You can look out the window and count canines all the way to Cotacachi.”
Morning atop the Old Town of Quito proved misty and mysterious. I caught a few glimpses of non-human activity as we careened down the precipitous streets in yet another car-car but the dogs of Quito were even more ghostly than I. As the sun strengthened and we drew further away from Quito and closer to the little leather-making town where we were to stay, Ecuadorean life became more substantial and I began to see dogs. Dogs without leashes. Dogs without humans. Dogs on their own!
A leather town seemed like a chewy idea. Where there’s leather, there must be meat, no? I whipped my head from one side to another as we drove into Cotacachi, eager to meet my first Latin American canine friends but a little worried over whether we would speak the same language. Pack Leader, I noticed, was making entirely different sounds with her mouth and apparently our driver could understand them. Whenever she was talking to her friend Dawn, another aging female human who had, amazingly, found us at the hotel the previous night, she sounded normal but then she would switch to the new sounds as soon as the driver said something. Full of surprises, my Pack Leader. “Hablas espanol?” She caught my eye and grinned wickedly but I was too excited about the dogs of Cotacachi to take her bait.
In Ecuador the humans have built their dens all in a tight row down the street, with no room between them. No front yards, no boulevards, no patches of grass or bush—a dog’s got to find a comfy spot on the brick sidewalk, or, if lucky, in a shallow doorway, and curl up for a snooze until a social event starts happening. The sidewalks are interrupted every few dog-lengths by poles, wires, trees or various things that stick out from the buildings, which makes for an interesting peemail trail. If another dog comes by and suggests a jaunt somewhere, you just get up and go—your human is probably absorbed in his computer upstairs somewhere and will never even notice you’re gone.
Heavenly freedom! I thought—until I learned the truth about a dog’s life in Cotacachi.