Mobile clinic in Valparaiso

March 7, Saturday
Welcome to a new part of Chile, one of poverty and the inevitable cruelty that comes with it. We’re in Valparaiso, a coastal city where the staff of RIMA, an animal welfare organization in Santiago, come to sterilize dogs for the municipality. In this neighborhood drug trafficking has cast a net over the entire community, implicating or threatening everyone who lives there and making all outsiders instant suspects. I was warned countless times of safe boundaries, which ended up being within sight of the mobile sterilization clinic, set up in someone’s home for a day.

Here they spayed approximately 50 female dogs of all sizes and breeds. The sadness of losing one dog to heart problems under anesthesia was for me overshadowed by the gang mentality of the owners of two unlucky dogs. One, a walking skeleton of a Pitbull roped to a pickup, and a German Shepherd with a swollen, cancerous vagina left untreated. I comforted the shepherd as she came out of anesthesia and could see how sensitive she was to noise and movement. She was put in the back of the truck with the Pitbull that was still sitting but by now was unable to keep her eyes open. The German Shepherd lay there, confused, stressed by the loud laughter of the people standing around her. The scene reminded me of fighting dogs in a ring surrounded by men. Not once did I see a sympathetic touch extended to the dogs or a kind word. In this case the cruelty was subtle, but it warned of a deeper immorality.

I was embarrassed to be comforted by two of the RIMA vets who themselves already have so much to deal with. One of them told me about her cat, scarred in the face from third degree burns when her previous owner doused her with boiling water in a failed attempt at making her go away. The vet said even when she cannot afford to feed herself, she makes sure her cats always have food.

The sadness in the eyes of the dogs is the same as in the eyes of these people, betraying the emotional toll of their work.
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