A visitor to Chile comments on Facebook

Lauren RodgersOn September 18, Lauren Rodgers wrote:

Hello Vanessa,

I just read an article in The Source Weekly called “Emotional Rescue: Saving the Lost Dogs on the streets of Santiago”…

My name is Lauren Rodgers and I am a senior at OSU. Last Fall I went to Chile for a 4 month Spanish emession program. When I arrived in Chillan, Chile the first thing I noticed was the number of street dogs all over the city. One morning I walked around Chillan and in 3 hours I counted 29 loose dogs. I asked my host mom and just about every other Chilean I met about the dogs and they all gave me just about the same answer: that the dogs are dirty, dangerous, and disgusting and I should never touch them; that they are a huge problem in Chile because they rip open trash bags and cause visual and sanitary problems. However, most Chileans have dogs as their pets, mainly for protection, but there are some who have indoor dogs. The pet owners thought that their purebred, breeder-bought dogs were better and different than the gross street dogs. After every Chilean told me to stay away from street dogs while they were showing me their impressive golden retriever, I tried to explain to them that the street dogs were put on the streets by people and they are only different because they lack love and a home where they are safe, healthy, and secure; that even street dogs have the potential to be just as loving and serve as just as much protection as the golden retriever they just bought from a breeder for 180 thousand pesos. They could adopt any of the street dogs for free and with a little money to clean up the dogs, they would have a new loyal pet as well as solve the trash bag problem. It was hard to convince any of them of this by just talking to them. I thought that I had to take other action.

The moment I decided to take action came when I saw a dead puppy on the side of the road. I watched as people walked by this poor creature without a care. I couldn’t help from crying. I wanted right then and there to adopt every street dog, but my host mom quickly informed me that she would not allow such behavior, so I did what I could. From that day on I carried a large bag of dog food in my backpack and would walk the same route every day feeding all the dogs I saw. The dogs began to recognize me and would run to me with excitement when they saw me approching over 100 ft away. This warmed my heart. I knew that if I ever returned to Chile, I could do the same thing. I could find puppies, take them to my home, clean them up, give them medication, and give them away to Chileans. However, I had convinced a family of my close friend to adopt a street puppy I found while out in the country with them.

Three months later I returned to Chile and my mission was to adopt and save as many street dogs as I could. But I ran into a big problem after I brought home the first, very sick, and young puppy that I found at a toll booth on the highway; my landlord told me there were no dogs allowed on the property. She told me she’d give me a week to find the puppy a home. This threw a wrench into my plans but I didn’t let this stop me. In one week the puppy was parasite free, flea free, and very happy. I took this adorable puppy to my friend’s house and he was soon a member of their family. As soon as the family saw this precious, healthy puppy they could not resist.

A few weeks later I found a spaniel mix, who as it seemed, was just recently abandoned. She was healthy, clean, and very friendly. I called my friends who I had given the puppy to, knowing they wanted a bigger dog they could use for protection and they told me they’d love to have her!

For the rest of the time I was there I continued to talk to Chileans about the street dogs telling them that they can stop this problem by adopting these dogs. I also continued to feed all the street dogs I saw.

Though I had only helped 3 dogs in my time in Chile, I felt like I also helped many people to realize that the street dogs need to and can be saved. I left the country very positive, knowing that with a little education, all the street dogs can be saved.

I’ve told you my whole story because I was very moved by your article about the seven dogs you saved from Chile. I hadn’t met one person while I was in Chile who thought is was as important as I did to save these dogs. You truly are an amazing person and have a very caring heart for the work you did to save those dogs. The seven dogs you saved are very lucky to have been found by you.

I’m looking forward to seeing your documentary to see what you went through to save these dogs lives!

I hope in the future I too can continue to save the street dogs as you have done! All it takes is compassion and a little education. They can be saved.

Take care,
Lauren Rodgers

Conaf and meSeptember 18, Vanessa Schulz replied:

Dear Lauren,

I am so grateful for, and moved by your letter. Several people have written to me about their experiences as visitors in Chile, but few have been able to say that they did something as proactive as rescuing lives. I applaud your ability to look such an enormous crisis in the face and not be paralyzed by it. You did something, something that put you at risk of offending people, even the people hosting you, which takes enormous courage and conviction.

As I was reading your letter I kept waiting for the paragraph that says, “I wish I could…” By the end I felt an enormous level of hope because that paragraph never came. You are absolutely right in saying this problem can be solved, people can be educated, paradigms shifted, and the street dogs can be saved. We just need enough people to see it that way. Until then, setting an example one dog at a time resonates through a society in intangible ways. Stay true to your beliefs Lauren, you are an activist, something the world desperately needs.

I would very much like to stay in touch with you and find out more about your career path. Thank you so much for your bright light.

For the dogs,



8 Responses to “A visitor to Chile comments on Facebook”

  1. 1 Andrea September 25, 2009 at 7:19 am

    It is always heart warming when people try to help the stray dog situation of Chile.
    As a Chilean person, I thank you both for that, however I can tell you that are many Chilean people trying to help them as well.
    Unfortunately our country prides on the wrong things and we have bad animal education and legislation, specially those that don’t have access to better schooling.
    Again, I thank you both, and please be in touch with the people in Chile that are trying to tackle this problem, for example, look in FB for “Perros Vagos”, just to name one.

  2. 2 Viviana Figueroa September 26, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    Lauren, Wow…. your experience is like myself walking on Santiago. I am from Chile, and every night I went to bed crying without any hope. I did exactly the same as you did. my family and friends think I am literally mad. My passion for animals goes beyond any imagination. Overall I’m hopeless with the situation. In my last trip to Chile, I relocate a puppy who was hit by a car. Back to the United States my mother told me that the puppy was no longer in that house, so I assumed that he was throw to streets again. There are many Chilean doing the same as you did. The problem is there are many dogs abandonaded that the efforts seems no to work. Mosst of the compassionate people are the poor ones, so the income is not enough, houses and spaces are small so you can not pack 6 or 7 dogs in that small spaces. But, the reality is that people prefer to be indifferent, so they don’t have any responsability. Many times I feed dogs, and they followed me to my house…crying for more care … of course my mom had enough of me, and she didn’t allow more animals in the house. My heart was broken. My last trip was for two month, and I cried every day since. I felt that all my effort was nothing compared with the need of those dogs. Food, water, medicine is not enough, they need a home, a family, attention, and that was almost imposible to do. Nobody want a stray dog. As you, I did my best, but I felt worse because after that….who is going to feed those animals??? We need a government concerned to bring resources to improve this grim reality. Thanks for being so kind to the animals of my country.
    P.S. Apologize for my writing…..

    • 3 21paradigm October 3, 2009 at 4:14 pm

      Dear Viviana,

      Thank you for commenting on the Lost Dogs blog.

      Part of the reason I am making this film is to help people, like yourself, who must witness the suffering on a daily basis. It is a grave injustice not only to the animals but also to the people who have empathy for them. I have spent nights wondering how a person can desensitize enough to function in such a country, especially during the cold, wet months. For the majority of a population to teach it’s youth not to care… How will we ever learn to care for each other? I hope you will continue to rise above that way of thinking and stay true to what you know is right. The word “compassion” means “with suffering.” To have compassion is to willingly join in suffering – to show those you love that you will not let them suffer alone. Sometimes this is the most we can do: offer our presence.

      You are a beautiful person. Thank you for sharing.


  3. 4 Misty 'Mysticle' Wuori September 29, 2009 at 5:24 am

    ~I am deeply touched reading Lauren’s message and learning about the plight of these street dogs in Chile. I have four rescue dogs of my own (and 1 cat). Loving, Caring, Grateful ~ they are my whole heart ♥ One I found on a highway – so malnourished she couldn’t even lift her head. I’m sure cars had been passing her by all day. She’s been with me for 3 years; plump and happy 🙂

    I will do what I can to spread the word and help your cause.

    Thank you for Caring and for All of your noble efforts.

    • 5 21paradigm October 3, 2009 at 4:15 pm

      Dear Misty,

      Thank you so much for your comment on the Lost Dogs blog.

      It’s extremely encouraging for me to read from people who have saved animals and can help spread a message of compassion. I am grateful to have your support. And five rescues!? You are amazing! The dire state in which we save them is directly proportional to the fulfillment they provide us, and your cat being almost dead when you found her… Well, you must love her very much.

      Love to you, your dogs and one fat, happy (and oh-so-lucky) cat!


  4. 6 Rick November 28, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    When I was traveling in Chile, I did see many lost and estrangeed dogs. It was heartbreaking to see and also unexpected in an “emerging”, farily propsperous country like Chile. I am not sure what I can do to help, but please let me know, and I will try my best.

    Muchísimas Gracias for your blog,
    Rick de Nueva York
    The Community-Driven Online Spanish Dictionary

  5. 7 Roberto Candia December 30, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    Dear Vanessa and Lauren:

    As you say well, stray dogs are a serious problem in the streets of Chilean cities. The situation repeats everywhere.

    Historically, Chileans have owned dogs as a symbol of status.
    When asked about a dog’s breed, I remember people saying “I have a Quilterrier”, making fun of the situation and trying to change to a less embarrassing topic. Fortunately, nowadays there are more people concerned, willing to help them or adopt them, convinced that stray dogs are not the problem, but irresponsible owners, who let their pets roam free, or just abandon them. The situation is changing, but slowly. “Crazy people” feeding dogs in the streets, taking them home or curing them are becoming more common everyday.

    There are two facts that speak for themselves: First, that Chilean people still consider stray dogs as a pest, reflected in the fact that congress people are passing a law project to gather them and eliminate them, when that money could perfectly used to spay, neuter and educate people through campaigns on responsible ownership, or the fact that authorities didn’t do much for the pets left behind in Chaitén. When we talk about help for animals on catastrophes, we owe them. We Second, that foreign people are sometimes more aware of the problem and try to help and solve it, like you do. These facts show our idiosyncrasy.

    Thank you both for trying to make the world a better place for our faithful companions, the ones who wouldn’t left us alone on the highway.

    Roberto Candia.

    • 8 21paradigm December 31, 2009 at 5:14 pm

      Dear Roberto,

      Thank you very much for the comment you left on the Lost Dogs blog. It is valuable for us to receive your feedback, and we appreciate your caring for the animals, as we do.

      With love,

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