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Iorana Rapa Nui – Making a friend named “Girl”

Location: Easter Island

The Dogs of Chile and Easter Island

 

We noticed it right away.  Dogs everywhere.  Roaming freely: un-collared, unleashed, and uncontrolled.

 

When we asked about the dogs we were told the following story;

Girl hiking with us

Girl hiking with us

 

A decade or so ago a Chilean grad student was doing a study on rabies.  But the dogs he was studying kept being put down by the city he was in.  Turns out this young man’s father was some kind of Government official.  The father pushed through a law that said throughout the country of Chile no municipality could control the dog population.  And therefore, today, all over Chile there are thousands and thousands of dogs.

 

On Easter Island the dogs roam.  They never seemed aggressive, except when they bark at the horses, which also rove freely.  And the cows, which wander somewhat freely.  The horses seem wild, but they really aren’t.  They have just been left to ramble. Some people capture and brand them, but then still let them  journey freely to wherever the grass grows greenest.  The cows are raised to be used ceremonially, but are not used for milk or cheese because of the lack of refrigeration on the island.  They are also not used for beef, despite the fact

Girl with me in the cave

Girl with me in the cave

the island suffers from lack of food production.  They are only slaughtered to use at funerals or weddings or other celebrations.

 

All these animals roam the island and live together with the people on the land.

 

We had a very personal encounter with one dog during our visit to Easter Island.  Near the end of our visit we spent an entire day hiking along the coast.  We ended up hiking about ten miles that day.  It was a hot and dusty hike.

 

About a quarter of a mile into our hike a small yellow dog ran at full speed past us to some horses that were grazing up ahead.   She started barking and harassing the horses.

Girl relaxing with my husband in the shade

Girl relaxing with my husband in the shade

 

Then, she began to follow us.  For miles and miles she ran ahead of us, tongue lolling.  She would stop and look back to make sure we were still coming and then she would continue to run ahead, barking at horses whenever she came upon them.

 

This continued, until she was tired.  She began just trotting along right next to us, as if she was ours and had always been a part of our family.  We walked and walked for miles and she stayed with us.  We named her “Girl” and gave her some water and a bite of our sandwich.  When we crawled through a cave she crawled with us.  When I spoke to her she listened.  When we sat in the shade to read our books she laid down next to me (and also tried to climb into my lap).  That “Girl” was mine, and I was hers.

 

All the way back I worried how we would get rid of her.  Our host Paul at Tekarera Hotel had warned us not

Girl sitting with me while I read

Girl sitting with me while I read

to bring dogs home (as other tourists had done). As we neared the town we started to point and tell her to go home.  She stayed back and then followed us at a distance.  We kept telling her “No.  Go Home.”

 

Eventually, she gave us one long last mournful look and trotted off.  I was sad.  I think she was too.

 

Off to home?  Or off to find another gullible tourist to claim for the day?  I don’t know, but she was a wonderful companion and tour guide.

 

Thanks for the memories Girl. IMG_2128

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