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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

No Pura Vida for the Pit Bull

Our sweet Roscoe gone again

This post will be a bit of a rant, I’m afraid. Our sweet neighbor pit bull Roscoe has disappeared once again and, unfortunately, I think I know why. He had not been neutered. That’s it in a nutshell. He’s a “teenager” now at almost one year of age and those hormones are raging. It’s only natural that he would head out looking for a girlfriend, and being such a pretty dog (and of a breed that for some inexplicable reason people seem to want), someone has taken him in and now has him restrained. It worries me so much that he’s chained up somewhere or being taught to be mean or otherwise being mistreated. Or perhaps he’s still running the streets, now hungry, lost, confused and wet here in the rainy season. And, of course, he’s no doubt out there making puppies that no one wants and that will end up as malnourished strays, themselves un-neutered and making still more unwanted pups. It’s a terrible vicious cycle.

Some Grande Cahonies
As fond as we are of our landlords and their adult son Estevan, whose dog this was, I have to say that they suffer from the all-too-common Tico attitude of negligence about having dogs spayed or neutered. In fact, sad to say that in this historically “macho” society, the idea of castrating male dogs is anathema to most men and even some women. When I suggested to Eduardo that the reason Roscoe had begun running off was because of his desire to mate, he discounted the idea completely, saying it’s only because they are not home all the time and the entire property has not been fenced. Such a span of fencing, however, would be prohibitively expensive, he said, shrugging his shoulders,  resigned to the loss of Roscoe. Although there may be some truth in that, at least in terms of the benefit of full-time supervision for the dog, I have no doubt that the sex drive was much more of a motivation to roam than absent humans.

When Roscoe was still only a puppy himself, a young stray dog began hanging around here. He was a pathetic little guy, skinny and insecure, tail between his legs and a hangdog look in his eyes, but he and Roscoe became pals and spent hours playing happily together. One afternoon when I was up the hill in our community garden behind Odie and Eduardo’s house, I found Estavan there picking fleas or ticks off of Roscoe and scowling at the stray, trying to run him off. As we talked, I learned that he disliked having the homeless dog around as he was giving Roscoe fleas. “So,” I asked, “are you going to have Roscoe neutered?” “No,” he quickly replied. “Well, then,” I said, “you know Roscoe’s going to be out there making more strays just like this one.” No comment from Estevan. Clearly, he did not consider that to be his problem.

The plight of stray dogs and cats has troubled Layne and me the entire time we’ve been in Costa Rica. During our first spring here when we lived up the mountain in Alto del Monte, a couple of emaciated young dogs made their way into our fenced compound, obviously hungry and looking for a handout. Since our neighbors in the duplex owned a couple of small dogs themselves, we gave the puppies some dog food and tried to figure out what to do about them. Down the road from us was the Lighthouse, a wonderful animal rescue operation run by a dedicated Gringa named Frances and her long-suffering husband Bruce. With a phone call, we learned that Frances had a spay and neuter clinic scheduled that weekend and that, although her household was full of other homeless critters at the moment, we could bring the dogs there for neutering at least. Given that the dogs were too undernourished to walk down the road to the Lighthouse, we bummed a ride from our neighbors and took the dogs for care that Sunday. They were bathed, neutered and as far as we know, made a recovery from their sad condition. Though she didn’t really have room for them, Frances did agree to keep them and try to find homes for them. For some of the stories of Lighthouse rescues, check out Frances’ blog:
But most stray dogs are not so lucky. The problem is massive and the answer is education, which is what Frances says she focuses on by teaching the children in the neighborhood how important it is to give proper care, food, exercise and medical attention - including neutering! - to their pets. Perhaps the next generation will have a more enlightened attitude about other living creatures and how unkind it is to leave pets with their reproductive capability intact instead of giving them a happier, more carefree life without that drive to procreate.

But to end on a lighter note, this amazing looking bird landed on a limb just outside our back patio today and let out a loud - and I mean loud! - series of screeches. I hurried out with my camera and caught this shot. It was large like a parrot but with a snow-white breast and a black mask. I wish I knew what kind of bird it was but have no idea. Just more of Costa Rica’s incredible fauna! 


  1. Kay, you are so right about the uncontrolled stray dogs and cats. We just adopted a street pup that was recently rescued and neutered. He is only a year old, so he still has a lot to learn when it comes to manners.

    I loved the photo of your "Laughing Falcon". I found him in my book on Costa Rica's Birds and the way you describe him seems to fit with my reference book and what I found on Wikibedia. Here is a link to more info:

  2. Wow, a Laughing Falcon!! Thank you so much for that information and Wikipedia link. I thought it looked like a raptor but couldn't imagine what it might be. But the photo in Wikipedia was definitely him!

    Yes, the plight of strays here is disturbing but it's a process, not an event, as I'm fond of saying. So hopefully, with work like the Lighthouse educating the youth, things will begin to change.

    Thanks for your comment!