I noticed a dog wandering through the forest at a distance as I walked to work one day. I saw it again a couple of days later dart across my backyard. The third time I saw it, it was lying at the bus stop in front of the student residence Panamericano. It had the kindest face, cutest mix of brown and white spots and was very pregnant. It was at that moment that "it" became "her" and "her" became "Pana" and "Pana" became "our dog". My friend Victoria and I tried feeding her some rice and beans, apparently the widespread Costa Rican affection for rice and beans doesn't extend to dogs.
Over the next few days she learned that she could always find food, water and a blanket outside my door. She would be waiting, wagging her tail when I arrived home, always eager to put her paws in my lap and try to sneak a lick on my face. She stole my heart.
What I couldn't understand was how someone could abandon their pregnant dog a week before giving birth? How could humans be so cruel? So irresponsible for their actions and commitments? So inhumane?
What shocked me even more was how desensitized everyone else was. I would tell them the story and they would look at me with a blank face and kind of shrug. This was a cultural shock I had never predicted, and I was completely unprepared. I felt angry, stressed, helpless for Pana, how could no one care?
I only realized days later when I had calmed down and stopped taking the situation as a personal attack on my value system, that it wasn't that people didn't care, in fact people cared a lot. It was that this is an issue that is so widespread in most of Central and South America that it doesn't phase people anymore. Kind of how -15 degrees doesn't phase Canadians, but would seem utterly outrageous to anyone from here.
Once I got passed my little bout of culture shock, I opened my eyes to realize that Pana had not only stolen my heart, but the heart of so many people at CATIE. Pana is now "Pana neustra perra"(Pana our dog), so many people offering to help in any way they can for her wellbeing.
A week and a half ago she disappeared. She didn't come back for two days. I was worried and relieved at the same time. I knew that I couldn't take care of her puppies here, but at the same time I didn't want her to have them in the forest and not be able to come for food. But she came back. She comes back about 4-5 times a day, and she is eating so so so much! Her favourite is the hardboiled eggs, and knowing how much I hate eggs, it is a true gesture of my affection for this pup.
Hopefully in a couple of weeks we can meet the puppies and interact with them enough to start finding them homes.
This whole experience has given me such a strong reaction to human nature. How is it that we humans can be such compassionate, empathizing, loving beings? Yet at the same time have the capacity to be so cruel and unjust? Especially towards a dog that just wants your affection.