Among all the biodiversity and vast wildlife in Costa Rica, there was a type of more domesticated species that caught my attention while in Mastatal.
On our first full day in Costa Rica, we spent the majority of the day at a community soccer field during “Soccer Sunday.” I noticed some very cute, but skinny dogs walking around the area and then noticed how people of the communities that were gathered there for “Soccer Sunday” were feeding them bits of their food. I wondered who they belonged to and was later surprised to find out that they were actually strays. These stray dogs may have no particular home, but are taken care of by the communities that they roam around in. The Costa Rican people value dogs in their communities and are against killing dogs that are strays. Even though these dogs are strays, they have found homes among the small pueblos of La Gloria, Mastatal, and more.
While bird-watching with Jenny and Marcos, two of the dogs from Finca Siempre Verde followed us along for the journey. Another dog from the community, named Lupe, later tagged along when he saw his two friends Lucky and Emma. Not only did Lucky and Emma know Lupe, but so did Jenny and Marcos. In the community of Mastatal, the dogs owned by the families are free to wander about the town knowing that they will be safe and taken care of by the community.
At my homestay at Finca Siempre Verde, I became very well-acquainted with the four dogs of the family. Not only did each of them have their own personality and were specifically paired up with human members of the family, but were also very loyal and protective of the family. The night we arrived in Mastatal and approached Finca Siempre Verde, there were loud barks and at least two to three dogs staring at us as we entered the property. The four dogs represented the humans of the family, as Mama Arabella had explained.
Tuti, a black, chubby, half Pinscher half Chihuahua was Mama Arabella’s. Emma, the youngest, most playful and troublesome was the second daughter, Gabby’s. Lucky, the white, fluffy one was the youngest daughter, Carole’s, and Dogi, the biggest but calmest dog, was the son, Marcos’.
When I talked to Tammy, Arabella’s granddaughter, and to Arabella, I found out how some of them were strays and were taken in and treated as family. This struck a chord with me about accepting others and respecting them, whether or not they are human. It taught me about coexisting with other animals in the world, rather than killing or euthanizing for man-made purposes. I found out later that in Costa Rica, euthanizing animals is illegal, and that it is due to the value that Ticos put on protecting wildlife species. There’s even a new dog sanctuary called Territorio de Zaguates (Land of the Strays) run by volunteers that is now home to 900 stray dogs. I’ve always loved dogs, but I saw a deeper love that Ticos expressed not only for dogs, but for all of wildlife and the passion for animal protection and conservation.
Written by Jennifer Ocin