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Role of Domestic Pets In Hispanic America

       Pets are an important part of Hispanic life, just as they are in Anglo culture.  Dogs, in particular, have always been considered both companions and useful work animals.  The Spanish brought military-trained dogs with them in their expeditions of conquest, and the native peoples of the Ameicas had their own breeds of dogs that  served as carriers and food as well as companions.  The affection that many Aztecs and Mayas felt for their dogs can be seen in their charming ceramics that often feature dogs.

     Yet, there is a much clearer distinction between animals and humans in the Hispanic world than in the Anglo one.   The extreme indulgence of pets that is common in the US is not usual in Hispanic America.  This is seen in many ways.  For example, in Hispanic America, it is customary for pets to eat table scraps rather than specially purchased food, and taking a pet to a veterinarian is not routine.  Indeed, there are only a few small animal veterinarians in any large Hispanic American city.  At the lowest end of society, dogs must be self-sufficient, as the families literally cannot afford to feed or care for them.  These animals are often ridden with parasites and fleas, and are adept at living on trash and dodging cars.   Street curs are more often met with a kick than a scratch behind the ears, but they continue to be the darlings of street children, who often share their fleas along with their love.  On the other end of the economic scale, dogs in the middle class or wealthy families are often of exotic breed and wear handsome collars.  A common sight in cities is the dog-walker, a person hired to walk the dogs for an hour or so each day.   They use a special leash that branches out into other leashes, so that the dogs trot along as a group.  In the countryside, trained herding and hunting dogs are as valued as in other cultures.


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