Sunday, February 12, 2012

It is a Dog Day

“The beaches around here seem to be going to the dogs.”

. . . that was a visitor comment I overheard lately as the lady who said it stepped over a steaming pile of used dog food holding her nose against the pungent odor.

First, let us note that I don’t have a dog, but I do have several dog friends that I love dearly. As a matter of fact, I think owning a dog is one of the more enlightened things that humans can do these days, because dogs are a connection with the animal world that many of us have lost in modern society.

It has become a very Baja like thing to have a dog with you everywhere you go. Many English speaking people regularly “rescue” and spay or neuter local dogs and many take local dogs home with them when they go. Life with dogs is richer for the many people. Dogs give unconditional love to a person who feeds them and makes their lives safe and comfortable. I have noticed too, that a dog can love someone whose many problems make him or her essentially unwanted by most other humans. That is one valuable dog, wouldn’t you say?

So, what would it be like if we all had a dog or two. Some of us would be responsible owners, thinking of the comfort and quality of life for the animal we lived with, and some would just think that letting the dog run would be the best way to do that.

Unfortunately, dogs can get in a whole lot of trouble in Baja. There are still wild animals and packs of dogs that attack pets. Ranchers are well within their rights to dispense with animals bothering their stock. Because they aren’t allowed to have guns, when a rancher needs to do this, it is messy. The habitat in most of Southern Baja is also heavily used by cows and goats, which leave worms, ticks and other diseases in their wake. Being a good dog owner in Baja takes constant vigilance.

People living in and visiting Baja tend to think the beaches are self-cleaning and to some degree they are right. There are also no laws here about picking up dog poo. So, the whole problem becomes one of “degree”, or, how much dog poo can one beach handle before it becomes toxic to dogs and humans? And finally, the very question of why you should pick up dog poo if no one else does, not to mention all the piles from cows, sheep, pigs, mules, goats and other assorted poo machines.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms pet waste can spread parasites including hookworms, ringworms, tapeworms and Salmonella. When a human or animal comes into contact with that soil through everyday activities like walking barefoot on the beach, they risk infection from those eggs ... even years after the poop is gone. Pet waste is teaming with E. Coli and other harmful bacteria including fecal coli form bacteria, which causes serious kidney disorders, intestinal illness, cramps and diarrhea in humans. (There are 23 million fecal coli form bacteria in a single gram of pet waste!)

Dog poop also often contains roundworm larvae, which cause blindness. If a human ingests a roundworm larva, it can migrate through the body causing disease to the brain, lungs, kidneys, liver, heart or eyes. So when people (especially children) touch sand, dog toys or anything that has been in contact with dog feces and then touch their mouths, they can become infected. (If you don’t believe me just “google” the question is dog poop dangerous. Yikes!)

If nothing else, re-think sitting and playing in the sand without taking precautions and be careful where your kids make sand castles. Maybe we need to equip them with latex gloves.

I predict there will be a “tipping point” here in sunny Baja where the spread of disease from blowing unclean sand and the ocean’s inability to sort out too much of the stuff will eventually make new rules necessary. Then, we can sit around with our dogs on leashes with plastic bags tied to the handles and remember the good ole days when people and dogs were free.

Have a great dog day!

Linda Jo Hunter,
Tracker, Artist and Writer


Jennifer Flower said...

Wow. I just learned a lot. And I'm putting on my shoes. It does seem like an uphill battle, even in bustling downtown Los Barriles where a few wild dogs still roam. It's noticeable already, though, that there are fewer of them and it's a little quieter. The local vigilance and volunteers have had an impact!

Thanks for this great post.

And everyone should stop by the Roadrunner Cafe right near the highway in Los Barriles, Baja del Sur. They have great food and a friendlier, more playful atmosphere will not be found for many miles around.

. said...

Thanks for the kind words Jennifer.