Posts Tagged ‘Machu Picchu’

Raja’s Report: Dogs of Peru

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Wearing my Inca hat in Cusco

Raja here, barking about something I know from personal contact… What’s it like to be a dog in Peru? 

First, Peru has a national dog, the Peruvian Orchid Dog. Generally Hairless- but crested with a stylish Mohawk, small footed, sensitive, family oriented and ancient, this breed pre-dates the Incas.

Peru's National Orchid Dog

 They are not the most popular dogs in Peru.  Currently the Schnauzer is the fashionable dog, along with the Jack Russell, the English Spaniel and the Lab.  

I even met a Shih Tzu in Cusco.  Meet Kiwicha, another of my hearty Himalayan breed showing everybody that we Shih Tzu dogs don’t mind high altitudes. 

Meet Kiwicha, a Shih Tzu girl of Cusco!

Several of the popular travel guide books on Peru provide inaccurate, slanderous information about Peru’s street dogs.  Contrary to what they say, Peru’s street dogs are not wild, yapping biters.  The majority is gentle, mild mannered, non-territorial and friendly.  From my first stroll near my hotel in Cusco, I met three new friends who I found had the neighborhood names of Pelusa, Marlon Brando and Shadow.  They peacefully accompanied me on every walk I took and they were waiting to greet me after I returned to Cusco after my visit to Machu Picchu.  The guidebooks are wrong.  Peru’s street dogs are awesome.  (But, you know, don’t go to Peru without your rabies shot, just to be safe, OK?) 

It is said that every Peruvian has a dog and a cat, and this statement seems to be pretty accurate.  One thing that amazed me about the dogs of Peru was that most Peruvian dogs seem to not need leashes.  In big city Lima and in small country towns, dogs stroll about with their owners off leash, even crossing streets in traffic.  Even strolling in public parks where there are other dogs.  Even waiting outside a house on a busy street without straying away or getting into traffic.  How do they do that?  (I rather suspect that only the dogs who are not roamers survive to put their stay-off-the-streets genes into the gene pool.)

Cafe greeter!


As ubiquitous as the New York dog, the Peruvian dog has much more freedom in many ways.  Within a range, they can go where they want and nobody seems to bother them.  So, while the New York dog gets transported from place to place, always chaperoned, always dog walked, the Peruvian dog makes his own decisions and trots on his own paws.  

In Aguas Calientes

Like the New York Dog, the Peruvian Dog often wears clothes for fashion or to stay warm, which is pretty cute since in zones under 12,000 feet in Peru, it’s never very hot or very cold.  Here is a puppy from Aguas Calientes, the town closest to Machu Picchu, in a stylish evening jumpsuit.  This Cusco dog wore his bolero between 5 pm and 8 pm. I didn’t wear any of my sweaters in Peru, but, many people told my family to get me a coat or I’d be cold. 

In Cusco

Dogs of New York often sit in cafes, shop and ride pubic transport.  Peruvian dogs are less welcome in indoors and human zones, but in outdoor zones there are few restrictions.  For example I was invited to walk all through a botanical garden of endangered orchids and threatened enormous caterpillars.  Try that in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden! 

Similar to dog culture in New York, Paris and Marrakech, a traveling dog provides a reason to chat with a stranger and make new friends.  What do Peruvians ask about each other’s dogs?  What’s his name, age, weight, of course.

I gave in and got a coat in Peru. Everybody was too worried about me.

Raja Visits Machu Picchu, Peru!

Monday, September 5th, 2011

In the top agricultural terrace above the citadel of Machu Picchu.

Raja went to Peru specifically to get a chance to see Machu Picchu, the fabled Incan citadel in the Andes… well, more accurately, we wanted to see Machu Picchu and he didn’t want to be left behind.  I have to admit, I wasn’t sure it could be done.  Machu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; it is heavily managed.   And this year is the 100th anniversary of the promotion of Machu Picchu by the adventurer Hiram Bingham and the Yale expedition that launched world awareness of Peru’s Inca heritage on a major scale.  So this is a banner year for a fascinating destination. 

You can’t just fly there.  You fly to Lima, the capital of Peru, sitting dark and gloomy on the Pacific coastline.  Then you journey about 750 miles to Cusco, the oldest city in the Americas, at way up over 11,000 feet.  You spend a couple of days trying to get accustomed to the thin air. Then you descend over 70 miles by train, bus or feet to Aguas Calientes, the town outside the Machu Picchu sanctuary at an oxygen- rich 8,000 feet.  (Enjoy breathing semi-deeply.)  

Contrary to what most guide books will tell you, rural Peru is extremely friendly towards dogs and is populated by mannerly pet and street dogs.  The Peruvians of the countryside take great care to make sure their dogs wear coats in the mild winters and to assure that street dogs are neither thin nor mangy.  For now, this is all we will say.  Next post we will share some stories about dog life in Aguas Calientes and Cusco, but for now, let’s cut to the chase about Machu Picchu and Raja’s visit. 

There is no doggie door.  If you want to take your small, well-behaved and quiet dog to Machu Picchu, you will have to demonstrate tremendous politeness and affability at the gate, and you will have to luck out with a sympathetic ticket attendant.  Still, you play the luck of the draw even given optimum conditions. 

Raja got inside.  He scrambled up the shortest of the Inca stairs and got carried up the higher ones.  He visited the central ceremonial center with the houses of the ruling Inca and the nobles and investigated the ceremonial facilities and the altars to the earth and sky.  He met llamas grazing in the public square.  He trotted from the lowest to the highest agricultural terraces where the Inca farmed in temperature microclimates. There he picked up a trail of the Andean fox, but he wasn’t allowed to track it far as the forest closed in heavily at the terrace’s edge.  Finally, he followed the high trail to the Inca’s back door to the perilous and defensible drawbridge, a gap in the ledge walkway built out from a sheer cliff face.  Being from Tibet ancestrally, he didn’t mind the altitude, but he did need to be shielded from the intense sun.  Water breaks were important.  His morning and afternoon ramble ended with a bath, a snack and a snooze in a street side restaurant in Aguas Calientes at the end of the day.

Love those Llamas!


Did it mean anything to him personally to have his hike in Peru?  Yes. He met hundreds of nice people with different voices and behaviors.  He breathed air that smelled different.  His trek the next day down the dust road, along the railroad tracks and up the mountain to the Aguas Calientes Jardín Botánico of indigenous orchids brought him in contact with a host of fascinating scents and physical challenges.  He got to represent for the hardy Shih Tzu breed, not couch potatoes but adventurers and athletes.  For days after the Machu Picchu climb, his little paws twitched at night as he dreamed of Inca roads and the smell of the elusive Vischachas, Peru’s long eared Chinchilla who nest in Machu Picchu’s rock crevices.  He came home happy and healthy with lots to ponder in his doggy mind and a sense of satisfaction in being a companion who didn’t get left behind. 

(What would I have done if he had not been permitted inside?  There are many other trails in the region where you can take a high altitude hike to an Incan ruin.  Machu Picchu is the best restored and the most nationalized, but it is one of numerous Incan sites, all connected by the lines of the sun and stars in the Andes.) 

Most sincere and heartfelt thanks to the officials at Machu Picchu Sanctuary for permitting Raja inside and special thanks to Gringo Bill’s excellent hotel for welcoming him in their nicest room.

I carried Raja near the edge and he hung on to his beloved blue bunny.


Next post we’ll give a report of dog life in rural Peru… not what you might have expected at all.  At the end of September we will, as promised, give a detailed post about ways to seek affordable, high quality and specialty medical care for pets as our US recession lingers.