The Dogs of Tortuguero
While banding at Tortuguero, most nice afternoons, generally sometime between the 3 o’clock and 5 o’clock migration counts, I ask Morgan if she wants to walk to town. Usually we have some purchase in mind—perhaps a 50 colones (10 cent) banana, or plantain chips for 250 colones (50 cents.) Or perhaps we’ll splurge and spend a whole 500 colones (1 dollar) on an ice cream cone. But what I really want to do is to visit the dogs.
On days that we band at the CCC or at the parque national (just south of town), we are usually accompanied by one or two dogs, Dukie and Shaggy. Dukie was named by the turtle interns and spent a lot of time with them while they were here, often accompanying them on their night patrols. His special favourite seemed to be Ani, from El Salvador, who told us about his love of mantequilla cookies (butter cookies.) He is a laid back, calm, well-behaved gentleman.
Shaggy, on the other hand, is a bit less of a gentleman. He is also an attention hog. If he sees me giving Dukie a hug, he has to run over and get a hug, too. If we happen to be sitting outside by the banding table after we’ve cleared all the banding equipment away, he will jump on the table and lie down. He also hasn’t learned, as Dukie has, that dogs are supposed to wait outside of stores. And more than once he has gotten into fights with dogs in town.
It is hard to get good photos of Shaggy because when he sees me get down low to take his picture, he wants to run up and be petted. Shaggy does have an owner, because one day when I was walking with the pair of them on the beach a teenage boy pet Shaggy and told me “Es mi perro.” But Shaggy loves to spend the day escorting tourists or hanging out with us. He probably just doesn’t get enough hugs at home.
There are dozens of other dogs in the village, some of which have become quite familiar. There is a tiny black puppy that hangs out around the Super Las Tortugas. There is a slightly larger black puppy that occasionally comes to the CCC and tries to run off with people’s shoes. There is Lazy Dog, who sometimes takes a nap right in the middle of the street, and all the pedestrians and cyclists have to meander around him.
There is the white dog with blue eyes (“Ojos Azules”) that is occasionally covered in so much mud that he’s not white anymore. There is Spike, the puppy that lives at Wild Ginger, the restaurant just south of the CCC. He’s got a spiked collar. (There is also a cat there that I call the Maitre d.)
There is Gallo Pinto. Gallo pinto means “spotted rooster” but it is the name of a dish consisting of rice and black beans fried together, usually served for breakfast. There are several white and black spotted dogs that I call that, but there is one female dog with a red collar, that is usually found near the school, that I refer to in particular.
There is Double Dewclaws, who is whitish and has extra toes on his hind feet. And there are several other dogs that I haven’t given names to, but I like to pet all the same.
But I had to say good-bye to the dogs today, as tomorrow morning I am heading out on the 6 o’clock boat for the last time.