The Stray Dogs Of Valparaiso

Gangs of ownerless dogs roam the cities and towns of my country, not in the form of the hungry, miserable packs you see in other parts of the world but, rather, as organized communities. They are mild-mannered animals, satisfied with their social lot, a little lackadaisical.
— My Invented Country: A Nostalgic Journey Through Chile by Isabel Allende

The above quote from one of Chile's best known authors sums up a constant part of our stay in Valparaiso. There are dogs everywhere. Even when inside, we seldom go more than a few minutes without hearing barking from the streets outside.

Once I read a study in which the author maintained that if all existing breeds of dogs were liberally intermingled, within a few generations they would narrow down to one type: a strong, astute beast of medium size, with short, wiry hair, a pointed muzzle, and willful tail: that is, the typical Chilean stray.
— My Invented Country

There's little data on the internet regarding Chile's stray dogs, most is anecdotal. The best I've found cites a 2002 study by the University of Chile estimating that approximately 2.5 million stray dogs roam Chile's streets. For perspective, Chile's human population is less than 18 million meaning more than one stray for every ten people. Dogs are everywhere.


From Nicole and I's experience, Valparaiso's pooches are incredibly well-behaved and adept at city living. They are friendly to passersby, often paying pedestrians little heed as they lounge on the sidewalks or in alleyways. From our reading, and observations, many of these dogs are partially cared for by locals who leave food and water outside of homes or businesses. But, for the most part, these animals appear to fend for themselves. Cute and friendly as they are, these hardened canines are survivors living a life I would imagine most domesticated pups wouldn't envy.

Nicole dreams of adopting a Valparaiso pooch like the woman in this gut-wrenching story did. Maybe next time! :)