A dog’s best friend

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Dogs have been a hot topic in the Mexican news lately after authorities blamed the deaths of 5 people in Iztapalapa, DF on packs of wild dogs in an “ecological reserve” – which apparently is more like an unofficial dump – called Cerro de la Estrella. Animal rights activists were quick to come to the defense of the 57 dogs rounded up in connection to the deaths and on January 11, it was announced that all of the captured dogs would be put up for adoption after the Department of Public Safety failed to find evidence of human remains in the animals. The original story inspired widespread skepticism and plenty of alternative theories for the real cause of the deaths, from drug trafficking to witchcraft. The Iztapalapa case also highlighted the plight of street dogs in Mexico City – the DF’s Health Department reports there are more than 120,000.

The story of Rafael Carrillo is an inspiring counterpoint to this heartbreaking situation. In the January 18 edition of Proceso, there was a story about this man, who currently lives with and cares for 110 dogs on his 2,000 sq meter property in Desierto de los Leones, on the outskirts of the city (El hombre de 110 perros, Juan Pablo Proal). It all began when he was a young bachelor living and working in the city; one day, a street dog who lived in a park near his apartment approached him. Carrillo affectionately pet him, and soon he had a small entourage of street dogs accompanying him on his morning walks.

That was in 1988. Carrillo dedicates all of his time to rescuing and caring for dogs, and spiritual meditation. He doesn’t own a television or computer, and his only connection to the outside world is a telephone line; friends have helped him with the costs of feeding and caring for the dogs. And somehow, he maintains peaceful control of the pack without aggression: “It’s not allowed for one dog to dominate another, there is complete harmony.”

Not many will decide to devote themselves to the cause of abandoned dogs as completely and ascetically as Carrillo, but there is at least a glimmer of hope in society’s quick reaction to the round up of the supposed “killer” dogs of Iztapalapa. Hardly anyone could believe that dogs who had been living in close proximity to humans for decades, could suddenly turn vicious and predatory.

As Carrillo said to reporter Proal: “They [dogs] don’t live thinking about tomorrow, or yesterday, they don’t criticize or judge; they are a great role model for me, they are my teachers.”

*In the Proceso article, Proal says anyone interested in supporting Rafael Carrillo can send an email to: sirproal@hotmail.com