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Dogs in Costa Rica and Elsewhere

I have to say a word about the dogs here in Costa Rica because every single day that I’ve spent here has started with the sound of one yipping. Back home in the United States, I sometimes get weary of the silence. It’s true. I mean, the church bells that ring every hour can seriously interrupt my writing work (especially when they play hymns for 3 to 5 minutes at a time) and the trains that go by about a mile down the road can be annoying when we’re walking outside trying to converse, but after having spent 41 days here in Costa Rica with dogs yowling into my window every morning from 5:30 AM onward throughout the day, I have to say I miss the relatively quiet space that we have at home.

Don’t get me wrong. I can appreciate a cute dog, just like anyone, but there’s nothing like a barking dog to interrupt a fully formed thought. In fact, I have a theory about dogs, at least some dogs. My theory is that people enjoy the loud barking because it interrupts their thinking. I believe that this is the real purpose of dogs and the real reason why so many people have them: because they don’t want to think about what’s really bothering them. They want to be interrupted and yell at the dog instead. People who own dogs don’t have to solve their problems because whatever they were thinking about just goes away when the dog yips and they yell at the dog to shut up or come here or lay down or whatever…and then those thoughts and feelings disappear.  Whatever motivation there might have been to solve a problem vanishes.  At least for the time being.

My hatred of most dogs (not all dogs) is really pretty complicated. And, in some ways very simple too. I think that a really annoying dog that barks all the time can help people in its own way. Buddhists claim that thoughts really have no value (yet it is a very intellectual religion… go figure) and so the yipping dog could function to help humans get rid of those useless thoughts. Yip! And the thoughts are gone. And there are some psychological/emotional benefits of having a loud annoying dog as well. A dog that barks all the time is a great scape goat for anger. Any time the kids act out or spouses are fighting they can just yell at the barking dog instead of each other.

In my own family growing up, I know that we always had a dog around to divert attention away from anything real that was going on. The dog sat on the floor between my parents during dinner and anytime an uncomfortable silence or a pregnant pause would fall over our little group of four, my dad would give some tidbit of food to the dog. Or my mom would yell at the dog for licking its penis while we were eating. In this way, we were able to eat together as a family every night at the dinner table and never have a full conversation about anything important even though my brother was gay and my boyfriend was beating me up. As such, the dog performed a valuable service, I suppose.

Now, I know that there are well-trained dogs including seeing-eye dogs and police dogs that are truly amazing creatures. I also know that some people discipline their dogs to shut the f**k up so they don’t wake the neighbors or disturb the entire neighborhood. I have friends with some very respectable canine creatures that are well-behaved for the most part. But most people don’t train their dogs or worry about the neighbor’s thoughts and it make me glad that I live in a giant fortress made of cement in a tiny town of only 400 people because I don’t like to hear the neighbor’s dog barking.

This may seem like a simple rant. Maybe it is a simple rant. I am tired of listening to dogs barking at each other. I hear one dog barking a mile away and before long the dogs in the two houses on either side of me are also barking. There are high barks and low barks. Fast barks and slow barks. And not one of the barks really serves a useful purpose except that the dog is entertained by listening to itself barking. These creatures are cute enough when they’re quiet, but they pollute the air with a type of noise that is very hard to ignore or tune out. Waking up without hearing the dogs barking in through my window is something that I’m really looking forward to when we get back home.

On the flip side, perhaps dogs are wonderful and my opinion is completely askew.

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  1. Kazi Jestribek

    uh…don’t think i qualify as friend with well-behaved canine (if ever I did) after my St Bernard just punched out my living room window (cat on the deck, taunting her). anaesthetic, staples, bandage, cone of shame, vet bill…i know it sounds like great fun, but it’s not for everyone.
    seriously though, my neighbors recently had a dog that would bark for hours straight, for no reason, starting at 5 am, drove me absolutely nuts, completely shattered any peace of mind i had…interesting how pets can become the focus/distraction in a household. i’ve often thought that happens with our dogs, who are pretty quiet. does this not happen with cats, or gerbils, or whatever?

    September 29, 2012 Reply
    • travelingshipps

      Poor puppy (the cone of shame, eh? LOL). I actually thought about your dogs as icons of good behavior when I wrote this post. I’m sure they can be annoying, but generally, they’re not. I mean, kids can be annoying too when they interrupt a lot or if they stink. Have you ever tried to love a stinky kid? Or a kid that whines all the time? It’s as though SO MANY people bring home a puppy because they saw it and thought, “Oh my gosh…that puppy is so CUTE!” They don’t consider the fact that it will bark or throw up on the rug. And a lot of people go about becoming parents in a similar way. It’s hard for me to love a strange kid with a nose that never gets wiped or a butt that stinks. Plain and simple. Give the kid a bath and wipe his nose and suddenly, I’m not repulsed by the kid anymore. I could love it. Dogs are fine animals, but they require a lot of attention and structure and a person has to WANT to take care of them (in my opinion). Dogs that don’t get the attention they need can be really annoying and hard to deal with…kinda like kids that don’t get the attention they need (we have an attention-needy cat who poops on everything…which is seriously annoying and distracting, but in a different way). I think that dogs and kids have a lot in common because they end up going out with their owners a lot. (In fact, I’ve learned since being here that the dogs barking next door bark whenever another neighbor from down the street walks his dog past them. So am I angry with the dogs or angry with the inconsiderate people walking them…I don’t know…I can’t think over the noise). Cats stay home and when they yowl, they aren’t usually loud enough to wake the neighbors unless their wounded or something. But they pee on things, which stinks A LOT and can be as overpowering as noise pollution. I think that I like dogs. And I think I like cats. I think I like people too. But I think that a lot of noise makes me grouchy and I’d rather blame the dog next door than start yelling at Lydian or John. I had to write SOMETHING and think SOMETHING to let off some steam…so I decided to hate the dogs next door and develop a far flung theory about dogs in general. Part of the reason why I’m writing this blog is to document my own insanity so that I can see it in black and white later on, so…there ya go. 🙂

      September 30, 2012 Reply


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