Dog Walkers o Paseadores de Perros
I had heard people term Buenos Aires the Paris of the south. I had always thought that it referred to the atmosphere of the city, something to do with the mix of events, shows and theatres, ornate architecture and the endless parade of chic stylish locals, just, minus the beret. But as I walked down the street this afternoon it dawned on me that maybe this term had nothing to do with the cultural identity of these twin cities but purely described the mess on the streets.
One of my most distinct memories of Paris is the dog poo that litters the footpaths, delicate French poodle droppings. There is nothing delicate about the turds that sprinkle the side walks of Buenos Aires, however in a peculiar Hansel and Gretel way these signs indicate the passing of a pack of dogs. These aren’t homeless stray dogs either but the pampered pooches of the apartment dwelling owners who have neither the time nor the space to take the dog for a walk. So, they employ a paseador de perros, a professional dog walker in Buenos Aires.
When I was seven years old I had a part time job of walking an old ladies dog and was paid a whole dollar to take him around the block a few times. There is no way a seven year old could be a paseador de perros in Buenos Aires. Not only is it illegal, you have to be over 18
for a license, but the shear physical demands make it impossible. I’ve seen paseadores de perros with over 15 dogs strutting along next to them. Many wear special belts to hook up the leashes and most wear labourers gloves to offer some protection to their hands.
Every morning the dogs are picked up from their homes then taken together to a park. Well behaved dogs are set free to go for a run and naughtier dogs are tied up to the hooks and post that have been specially designed for such purposes. Some urban parks even have a fenced off area, a special area for temperamental dogs, like the exercise yard for the solitary confinement prisoners, an area they can let off some steam without influencing the small time criminals.
I am in awe of how they paseadores de perros can control so many dogs. They walk the main streets weaving through pedestrians, newspaper stands and public bus stops. Neither the noise and chaos of the traffic or the thousands of city smells seems to interfere with an expert paseador and his pack. If he could just train his dogs to not do their business on the footpaths, then he would be the prefect paseador de perro.