Exchange project 2019: Report from Chile

In early October, after a journey of around 27 hours, the four animal keepers from Essen and Hanover landed in Santiago de Chile. They were received by two members of FinnDomingo e.V., who had previously prepared everything on site for the project to run as smoothly as possible.

October 4, 2019: Welcome to Santiago Airport (from left): Heinz Schulze (instructor, Essen), Martin Bleicher (instructor, Hanover), Eileen Föge (apprentice, Hanover), Karsten Nagel and Ellen Stähr (FinnDomingo eV) , Denise Blietschau (apprentice, Essen).

 

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In addition to the routine work in the Refugio Patitas Sin Hogar (Homeless Paws Shelter), the days of the team were determined by craft work tasks, dog training lectures and practical demonstrations as well as rescue operations.

 

Unlike in German animal shelters, where one can find many different animal species, the few Chilean shelters almost exclusively house dogs. However, these are usually much better socialized among each other than the dogs in Germany and can therefore be kept in bigger groups.

 

The dogs living in Homeless Paws Shelter have lots of space and can run and play all day long. The aisle walks were introduced to the daily routine in order to train each dog on a leash. In recent years, the need for walking the dog has been increasingly recognized and accepted by the Chileans. Thus, a well trained dog has better chances to be adopted.

 

There are street dogs that live a good life. However, locals know the corners where animals vegetate in large numbers whose physical condition can shock even experienced animal keepers. The state, municipalities and the majority of citizens ignore this issue, which is a serious problem for animal welfare as well as for public health and public safety.

 

The German team was impressed to experience the perseverance with which the Chilean Shelter people – usually poorly equipped and with sparse financial and personal resources – are struggling to improve the situation.

 

In every shelter there is always something to build or to repair. It was a valuable experience for the German team having to find creative solutions due to the lack of resources. For example, if there is no access to water main nor to affordable rain barrels, what can be done to collect the rainwater?

 

Another intense experience for the Germans was having to find their way in a completely foreign environment and with very little capacity to communicate linguistically. The tour guide of FinnDomingo eV and, above all,  the warm welcome and hearty attention by the Chilean hosts …

 

… has contributed significantly to the fact that the four “gringos” learned to love the country and its people in a very short time.

 

The last week of the stay was determined by the suddenly erupted social revolts in Santiago de Chile, which immediately swept across the country and were accompanied by widespread looting and destructive rage. Although it quickly became clear that the Germans were not personally in danger, they were considerably concerned about the future of Homeless Paws Shelter and their new Chilean friends.

 

October 26, 2019: Farewell to dear friends. The visit was a win for everyone.

 

Conclusion

Our German-Chilean exchange project was an overall win for everyone involved.

There is a downer, however: Due to the riots, several planned actions could not be carried out (interview on the radio, visit to the editorial office of a large newspaper, two lectures at school, visit at the police dog school). As the Homeless Paws Shelter is financed exclusively through private donations, these program items had been primarily intended to draw public attention to the shelter and motivate people to donate.

Unfortunately, this plan did not work out. On the contrary, due to the insecure situation and the fear of the future that prevails in many Chilean citizens, the income of Homeless Paws Shelter has plummeted since October 2019. Therefore, support is needed more than ever!

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