A few years ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to travel through Patagonia with my father’s old 35mm Minolta and a handful of film. Of all the pictures I took on the trip, these strays were probably the most memorable.
I’ve shared these pictures before, but tonight, I found myself staring back at these photographs again.
It’s amazing to me how clearly and vividly I remember each of these dogs. What they were doing, where they were going, and their very distinct personalities all came back to me. After each shot, I made sure that I wrote into my journal a short description of them.
I wish I could have flown them all back with me because to this day I can still feel the heartache of leaving these guys behind.
“Josh and I were walking in the streets, when a truck behind us zoomed by. As the seemingly enormous Mitsubishi rolled on through, it had driven into a pothole full of stagnant rain water. The poor fellow had been laying next to the road – he was soaked. As he slowly got up on his feeble legs and shook himself, he peered back at me and gave me a stare I will never forget.”
“It was not very common for the dogs of Puerto Natales to be aggressive. Many limp and drag themselves in misery through the streets. This little guy was wandering around in an empty lot when I spotted him. It had just finished raining and the ground was completely soaked. He was zooming around in circles and dashing from one trash heap to the next. When he spotted me, he ran over and bared his teeth – showing me he was not afraid. Although he was little and barely had any weight to him, I could tell he was ferocious.”
“We had been staying at a local hostel for a couple of days during our trip. Every morning when I sat in the kitchen drinking coffee, I observed this little puppy trotting back and forth in front of the hostel. He seemed playful and had an undying curiosity for the people who walked by – even if they had no interest in him. When the wind came, he would huddle behind the trash cans and lay shivering. I told myself, if he was there the next morning, I would take his picture. Sure enough – he was still there.”
“This funny little shag ball was actually the first stray I photographed down in Chile. He wobbled around from door to door – barking now and then at the windows. When I let out a whistle, he nonchalantly walked across the street and stood there staring at me. For some reason, he seemed quite comical to me….maybe it was because I could not see his eyes nor make out the difference between him and a fat Patagonian sheep.”
“In town, dogs usually travel in large packs – the ones that don’t…usually die. Although he was smaller than most dogs, this beautiful stray had an athletic look to him. Unlike the others, he was unafraid of humans and would never bark. He would dart across the streets and stare off into the distance as if he was standing guard. I would see his eyes scanning the horizon and before I knew it – he had dashed to his next watch post.It was quite strange.”
“Many of the dogs that roam the dirty streets are infested with fleas and disease. I watched this one for about ten minutes as he was scratching profusely. It seemed to never end as he would scratch and roll on the sidewalk – whimpering as the time passed. After awhile, he started nipping at almost every single part of his body. It was quite painful to watch, as I could not do anything to help him or relieve him of the pests.”
“Of all the dogs that I saw and photographed, this dog here was one that burned in the back of my mind. After I took this picture, I knew that once I got home this would be the first one I developed and printed. A month later, as I held the freshly developed negative to the faint red light – the same eyes glowed back at me.”
“The dog packs are always on the move. Dashing from place to place, gunning across the roads, and randomly barking at each other. The packs display a sense of urgency, as if they are in a rush to get somewhere – yet they have nowhere to go.”
“The life for many of these canines consist of the same routine. They eat trash,beg, breed, and sleep in the sun…it was always one of those four. I almost tripped on this one as I was walking and looking through my viewfinder.I darted to the other side of the street in hopes of him not chasing me – he didn’t. He lazily picked up his head, looked at me, and went back to his nap.”
“It was painful for me to leave all these beautiful dogs behind.Had I been given more time, I would have liked to photograph more of them. Each one had it’s own personality and character and as I look back at these – I always wonder what they are up to at this very moment.”