Project Update and Side-Adventures with SAG

So far, our project is going well.  The dog recording is off to a good start – we have been filming for just under 2 weeks and have successfully finished all video recordings for 22 dogs!  We now have less than 100 dogs left to follow around.  This is both good and bad – good because we are well on our way to getting some real answers from our behavioral study, but bad because if it were not for the harsh environment these dogs are faced with daily, there would still be about 150 more to film.  Over a third of the dogs that entered into this study have passed away from various reasons including cancers, starvation, and traumas from dog fights and vehicles.  This is just another example of the complications that dog overpopulation creates.  Surely this work will help to resolve some of these situations.

One of the hardest parts of filming a dog’s natural behavior is trying not to interrupt them!  Usually during filming, members of our team are followed by inquisitive children, asking all sorts of questions about their dogs and why we have to be so quiet while we are recording.  I have followers of a different sort, which certainly distract the dogs I’m recording.  Over the past week, Corinne and I have been working in a different part of town than Rebecca and Graham.  In the new neighborhood, I have dogs following me constantly. At any given time, there are between 5 and 8 dogs behind me and wrapped between my legs and tripod, or bothering the dog I’m filming.  The group that follows me are not well-liked by many of the other free-roaming dogs.  The group is attacked when I walk down many different streets, getting me bitten a few times in the cross-fire.  Luckily, it is so cold and windy here that I hardly feel them through the 4 layers of pants and 5 shirts I wear to keep myself warm.

On our days off from filming, Graham and I are continuing our work with SAG, Servicio Agrícola Ganadero.  Today, we were up bright and early again to work with another veterinarian and his accomplice, Vincent and Ruben.  My Spanish is still negligible but between sign language and some key words Graham and I have picked up along the way, we managed just fine, even making a bit of small talk.  Once we were at the ranch, just over an hour outside of Puerto Natales at the border between Chile and Argentina, we injected over 140 beef cattle with Tuberculin, an agent used to test whether individuals in a herd have been exposed to Bovine Tuberculosis.  We were warned before going that the cattle are quite dangerous as they are not used to being handled and will act up when touched.  This herd was thankfully quite docile and working with them was a pleasure.  It was so interesting to see the huasos, Chilean cowboys, herd the cattle from across the massive property with varying snowy terrain into small pens for us to work on.  Once the cows were loaded into a wooden chute system, we leaned over of each of them to inject Tuberculin under the tail. Any cows that deviated from the herd were brought back in with the help of the 6 ovejeros, sheep dogs.  Vincent and Ruben will go back in a few days and determine whether any cows test positive for tuberculosis.

That’s all for now!  We start filming our next set of dogs tomorrow in another neighborhood.  More excitement to come!

Andi