Dogs in Guatemala

In Guatemala, when you see a dog on the street, it is most likely eating from a shredded garbage bag, or cowering from a threatening resident. Most are only harnessed by their own bare ribs. Females carry long teats that sway heavily as they trot through cobblestone roads. Sometimes, on the corner stoop beneath my Spanish school, a borracho–drunkard–would be nestled in a group of three stray dogs who ran this territory. One white, one patched, and one sandy. The three would always lay across the sidewalk, side by side, in the morning sun, and would always be warned away by merchants of Mercado Las Flores with upraised hand in the afternoons during lunch. In less aesthetic areas of Xela, the dogs would less trot the cobblestone roads than race panicked along the edges of walls. At Terminal Minerva, chicken buses collected down one alley to deposit trash into the gutter, and sweep out dirty water from the between the seats. I once saw a thin dog picking at the black bags underneath one bus’ tire. He turned to expose a dramatic pink infection down the side of his body. I never recovered from the image. So, when one cold morning during rainy season I stepped out of my apartment and saw this fluffy, well-fed pup wrapped warmly in a sweater, I snapped a picture.  I might have been overwriting my memory of the less fortunate by convincing myself (in a desperately touristic move) that I was surrounded by comedy and beauty.  Instead though, I think I might remember this strange moment as a representation of Xela, a city that teeters between episodes of the abysmal and the endearing.