They’re Good Dogs, Brent: Meet Costa Rica’s Stray-Dog Whisperer

three brown puppies
Photo by Anoir Chafik via Unsplash

In Outside magazine, Bob Shacochis profiles Lya Battle, creator of Costa Rica’s Territorio de Zaguates, an open-air shelter home to hundreds of dogs. His own love of man’s best friend comes through loud and clear in his descriptions of the Territorio’s denizens.

Incredibly, every dog has a name. Everybody’s different, clownish and hilarious: fuzzy splats of happiness, skeletal shells of wincing eagerness, buoyant lumps of grinning muscle, the faltering and the withered, the robust and the dignified, dogs like pieces of frayed rope with legs and head, senatorial dogs like Boris, old and wise and reposed, a seeming mix of corgi and Bernese mountain dog that resembles the 30-pound butt of a half-smoked cigar. Blanquita is a dirty-white floor mop who has betrothed herself to Ronney, one of the workers, and cries inconsolably from the minute he leaves the compound until his return the next morning. There’s a sweet little dog I of course call Stumpy, his right front leg hacked off with a machete by his owner after a long night drinking at the cantina. And there’s Milu, one of the precious cohort Lya calls her “walking dead,” who came to her with distemper a couple of years after she opened the Territorio in 2008. To save a dog from distemper is no small task, and now Milu, in his dotage, weighs less than a fart and walks like a drunken tarantula.

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