Huancayo is surrounded by farmland, so I’ve encountered a myriad of animals ranging from livestock for livelihood to city pets in silly clothes. Some animals have a purpose: cows for fresh milk, donkeys for reliable transport and alpaca for soft wool. There are also animals raised solely for food: chickens and pigs. Other animals are clearly pets: dogs, cats, hamsters and iguanas. I’m still getting used to the fact that guinea pigs are always raised for food, often cooked as a special dish, and never kept as companions.
Since neutering is expensive and uncommon, Huancainos are more likely to receive a puppy from a friend or pick up a stray kitty. Some homeowners have come-as-they-go pets who show up during the day to have a snack, hang out for a while and then leave every evening. Stray dogs are rampant here. They often walk right beside you and sleep in the middle of the sidewalk as if they own the city. You’re part of their daily drama when it comes to scavenging, playing, fighting and copulation. In the more rural areas, stray dogs can be vicious, so you always carry a rock around and hopefully, never have to actually throw it.
To communicate with Peruvian animals and animal owners alike, the foreigner must learn new vocabulary of onomatopoeic words. Cats are almost always called “Michi,” often in place of an actual pet name. This name apparently derives from the sound they make: “miau” (“meow”). Dogs are usually pinned “Fido” (“fee-doh”) and they say “guau” (“wow”). I still don’t understand how chicks “pio pio,” although it probably makes more sense that I wake up to the rooster on the fourth floor greeting me with “ki ki ri ki” rather than “cock-a-doodle-doo.” The only other animals that seem to express themselves similarly to their North American counterparts are pigs (“oink”), ducks (“cuac”) and cows (“muu”).
We welcomed a kitty to the family last Thursday and were surprised to learn that he speaks both cat and dog languages, miau-ing and guau-ing in his conversations with us. After a day of fear and loathing for getting him vaccinated, Fénix (Spanish for “Phoenix”) is now purring like a motor, playing with all reachable shoelaces and falling into unescapable buckets: