Peruvian pet ownership is full of interesting things. It does not seem to be a surprise for anyone here, except Dan and I, when street dogs make an entrance into the chapels and wander around the altar while Mass is going on. During First Communion classes, it is very common for dogs to nap under the table we are using for class or play with our young student’s feet, distracting them completely and letting us know they have no intention of leaving. In most cases these pets are no strangers; for instance the dog under the table is the street-dog of Angie, one of the participants of the class. At a different chapel, our catechist Susana has a street-pet named Zorro. What makes these pets something special is that they eat and sleep at their owner’s door but never come into their house. During the day, Zorro wanders around until he realizes that Susana has left her house and looks for her so he can walk her home. These owners usually have home-pets that never wander the streets or attend Mass, but they also make space for these wandering dogs in their families.
Mitch, “our cat” is a special case. He does not leave the premises of where we live (mini-apartment building), but he can’t rest inside anyone’s apartment either. He is actually our landlord’s cat but he can’t nap inside their house because their 18 month old baby beats him up. There is something about baby boys and pets…they like to terrorize them =)
Mitch meows so much and so loud sometimes that you would think he was starving but our landlord assures us that he is well fed by them. She says that Mitch meows at the doors of two tenants on the second floor in search of food…it is kind of like an act according to her. Well, he is definitely getting good food on the third floor (our door). Last week we started bringing home leftover bones and body parts of chicken that we don’t eat at lunch (they use everything here in the soups…everything!). He seems to like everything we bring because he devours every last piece…like a dog, and most of the time without even taking a breath, almost like he had not had food for days. Sometimes he meows so loud going up the stairs with us that you would think the poor thing was on the brink of starvation. He shows interest in coming into our apartment but we don’t let him in (Dan is allergic to his hair).
Mitch relaxes at specific parts of the building where he keeps an eye on tenants that leave or arrive. He seems to like our doormat so we usually find him relaxing and digesting his multiple meals when we get home. We have never had a pet of our own so Mitch is really a good deal; he lets us pet him, he is happy to get food from us, he is o.k. with not entering the apartment and he moves so fast around us that in matter of seconds he is walking up or down the stairs (making me trip) so we give him some attention. It’s the best of both worlds…he is not a street-cat but he is not like a house-pet either. Again, for a couple of missionaries who have never had pets, Mitch is an awesome cat that knows very well where his tasty food comes from and makes sure we know he is around.
This morning, we were sad to hear that our landlord is giving Mitch away to another family. Her son has developed some kind of respiratory infection and it is better not to have pets around. After lunch today, we gave Mitch a farewell leftover meal.
When we got home tonight, he was nowhere to be found going up the stairs and I would be lying if I were to say that I wasn’t sad. But for some reason, he had not been gifted yet and he was peacefully resting at our door. I was beyond happy. He will be gone by the time we return from Cuzco and hopefully his new owners will be able to keep up with his unbelievable appetite. He will be missed in our home.
Since we have been sharing with you a lot of aspects of our Peruvian life, I wanted you to meet our little friend Mitch and share how street-pets (even the crabby ones), house-pets and every category in between are an important part of our community and parish life. Enjoy the pics (You may click on the pictures to see a larger version of them).