(photo by Luis Bastardo)
If you think that Parisians and New Yorkers are the world's ultimate dog-doters, you haven't visited Buenos Aires. The city's citizens (known as Porteños) adore their dogs and take them everywhere: cafes, parties, parks, to work, on vacation, restaurants (usually seen at an outdoor table sharing lunch with their owners or discreetly snuck inside in a large tote bag) and everywhere in between. There are bakeries that sell dog-specific pastries, doggie spas, medical specialists such as ophthalmologists, therapists and dentists just for dogs, clothing and accessory stores and, of course, the ubiquitous dog walkers known as los paseadores de perros.
Hiring a dog walker is de rigueur in Buenos Aires; friends and neighbors would be most concerned if owners were reduced to walking their own dogs. The dog walkers are easy to spot: they are usually leading a group of at least six dogs and often as many as 20, with leashes in both hands and several more connected to ganchas (hooks) on their belts. The dogs are remarkably well-behaved and seem to get along with each other, despite being of very different sizes and breeds (we've seen toy poodles happily trotting alongside great danes). The paseadores are more akin to babysitters; they walk the dogs twice a day, give them medicine if needed, groom them, socilize them and play with them; in other words, they provide doggie daycare.