As we drove through Corozal, I saw town through my kids’ eyes for the first time. Everything looked third world: stray, anorexic dogs, barefooted kids chasing cars along the dusty road and shacks under construction, or maybe destruction. The frame of a rusty abandoned car rested on the dust-powdered road, tire-less and window-less. The car door had been replaced with a torn sheet and next to the entrance, sat a green bucket with rags resting on its rim. This was someone’s home and one day, we saw the owner. The man looked like one of the stray dogs, a broken hip, limping, caked hair with bare patches and diseased. The filth on his skin and clothing made the homeless in Los Angeles look glamorous.
Only two weeks ago, I had stepped inside a “Dog Bakery,” in Newport Beach, California. Curious to see what patisseries dog owners were buying, I found a selection of freshly baked designer treats in a refrigerated display case. Individually hand decorated dog treats, each with colorful flowers and frosting reminded me of mini-wedding cakes. My mouth watered and I asked the sales person if humans could eat them. She gave me a strange look and said, “They’re made with flavors that dogs enjoy.”
There was only one vet in Corozal and her office sat opposite Frank’s, the butcher. The vet’s front door, just like Frank’s, stood wide open to the street. I peeked inside and saw a large, dark-skinned Belizean woman sitting behind a metal desk. There were no customers or dogs waiting. I couldn’t imagine anyone but expats bringing their dogs to her.
I felt awkward, almost embarrassed to ask this woman if she had enzyme chew sticks to clean my dog’s teeth. Most Belizean kids didn’t own a toothbrush and here I was concerned about reducing plaque on my rat terrier’s teeth.
“No, I’m sorry,” she said.
Upon returning to the U.S., I took Cookie to a new vet where the waiting room had granite counter tops, flat screen TVs and comfy armchairs. I felt like I was at a luxury spa for humans. Their prices reflected this, and I told them they were too expensive and left before they had time to check my dog. I found a reasonable vet twenty miles away. It didn’t make sense that a check-up for my dog cost more than a Doctor’s visit for my kids.
For those of you living the expat life, does this sound familiar?
Have you encountered a dog bakery or vet like the one I found?
Do you find vets outrageously expensive where you live?
Any comments or discussions you’d like to start, please mention, and on BELIZE BUZZ, Wednesday, I shall post them together with a link to your blog.
How said it is when you consider that dogs here in the US get better health care than most, if not all, developing countries around the world.
Many times I sit and wonder what could be accomplished if people took the money they spend on their pets for luxury items (like dog bakeries and day spas) and donated it to charities.
And yes, I think that veterinarian care is quite expensive.
Jody Hedlund says
Wow! What a contrast! Sometimes we forget how rich we are in our country. Even the “poor” in our country have it much better than most poor around the world. A great perspective to remember at this time of economic hardship in our country. If we can afford exotic doggie treats, than are we really suffering?
Wow, reading this really makes it come to life. What a vast difference in lifestyles. I’m really enjoying reading all of your tales!
Lady Glamis says
Wonderful post, as usual! I look forward to these every Monday. Funny, I’ve done a post on dogs today. Cool!
I haven’t seen vets places like that, but I have seen kennels that are INSANELY expensive and ridiculously posh for canines and felines. All I can say is wow, and good for you for leaving the super expensive vet for a more than good and decent vet!
All of this really does make one wonder how much our economy really is suffering, you know? Like Jody says.
Vet care is expensive here in Sweden, but luckily, insurance covers part of it. The vet centres can be small or big – all are well equipped but they are not luxury spas by any means.
It has long been known, however, that dog and cat food sold in the UK is more nutritious than the food served up to old people in England. That is truly sick!
Many Africans are scared of dogs because they remember being chased or attacked by wild dogs as kids.
The worst case was the Canton market in China where the dogs were hung up by their necks (after being strangled) and skinned. Still, if you are prepared to eat cows and cute lambs or horses, why not dog? (I’m vegetarian so don’t actually indulge myself..)
What strange foods did you eat in Belize? And what did you do about vet care for Cookie when you were in Belize?
The Blonde Duck says
We had a terrible time trying to find a vet for the Babies. The first one I went to overcharged us terribly and told me Bitty needed doggie braces! It was ridiculous!
Tomorrow we will take these goofy lambs to the vet for shots and neutering etc. The vet will think we are nuts, but while we wait she will serve us a latte. So who is the nut?
Wow, the contrast is just mindblowing…
When we lived in Peru almost 20 years ago, we could not buy dog food for our dog, so we fed it homemade dog food (from discarded parts of the cow and rice) and sweet potatoes because they were cheap. The dog was fine.
In Paraguay their are so many emaciated ill dogs running around, but no one does anything about it. I never understood it. When we asked, people always told us it was someone elses responsibility, but we never knew who that “someone else” was.
There HAS to be a happy medium between what we do in the west and what is done in developing countries.
Jungle Mom says
All too familiar.
I should mention that in one of the tribes in the jungle, the hunting dogs were a prized and cherished possession, of value equal to and perhaps greater than the wife. If the dog needed food and there was none, a nursing woman would be made to nurse the dog. I have seen this done.
Not a comfortable thing to watch when a small infant is crying for food!
June Saville says
Hi SONIA – good to make your acquaintance. I agree that you’d like Australia – just about anyone would – simply because it is a land of contrasts, and we are more egalitaian than most (although certainly not perfect).
However, vets are expensive in our terms, although I have yet to see one quite as outrageous as the ones you describe.
Your post is certainly one of contrasts – fascinating.
Hey – have you looked at my writing blog Journeys in Creative Writing? I’ve just finished posting a full length mystery novel set in the Australian outback and Sydney. There are short stories and a sprinkling of poetry as well, if that’s more your bent …
I’d really appreciate some feedback.
June in Oz
Such extremes! Wowsers!
Little Me says
I lived in Paris for a good long time and in certain Parisian classes little dogs are given treatments I could not afford to give myself. The beauty salons are numerous and expensive. However, a few years ago I heard of a dog bakery being opened, by an American woman in fact, but I will have to google the details. It must have been a good 5 years ago. I wonder if she was a success.
Vets in France are expensive, but less so than in the UK. I am blessed with an excellent vet in my village – who gives us discounts for having two cats. I don’t mind paying for vets because of the ezxtensive training they have (at least here they do). What other doctors are capable of all types of medecine and operations on cats, dogs, parrots, cows and snakes? (To name but a few).
Traditionally calling a human as a dog is an insult, mainly in Arab countries but here too.
But today more and more dogs are bought as guardians or pets.
Some of the people do not realize what it means to have a dog: commitment as long as the dog lives.
Our neighbours had 2 dogs but now they’re gone. They didn’t have time to take care of them so the dogs were barking most of the time.
They still have 2 parrots in a cage which is absolutely too small and they don’t have enough stimulus.
Couple of weeks ago I saw a tiny monkey in a cage, again the cage too small.
I don’t understand why we humans want to put animals into cages to suffer.
I guess it’s the same all over the world, here too, rich are richer and poor are and will be poor.
An animal is an animal. It doesn’t understand if his food is beautifully decorated or not.
We humans are really stupid and selfish!
Ann Victor says
A DOG BAKERY!!!Now I’ve heard everything!! My cats better not hear about this otherwise…
My felines’ vet is brilliant and ridicously cheap, although I can’t say the same for teh special Hills Vet diet food that Josephine is on (and refuses to eat!)
Jill Kemerer says
This post really touched me. I spent three weeks in Guadalajara, Mexico when I was a teenager. I remember driving outside of the city and seeing things you just described. It’s still vivid in my imagination.
(I have to comment on the writing–this spoke to me. You clearly “showed” me the contrast between our wealth and others’ lack of, without preaching. Thanks for the fantastic writing!)
As I was filling out two pages of cat adoption forms and promising to never ever let kitty go outside, I had to wonder about all the children who need homes. I think priorities are sadly misplaced.
Love your writing!
I read the ‘about me’ info on your blog by chance and it’s hard to explain to you why, but I’m pleased for you. It seems a million miles away from my life and … It was good to read. Thank you.
Miss Footloose says
Dog bakeries! Amazing. The contrast between poor and rich, it often shows in unexpected ways, doesn’t it?
What bothered me sometimes was going out to eat in a nice restaurant in whatever country we were staying, have a meal, a glass of wine, and spend 40 bucks or so and then feel guilty because 40 dollars would feed a local family of four for a month … and here we were just spending it on one meal because we felt like eating out.
I am in the US for now, and what really bothers me is people complaining about how expensive things are.
I don’t know what “outrageously expensive” is when it comes to vets. Last time I took our dog for a check up, it cost about Cdn$50.00. Our dog got a though checkup and a couple of treatments to clear up some minor things (all part of the basic charge). We worked hard to keep our dogs healthy, so about once a year was as often as they needed to go; $50. a year isn’t bad.
Too bad kids in Belize can’t be looked after for $50 per year, for food. Or even kids in the U.S., for health care.
I don’t know how I would manage living in places of truly grinding poverty. My stomach gets upset just thinking about it.
A Broad Abroad says
Hi Sonia. Yes, I agree with you. Vets today are trying to compete with human doctors. The difference is the M.D. fees get pared down by Medicare, but the vets get exactly what they bill, so I think they’re doing mucho better!
Living in Iran in the 70s, I found that dogs were more or less despised. If a dog was encountered on a walk, the person would 1) pick up a rock and toss it at the dog; 2) kick the dog if close enough; 3) all of the above, with some calling down curses on the dogs and their ancestors thrown in for good measure. However, the dogs learned to give the people a wide birth, crossing the street (in congested traffic) to bypass the confrontation.
However, when I lived in Thailand in the 90s, I noted that dogs were basically ignored; maybe a slight shooing motion of the hand, or stepping over them, but no overt meanness. Actually, the dogs seemed as kick-back as the Thais. Buddha preached acceptance and the dogs as well as the Thais seemed accepting of their lot. But, throw in the equation that Buddha said if you were bad, you could return as a dog. That might have had something to do with the Thais acceptance. Maybe they saw a few ancestors running amok in the streets.
However, in both countries the dogs were mangy, hungry and flea-ridden. Very sad.