We all say that ours is the best. Mine is not just the best, as they all are, she is also the most adventurous within the whole canine world!
It was in Samaipata, Bolivia where I ran into her. In fact, I did not even choose her, nor did she choose me. It was a nice Uruguayan girl, with which I coincided in time and space and who by chance found a litter of doggies in the outskirts of the town, close to the mountains. María Jesús was the name of this girl. "A male (human) is best complemented by a female (dog)”, she told me. Then she put the few two or three kilograms of dog in my arms. She could have given me any of her siblings and the story from that moment on would have been written differently. But no, she chose the black one with the two brown dots as eyebrows and whose future name would be Cocaí. These one-month old puppies were in terrible conditions. Fleas were the least.
First picture of Cocaí.
That night was Inti Raimy, the Inca New Year, the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere. Cocaí stayed at the tent, along with his brother Munaí ("Love" in Quechua), rescued by María Jesús herself. Meanwhile, we celebrated all together: travelers, locals, the Pacha Mama, all night long. The rumor that Evo Morales (Bolivian's president) was coming ended up coming true. He did not want to miss the feast of his ancestors. A party that lasted until the sun came out, the acclaimed protagonist. With the sun on the horizon the party ended with nothing new seemed to be coming. I was still unaware that a small and vulnerable being was waiting for me at my little home. Not being aware that I had a new friend, a faithful companion who would accompany me for the rest of the trip, for the rest of my life. The sun had come out for me a few hours ago. A new stage had begun: the most beautiful of my life.
I gave her a name three days later. Cocaí is actually a compound name, as a good Bolivian that she is: Coca Açaí. “Coca” comes from the leaf of the coca, the magic and powerful plant of the Andean culture; “Açaí” comes from the fruit of an Amazon jungle palm tree, full of properties and with a unique flavor (I fell in love with this fruit while living in Brazil). The combination of two powerful plants in the South American culture. Of course, from vegetables little more than the name has stayed. "I want meat," her carnivorous eyes tell me.
My idea was just deworming and give the puppy some shots, before giving her to some Bolivian family. How I was supposed to travel with a dog? Not to mention, it would only hinder me and make things more difficult (accommodation and transportation, mainly). Of course, I could not think of taking her back to Spain, because an animal had never entered my house. But if something traveling teaches you is that things usually end in a different way than you think. I believe several triggers came together to join us. 1) In Brazil I became very close to the dog (Duff!) of the house where I lived; 2) I was lacking in affection in that part of the trip, missing so much my family and friends; 3) And the most important: the weak state in which the dog was. For several days she was close to death. She really needed me. The "little bitch" was gaining my heart little by little.
My first weeks of life were tough, but life had lots of great plans for me so I fought.
We left Samaipata and started traveling together. And I began to share that wonderful adventure through South American lands with this ball of hair. And I saw that it was possible... And above all, I loved it. Every day I loved this dog a bit more and for each "give me your puppy" or "how much it is your dog" more linked to her I felt and more difficult became finding the perfect adoptive family for her. And suddenly, one day (and without even realizing it) there was no turning back: the footprints of her paws would follow the tracks of my boots wherever I went. The decision was made. It was no longer an "I am going to travel a little more with her until I find the right family", now it was a "you are coming to Madrid with me". And so I let my parents know who already knew it.
Cocaí and I crossed the jungle area of Bolivia; We entered Brazil through Rondônia, where we embarked on a river trip of more than 10 days (Porto Velho-Manaus-Tabatinga); We celebrated for a few days in the festivities of the triple border (Brazil, Peru, Colombia), then took another boat towards Iquitos; We visited the north of Peru; We entered Ecuador and toured much of this beautiful country. In total we traveled for 4 months. You can see our route in the maps of the "Traveling with dog" section, and the experiences for each country can be found in "My dog experiences".
And so I started to be a backpacking dog.
Of course, there were complications along the way, but not many and easy to solve. Sometimes we had to pay a small amount of money or just discuss a bit with the driver to get on the bus. But most of the times I had no problem getting on the bus with her in the passenger area (I did not travel with a kennel). We did not have too many problems in relation to accommodation, although it is true that most of the time we slept in the tent. Firstly, the size of Cocaí at that time, no more than 10-12 kg, made the trip easier. Secondly, in general in South America they are quite permissive with dogs (probably Chile and Brazil are the strictest in this regard). Perhaps, big cities cause more headaches, but there is always going to be someone (a hostel, a hotel, someone on the street) that welcomes you. The problems we always anticipate are nothing more than borders or invisible fears that are then softened (or even vanished many times) in practice. So you know, do not let that the fact that you have a doggy limit you at the time of your desire for adventure.
However, the hardest part was about to come... I mean returning to Spain. It turns out that not only discrimination based on nationality occurs in humans, but also in dogs. As always, if you are North American or European everything is easier. There are a number of countries that the European Union considers to be at high risk of rabies (including all the countries Cocaí had been to). For these countries they require, in addition to the standard requirements (rabies shot, external antiparasitic treatment, chip and health certificate from a veterinarian), a rabies antibody test to verify that the animal does not really have the virus. This step, besides being expensive (about $ 500), takes you a long time (about 3 months in total). The blood sample is taken at any veterinarian in the country where the animal is, but the analysis is done in a European laboratory. What are the solutions? We have two possibilities. The first one would be paying, wait for the results and then fly. The second solution, and that is what we carried out, is traveling to a “safe” country for the EU (in Latin America, to date, these are Mexico, Chile and Argentina) and fly from there. We went to Chile. That is, we undo all the way! It was a long and tiring trip, with a lot of bureaucracy and arguments, and little time out of a vehicle. But if you really want something you can do it. And we wanted and could. And you can too! Thus, we arrived in Spain and found a very different lifestyle, without the excitement of traveling but with the affection of the family and friends.
Cocaí is a happy dog at home (Madrid), loved and spoiled by all (especially by the grandparents, my parents), as well as popular in the park. I picture her with her face of "I have a lot of world on my paws" and barking her stories to her buddies. She likes the routine of feeling at home, with the comfort that this entails: sleeping in bed (or sofa), stable meal times, going out to play with her friends...
Love going for a walk...
Then Siesta time. What a hard life I have! Yes, you guessed it: my calm Bolivian character is still there.
But she also loves the adventure that travel entails, and that is why I always take her with me wherever I go. I even made her the European passport to facilitate the paperwork! After almost two years of "rest" with some trips in between, we returned to her home continent, although far from Bolivia this time, for a trip of about a year and a half. A new chapter of dog trips through Mexican, "American" and Canadian lands that was full of crazy adventures. It is clear that the story of Cocaí is still being written and there are many forests, jungles, mountains, lakes, rivers, beaches, seas, deserts, glaciers, towns, cities, human and dog friends, strange animals, food and sensations to discover. The travel dog still wants to explore the world.
Back to my origins of backpacking dog. Let´s see what beautiful places we walk through and what beautiful people (and dogs) we crossed paths with this time.