There are many experiences to be found in Peru for even the most seasoned and cynical amongst us, food poisoning being undoubtedly my most visceral and recurrent.
While Machu Pichu steals all the column inches in every tourists guide-book there is to be found lurking in certain markets and Inca temples a treat of the animal kingdom rarely praised or recognised for its brilliance….the Peruvian hairless dog!
Your intrepid reporters initial encounter with this fascinating gem of the canine world happened by chance on a tour of Lima’s downtown animal market. There was I, ignoring scents and sights of dubious origins, gazing into cages, tanks and all manner of containers, when there before me, paws to the glass, was a vision of evolution at its finest.
Devoid of hair other than a gingerish protuberance on the skull and another dash on the tail, the Peruvian hairless dog, cuts a striking figure. Older animals have their skin tanned in the thrashing sun to a wonderful dark hue.
The temperament of the older animals can appear to be a tad aggressive – expect enthusiastic barking, howling and occasional showing of teeth when you approach but fear not this is merely a preamble to an imminent warm reception. Once tamed this breed shows itself to be a companion of exceptional intelligence – perhaps key to its longevity – depictions of the hairless dog date back to 750 AD.
As always the addition of a harness, some intensive training and a cigar of your choice is strongly recommended if one was to consider ownership of such a fine animal.
So by now you should have chosen your desired colour and make of harness and broached the task of introducing your cat to the fitting of said harness. Now for the great outdoors.
I would recommend identifying a nearby area of suitable tranquility – for those lucky enough to have a garden then this is perfect, for urban flat based dwellers even a quiet patch of pavement or even a corridor will do. Some cats will take to this new experience better than others – welcome distractions in the shape of pigeons, trees and natural foliage of surrounding hedges or walls will provide much needed reassurance to your feline companion.
Initially let your cat walk you – don’t give them too much freedom on the leash – especially if busy streets are in close proximity. Be aware of your surroundings – loud noises, dogs and all kinds of abstract interferences may startle and scare even though most streetwise and bold cat. Speak to your cat – any level of chatter is positively encouraged for beginner and seasoned pro alike. Talking is comforting and helps to build a rapport with your pet – don’t be fooled – they can understand even the subtlest forms of communication and will be increasingly looking to you, their owner for encouragement and direction on your walks together.
Patience is a virtue – remember this at all times on your first voyages together – your cat may demonstrate a total apathy at your carefully purchased harness in all its finery and splendor, dont harbour ill feelings over this slight, accept that they will gradually grow to admire your foresight of such pursuits. Patience is also key in the inevitable sniffing and glancing around that may take up a large amount of these early excursions. Learn to use this time for inner reflection, channel your inclination to tug that leash into a mediation on Tulip Mania in the Dutch Golden Age or something equally stimulating.
To some the idea of walking your cat on a leash is preposterous but to the curious and engaged it is a pastime of kings! The key is to start when they are of the age where resistance is futile – the younger the kitten the easier the pupil to this fine art. If the cat in question is of advanced years then this is not the reason to despair – a battle of wills may scupper early attempts but persevere.
Begin with selecting a harness of suitable size – with room to grow. Don’t be seduced by the ease of just using a collar and lead – this will fail you at first road test. I have found the Puppia (dog) harness the best in breed for the job and they come in a variety of colours. Camouflage adds a certain urban chic I’m sure you will agree?
Most cats will struggle on first introduction to a harness, but be strong, this is to be expected. Ensure the leash is firmly held without too much slack, beckon your cat by any means at your disposal and being to walk. If they follow then you have a natural.