Chasing After Duque

Ken Foster
10 min readFeb 18, 2020

My love for a Costa Rican strays led me to two women: one who ran a dog sanctuary on her farm, the other who initiated a spay/neuter movement.

Note: I wrote this in 2006, after returning to Costa Rica since my first visit there in 2000. I was struck by the many advances that had occurred since I had fallen in love with the strays there and becoming, unexpectedly, a dog person. Obviously, many more advances have occurred since then. On a more recent visit to Cuba, I was impressed by a one-stitch spay that was being used for stray dogs there. It reminded me of the spay/neuter work that was being done more than a decade ago in Costa Rica using a small incision — something that is, mysteriously, still unheard of in the United States. The text of my original essay follows.

A Costa Rican dog waits patiently behind a gate.

In the year 2000, I lived in Costa Rica for three months and fell in love with the dogs. There were many visitors to the farm during my stay there, and everyone knew about me and my love for Duque, who, like most dogs in Central America, didn’t really belong to anyone.

Dogs don’t last long in Costa Rica, particularly in the countryside, where, even if they are owned, they are allowed to run free, down the unpaved winding rock roads and into the villages, where they hang out on corners waiting for food. In Ciudad Colón, at the one restaurant in town, they would wander in and sit in groups around each table, or, if I was there, climb directly into my lap.Duque lived at the top of the hill, on the farm where I stayed in a small apartment, and he joined me every day for an afternoon nap and then returned each evening to guard my door. Sometimes we would play tug of war with a sock and then race one another up the damp, mossy, tiled road to the very top of the mountain.When it was time to leave, I made plans to take Duque with me, but the airline refused to transport animals, so I left him behind with a group of villagers who had made it clear that they thought he belonged with them.

I knew he wouldn’t be there when I returned, and that probably had something to do with the length of time it took me to go back.

When I finally did return six years later, I promised myself that I wouldn’t expect to see him running up the tiled drive, or burying dog biscuits beneath the bamboo outside my door. And I knew not to ask after him with…

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Ken Foster

Author of fiction and non-fiction; dog guy; bad boxer. New book, City of Dogs, is just out now from Avery/Penguin.