©2019 Cani&Umani di Diana Letizia e Zeina Ayache

  • Diana Letizia

A letter from Genoa to Costa Rica: dear Lya and Luna here is "my" Territorio de Zaguates

Updated: Apr 8, 2019





My dear Lya and Luna,

How was the walk today up there in Carrizal? I like to think of you while feet and paws tread the ground on that mountain in Costa Rica, as you walk together towards undefined destinations in borders invisible to the human sight in a place that does not exist until you are lucky enough to "find" it and that i “found” thanks to the opportunity you two gave me.


Territorio de Zaguates is a sanctuary where souls unite, individuals of two different species lose their name and no one, however, renounces his individuality. A place where any “canine definition” makes sense and does not have it at the same time. And all that, since that time I was there, was important for me to understand that the special relationship between men and dogs loses consistency and above all, the so human notional "arrogance" becomes useless. There’s space only for the essence of life up there, in a place where you have a real possibility of exchange without judgment, in the pure necessity - of the body and the soul - of simply living an experience as it is. In the “Land of the Strays” the mind does not command, everyone is himself and other than himself. The Territory makes everyone "zaguates": free dogs that simply live their life. Sharing - whenever they wish - every step, every rest and every puddle of water to drink together.


The Territory then, and you two know how it is, remains inside you and you remain forever on that mountain even after thousands of kilometers. Also here. In a Genoa that can be conceived as "territory" too, but of dogs that often live on a leash: yes, as a form of protection and also respect for the norms of human society in which dogs must be immersed, but almost always by humans who however have no respect for the needs of their own “friend”. A territory, that of our urban centers, "occupied" by men and women with little trust and self confidence in life in general and incapable to face their own existence and to face a real confrontation with others. Even the one they declare to love. A hard but significant step that would be fundamental even before questioning - well that happens anyway - about what individuals of another cognitive and emotional universe feel.


Living with you, Luna and Lya, in those days of March on the heights of Carrizal, I also witnessed conflicts between dogs that sometimes turned into violent fights. Among the paths and trees of the mountain I have seen hundreds of animals run behind "invisible enemies" to my eyes and to my human nose and people running back to slow down those high levels of excitement in groups of individuals who do not necessarily choose to be together. But that they still do it for the same reason - I suppose - that I also saw with free dogs in Taghazout, Morocco, which had welcomed me into their pack: that desire to be close to men which is stronger than any other motivation. Not from everyone, it is good to specify this. And yet that atavistic push remains one of the "strongest" things that I continue to observe in dogs with humans and that I found even in those days spent with you.


This text, however, has turned into a letter precisely in order not to try to define - with opinions that are often transformed into dogmas in the world of cynophilia - a part and / or the other of a relationship as complex as that between humans and dogs, full of different facets and very delicate to be analyzed also according to who lives it. And these words need readers who "feel" more than they understand what I feel. I know that I’m deeply in a big confusion over the world of ethology of dogs since I returned home. It emerged even from the luggage, together with the dirty clothes and between the photos and videos that give me just one certainty: how happy and astonished I am thanks to the shot of a life I lived that showed me how it is just simple in its complexity.


This one is a letter that basically describes my need to share these words with you two. With who is there, every day. With those who let me enter their own world with confidence and with the freedom to be able to move together: paws and feet and faces and mugs and smiles and tears. Lives, human and canine, simply and completely different but so eager to be close.


A letter that at the same time, however, helps me to begin to understand thoughts that are still badly formulated even with readers who are not only attentive and interested in finding data, information and a "professional" examination - which I believe I have not at this moment even from a journalistic view - of what happens when you are in an immense space together with over 1000 free dogs. Because my words ask, towards the readers and I thank for the patience following this so intimate flow of words, to listen to a harmony of emotions and rationality that Lya, Luna and you all to the Territory have shifted to me and that still I keep.


I found in Costa Rica a personal balance that finally allows me not to investigate more only about "why" but also about "how" and not only in terms of dogs. And this letter, finally, invites those who are reading to let themselves go in their daily life finding other keys to reading the relationship between species, and not only just to fulfill the curiosity of knowing what happens on the other side of the world, behind that blue gate that delimits the entry into the Territory after having climbed the hill above that remote village of four shops and a thousand souls.


Think about your dog, the one next to you every day. Think of the dogs of other humans you know and the emotions that exist in every relationship before expressing any judgment. And only then “go back” to Costa Rica, a country in which so many dogs on the streets live independently and happily, but where many more there are instead abused, abandoned or reduced in chain.


Finally, my words are intended only as a reference to the emotions that I am still feeling, and Lya and Luna I hope you both will forgive me if a letter, which usually has an intimate, private meaning when you choose to write it, has instead become the trick I found to make public some moments of "our history".


Before concluding, as it happens sometimes in a psychoanalytic session when the most important thing is always said in the end, I notice that I did not specify between Luna and Lya who is the human and who is the dog. At this moment, for me, it has still importance but not as much as it had before visiting the "land of strays". Because I think that both are simply just two individuals: each with a specific path, expectations, realized or not, and an experience that allows one and the other to still be able today to live the "here and now" and at the same time desire and plan a future without forgetting the past.


Because what I surely understood at the Territorio de Zaguates, despite the confusion of emotions and thoughts that clearly emerges from this writing, is that you can be a dog or a human being, but what matters is that everyone is unique in the world. And this is an intrinsic "characteristic" that both species have.



This letter and the video is addressed to Lya and Luna. Before Costa Rica, however, there were and still are people and dogs who supported me and pushed me to discover this "new world". My gratitude goes to them and to the dogs that “walk” with them. In particular to Valentina Biedi and Daniela Grassi of the Cynophily Relationship Center between Humans and Dog “B Dog” in Genova and to all the people and dogs I met in Taghazout, Morocco.

For those who want to get an idea in purely journalistic terms of what the Sanctuary is, its history and how it is managed, then there will be a reportage like the one dedicated to the free dogs of Taghazout.


Italian version available here | qui in italiano

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