On March 8th I arrived home from a capacity building course and found both Pastora and Lua, the breeding Protective Guard Dog females, in heat. We already decided to give Pastora a rest this year so I focused in making all arrangements to take Lua to Urco, the breeding male that last year produced a beautiful, strong offspring. At this point in time, COVID-19 was just starting to show how truly dangerous it was, and news from the crisis in Italy were all over the news in Argentina.

The first thing that I found out was that Urco´s owners were not around, so after several phone calls we arranged to provide all medical care for him to prepare him for his reunion with Lua. Meanwhile, the situation at home with two dogs in heat and hormones through the roof was not easy, they were getting aggressive between each other and with my own dogs. To make things easier I began taking Lua to Urco´s house, a farm two miles away from my home just out of town. The dogs got along really well, playing all the time while I was watching them. The house was empty, except for Norma, the caretaker of the house that went every day. In the meantime, several positive COVID-19 cases started appearing all over the country, mainly from people who were returning to Argentina from overseas after summer holidays. The Government was in complete shock. The National Health Minister said “we thought it was going to get here later”, showing how unprepared we were for this pandemic, and they started improvising ways to reduce contagion. The initial recommendation on March 16th was to “shelter in place” and it came with the closure of schools. So, at that point I started taking Lua to Urco´s house with my 3-years-old Noa, who was really happy thinking that Lua was going to have puppies.

Several days went by and the dogs kept playing, playing and playing…. I couldn’t stay all day to watch them but according to Norma there was no action to be seen. On March 20th a mandatory quarantine was decreed in Argentina, with deployment of policemen and military forces in accesses to small towns like the one we live in. With Norma, who was really involved in this dog soap opera, we devised creative plans to get them together, but the dogs just kept playing! I was getting concerned that the heat was going to pass, and even when everybody told me that at that particular moment it was not a huge concern, it was for me, and for all the producers in the field that are anxiously expecting a Protective Guard Dog to help them reduce the problems they have with pumas.

On March 23rd I got a message from Norma telling me that the dogs had finally scored a home run and she was as happy as I was! The next day I did not take Lua to Urco´s because Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) vet recommended her to rest, and the day after that they started to fight so I took her home. With the quarantine still in place, we can´t do an echography to Lua to confirm that she is pregnant but we are keeping our fingers crossed, expecting that despite the pandemic love has found its way and in a few more weeks we may have a new litter of puppies.

Dr. María José “Maco” Bolgeri

Conflict Mitigation Program Argentinean Field Coordinator