Monty was a street puppy, rescued by a woman who had recently lost her dog. When she found him, Monty was so malnourished that he couldn’t even walk. Unfortunately, this woman couldn’t keep him long and after a few days of nursing Monty back to health she gave him to her friend, Juani, a researcher at the Andean Cat Alliance.(AGA) who was looking to adopt a dog. It was the AGA crew who actually named him Monty, after Charles Montgomery Burns, Homer Simpson’s boss on The Simpsons (they’re both so skinny that you can see their bones.)
The first few months with Monty were difficult. He was so shy that he hardly emerged from hiding under a table, even to eat. Despite lots of love and care, one day Monty took off on his own and no one knew where he went. It took over two and a half months of searching before they managed to find him again, only to discover that he had gained 22 pounds. He still had his old collar on, though it was now far too tight. It turns out that a kind lady had been feeding him every day, though he never allowed her to approach too closely. Still, the woman waited to see Monty eat, making sure that he always finished his meals.
Not wanting him to run away again, Juani and the AGA team stopped leaving Monty alone at home and began taking him with them on their outings to the field. It turns out that Monty is an expert travel companion; quiet and well behaved in the car, always curling up in the back of the van and not moving until the van actually stops. Once they’re in the camp, Monty is similarly well behaved; he sleeps in a tent at night and keeps the evening guard company, though he isn’t very fond of the cold. He also loves to climb and chase after animals he sees, but he always comes back when he’s called.
Monty has to carry his own weight—he doesn’t get off easy just because he’s a dog. He has saddlebags to carry his own supplies, and sometimes lends a paw to help carry other gear as well; he can fit food, water, and camera batteries in his little bags. He’s also a real lifesaver. Once, Juani found himself lost, over three miles from camp and in the dead of night. Luckily, Monty knew the way, safely guiding Junai back to camp through the darkness.
Monty has also found Andean cats before! Once, going with Monty to the top of a hill to watch the sunset, Juani caught him staring at something, and when he went to go see, he discovered an Andean cat. It was only a couple of seconds, but the experience was wonderful, as sightings of the cat are so rare.
Monty’s not alone, dogs are often an important part of the conservation team. Do you have a story about a dog you work with? Share it with us on Facebook!