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How a Little Puppy Almost Eliminated Culture Shock in Ecuador

Posted in: Expats in Ecuador, Living in Ecuador, Our Perspective, Traveling Kids

In this post, I’ll share how we helped our daughter deal with culture shock when we moved to Ecuador.

Puppy Almost Eliminated Culture Shock

Moving abroad is a pretty big undertaking. It’s exciting, exhilarating, fascinating and challenging. We have really enjoyed the experience. Our emotions have run the whole gamut of what would be expected to what just can’t be anticipated.

When moving abroad with children in tow it’s even more difficult to foresee what challenges they will experience emotionally, and how these things will be exhibited.

We expected that our daughter would miss her friends and family, our old house and her old things. What we didn’t anticipate, was the effect that that not being able to communicate would have on her.

Update: Check out my new book about moving abroad as a family. The Happy Expat Family

What Our Daughter Needed When We Moved to Ecuador

Our daughter has always had a need for never-ending input. When this need was no longer being fulfilled in the language area it caused her body to go into hyperdrive. It was hard to calm her down when we were out, and when we got home she was extra active and emotional.

She didn’t understand what was wrong, but it didn’t take us long to figure it out. We realized we had to do something to help her adjust.

Something to take the place of what she was not getting mentally, until she got used to not understanding, and could start to decipher the new language she was hearing.

More reading: Why Culture Shock is Good for You

Before we made our move we talked about the many positive changes this move would mean for our family. Like having more time together, learning a new language, experiencing a new culture and possibly getting a dog.

Well this last one was her favorite, and helped her see the move in a positive way. We told her that we would need at least a year in Ecuador before we would get a dog, and she was fine with this. We were wrong.

We Lasted One Month…

We decided to get a puppy after just one month. We were hoping that it would be what she needed to take her extra energy and emotion, we were right.

She was on top of the world; the puppy took all of her attention. She was so happy she forgot about the frustration churning inside her.

Bringing Chica home in a box

Chica, a fuzzy soft white ball of warm energy made it all better. The extra work was welcome when we saw the huge difference this new little member of our family was making.

Who knew our daughters new best friend (and the most powerful help to her in adjusting) could be had for 30 dollars at the local market?

avoiding culture shock in Ecuador

We’ve been here for over a year now and things are calm and normal (most of the time). But this experience has taught us a good lesson in being flexible.

For the first six or seven months when I would see that things were getting to be a little too much, I would just say “this is a vacation day” and we would go to the city for the day, or play games and watch movies (in English) all day.

Here’s how I litter trained our dog, Chica.

Being flexible (and getting the dog) made adjusting bearable for our 8 year old. And she still thanks me almost every day for her very powerful pooch.

Our Daughters Thoughts (The Joys of Having a Pet)

There are many wonderful experiences of pet owning. But there are also many drawbacks. Some of the joys are playing with it, brushing it, washing it, just to mention a few.

But there is also work involved. You have to feed it, water it, and pick up after it. Having a pet can be compared to having a sibling – especially if it’s a dog, or cat. You can play with a sibling, but you also have to help take care of him or her.

Here in Ecuador, there are many kinds of pets. You can get a rabbit, a dog, a cat, a bird, a few fish or even a pig. Here there is sometimes more involved in taking care of an animal. You have to give it parasite medication every few months, as well as flea medication. At least that would be a good thing to do.

As you can see in this picture, I was playing with Chica by covering her in a blanket, it was very fun!

And in the other picture is an example of what she does very frequently, put her toy in dad’s shoes. It is very funny, and a little annoying.

chica-panting-blanket chica-ball-shoes

If you come here, you should be prepared to see different treating of animals. Not everyone, but some people don’t treat animals like they do in Canada and the USA.

They may pick a dog (or cat) up by one paw and swing them on to their lap. They do like the animals, but they just treat them a little differently.

I hope that if you get to relocate to Ecuador, you will be able to get a super puppy like mine!

Thank you for reading.

Your Turn

Are you planning on getting (or bringing) a pet when you move?

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Meet the Author

Dena Haines is co-editor of GringosAbroad - Ecuador's largest blog for expats and travelers. She is a travel blogger and content marketer. She is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Travel.

10 comments… add one
  • Jamie Kite May 19, 2014, 10:29 pm

    Hey, just doing a little research on culture shock (I’ve been in Ecuador 7 months and have only just clued in that I have it) and stumbled across your post.
    I heartily agree that getting a pet is a fantastic thing to alleviate some of the frustration and isolation of adjusting to a new culture, for grownups too! I got a cat a few months after settling in, and he’s been so comforting to have around. Not to mention great pest control 😀

    Also a big fan of taking vacation days. It’s hard to anticipate the toll that adjusting can take on your energy, even several months or years down the road, but it’s important to pay attention and take care of it. And to keep happy 🙂
    Hope all continues to be well and you guys are still enjoying your adorable mascota. Would love to do a guest post one day 😉


    • Bryan Haines May 20, 2014, 8:58 pm

      It has been almost five years since we bought the puppy and “Chica” is now (almost) a full member of the family. The dog really helped with culture shock but she also gives something familiar and positive for our daughter.

  • Vanessa Nov 23, 2012, 6:45 am

    I hope this doesn’t kill the allure of our site but the posts are sedchuled to publish by date and time. But we like the 6AM publish so that everyone gets a chance to read before they starts if they like.

  • SHEILA MCCAHEY Aug 1, 2012, 9:43 am

    I admire your persistence in litter training your dog. But as a dog owner and dog lover, I’m appalled at your resistance to taking the dog out – dogs need exercise or health problems can ensue!! If he “goes” when he’s out, so be it. It’s no big deal to pick up after him – there’s no need for embarrassment. In fact, you would be setting a good exmple for others.

  • Evangeline Pratt Jul 4, 2011, 6:07 pm

    Hello Dena,

    We are a family of five, having just moved to Cuenca last wednesday. I have two girls who will be 9 in August and a ten month old baby. My girls are very active and sociable and have been trying to make friends with the kids in the neighborhood, but it’s been a little challenging since right now their Spanish is limited to “Como estas, me llammo ________?” It seems you guys are busy, but I was wondering if you had the time/interest in getting together with the kids for lunch or something?

    Looking forward to your reply,


  • Jason Oct 15, 2010, 10:46 am


    How is your daughter doing with Spanish? Are you speaking Spanish words at home. I would love to hear more about the element of your experience in Ecuador.


    Jason Murphy

    • Dena Haines Oct 19, 2010, 9:01 am

      Hi Jason,

      Thanks for your question. Drew is doing really well with the language. I just posted a blog about her schooling and progress that you might find interesting. Schooling our Daughter in Ecuador

      Thanks again,

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