I took the path up the mountain directly behind Banos. At the lookout point halfway up, a little girl and her brother played outside the restaurant. They had shoved a white plastic tub under a small brindled bitch. The boy cupped the dog’s chin—he was about two—and the girl pulled rhythmically on its stubby teats. The dog’s eyes were closed, its head back in pleasure.
‘Hello,’ I said, ‘what are your names?’
‘Sheer-lay. My brother is Darwin. I am nearly four.’ She didn’t pause with her task.
Shirley. Ecuadorians delight in exotic names, and the harder they are to pronounce in Spanish, the more they like them.
‘And what are you doing, Shirley?’
‘I’m milking the dog,’ she said, as if I were a perfect fool. Why, milking the dog, of course.
‘Are you getting any milk?’
‘Yes, of course. The milk is going into the bucket here, and then we’re going to take it to the dairy on the mule, and then we’re going to make butter. Look, here’s the milk.’ She made squirting sounds. The bucket was dry. The little bitch rumbled with pleasure.
‘Milk! Milk! Milk! Dog milk!’ said Darwin, and danced.
On my way back down, I passed them again, this time with their parents. Shirley was swinging her bucket.
‘Hi Shirley, how’s the little milkmaid?’ Her parents looked startled.