Saturday, January 23, 2010

It's A Dog's Life

Moscow’s strays sit somewhere between house pets and wolves, says Poyarkov, but are in the early stages of the shift from the domesticated back towards the wild. That said, there seems little chance of reversing this process. It is virtually impossible to domesticate a stray: many cannot stand being confined indoors. FT*

Apparently, they develop into four types: guards, beggars, the semi-socialized and the wild.  They vary in terms of where they reside, how social they are with humans and other strays, and the strategies they tend to follow to survive.

The strangest variant:
There is one special sub-group of strays that stands apart from the rest: Moscow’s metro dogs. “The metro dog appeared for the simple reason that it was permitted to enter,” says Andrei Neuronov, an author and specialist in animal behaviour and psychology, who has worked with Vladimir Putin’s black female Labrador retriever, Connie (“a very nice pup”). “This began in the late 1980s during perestroika,” he says. “When more food appeared, people began to live better and feed strays.” The dogs started by riding on overground trams and buses, where supervisors were becoming increasingly thin on the ground.
Neuronov says there are some 500 strays that live in the metro stations, especially during the colder months, but only about 20 have learned how to ride the trains.
Only 20?  I would say that is quite a great many.

The biologist studying the dogs concludes the piece with this apparently widely shared view:
“I am not at all convinced that Moscow should be left without dogs. Given a correct relationship to dogs, they definitely do clean the city. They keep the population of rats down. Why should the city be a concrete desert? Why should we do away with strays who have always lived next to us?”
 This is very different than the attitude I encountered in Bucharest.  There they had large numbers of stray dogs, so many that this seemed to be the one focus of municipal administration--killing the wild dogs until Bridget Bardot protested..  She gained much enmity in Romania as a result of her stance to protect the dogs.  It may be the case that the Romanian dogs were less social and more threatening than the Muscovite mutts.  Seems like a case ripe for comparative analysis: the politics of stray dogs in systems under transition from Communism.  I am sure there is at least one dissertation in this, if not several.

I guess it depends, in part, if you like your rats small (sans strays) or large but cuter (strays eating the rats).

*HT to PF Trumbore

1 comment:

Mrs. Spew said...

The big problem is the dog poop, which, while they keep the rats down, creates its own health hazards, since most of the poop in a city is not going back into the soil as manure. Also, a pack of semi-wild dogs can bring down a child.