Autumn 2015 – I was walking Bonnie, my tiny four-pawed daughter, when we saw a dog on the brink of starvation in one of the courtyards not too far from my home. She was, beyond doubt, one of the worst cases that I have ever seen. Her bones were showing, you could count every rib and every bone of her back. She was a nursing mum.
I saw her some days before, heavily pregnant, begging the passersby for food. Unfortunately, when it comes to wondering strays – not the usual residents of your Chisinau neighborhood – there’s rarely a chance for you to actually feed the dog. Sometimes you don’t have the money, sometimes there’s no supermarket or butcher’s nearby, sometimes they just run off before you can return with a juicy bone…
Longie, as we later called her, stopped and stared at us. I took Bonnie in my arms and sat down. The stray approached me and put her head on my lap. Stroke me please…
The next day we went out searching for the litter, there weren’t that many places to hide and the pups simply had to be nearby. Two days later, we found them hidden beneath central heating pipes. You had to get through some heavy undergrowth in a secluded spot where nobody really walked. This is what saved both her and the pups, 5 beautiful furry babies, who were all adopted.
This winter I almost cried when I saw she was alive after almost a month-long absence. She’s no longer a skeletal creature, because Longie has character and skill. She knows where to get food, who could give it to her and she’s not below taking the food away from more timid dogs. She also is quite crazy and loves running around in circles.
Red is one of the offsprings of a cat that lived near a huge supermarket just across the street. Sometimes, there’s Red the First. Sometimes he’s joined by Red the Second (a brother). One is fatter than the other, he also is cross-eyed. Both were grew up on those steps.
Chisinau is home to thousands of stray cats and I would refrain from giving even a modest estimate of their numbers. There are two colonies of cats that I can see from the windows of my apartment block. While one slowly dwindled to some 4-5 mostly feral cats, the other one amounts to at least 15. There is a third colony living in a courtyard where the pups from #straysofmoldova Part 3 used to live and one more a bit further down from there. Even the most modest estimate would amount to at least 50 homeless felines (most likely the number is closer to 80-90) in the space of a bit more than one square km.
The situation in other parts of Chisinau is even more dire. Why are the numbers so high? Unfortunately, as it stands with dogs, cats do not benefit from any legal protection and breeding is absolutely unsupervised. Cats end up in the streets because numerous carless and uneducated owners prefer not to neuter their supposedly beloved pets because that is against nature.
What happens very often is that cats are left to roam the streets during the day and come in for the night. Knowing the extremely large numbers of both male and female cats that have not been sprayed and neutered, such carelessness leaves a regular increase in stray cat population…
Oftentimes, cats get thrown out for misbehavior, for instance a fairly recent Facebook post by a cat owner comes to mind. The man in question was looking for a new home for his young cat because he was misbehaving. The man wrote on Facebook that he’d put the animal down if a new home will not be found…
Aside from it all, the stray dogs which used to roam the streets of our neighborhood and many other neighborhoods around Chisinau get routinely poisoned. Thus, stray cats are left without any natural predators (aside from humans of course) and cold and hunger become their primary concerns
These are a few of the many reasons behind this drastic situation.
Back in the Soviet days, most of the neighborhoods had playgrounds that could put modern equivalents to shame. The remnants of the former cult of sport remain scattered around Chisinau courtyards. This particular courtyard – a two minute walk from my apartment block – had table tennis tables made of solid concrete. These days these weathered and worn things hardly remind of their former purpose…
This is one of the five pups that were born under one such table. I’ve noticed them by pure chance, when I took an unexpected detour on my way from the gym. Only two male and one female pup remained at that point. The mum would sometimes be present too, although she was mostly out scavenging for food.
The female pup, as I was told, was once thrown into one of those huge garbage bins used by the nearby houses. The one that threw her was a kid. At one point – after the original incident – she could not walk at all, once again falling victim to abuse.
About two weeks later, all three of the pups were found with a broken neck. Almost at the same time, one of the local street cats was found with her head smashed in. The witnesses have once again named a child as the murderer. Nobody was ever punished.
The mother of the three pups was still alive in Autumn 2016.
Tubochka, or the Nightstand, lived at Dinamo stadium in the center of Chisinau. Was she well-fed or just sick and overweight? I wouldn’t really know, but her short, stocky and angular body earned Tumbochka her peculiar nickname.
What I do know is that Nightstand was a victim of abuse. First time I saw her, she ran away, even though I wasn’t even trying to approach her to make our acquaintance. Strangers terrified her. Strangers 10 meters away made her run and hide somewhere under the stands. A gentle talk from a distance would make her wag her tail, but an attempt to approach would make her flee.
A few months after our meeting, she finally allowed me to pet her and give her food, even though she’d flinch and run at the slightest movement.