Imagine a puppy whose fur felt like the softest of plush toys. A puppy that also happened to look remarkably like a wolf cub. That’s her. Sausage, as she was known to local kids.
Sausage was ran over by a car some 30 cm from the sidewalk. The driver did not bother to stop, she lay on the road hours after the incident.
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.
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.
This can hardly be called a personal project, but I suppose, in a sense it became one.
You see, I’m one of those people that says hello to dogs. Any dogs. Stray dogs, pets… While I was still employed, on the weekends I’d go out to buy bones for the stray dogs that lived scattered around our Chisinau neighborhood. My mum once called me “a dog mummy”, even though I am by far doing much, much less than a lot of people I know or know of by animal protection groups.
The animals that I have managed to capture on my iPhone camera… most of them are already dead. I wish I could say they found a safe home and a loving family, but the harsh reality of the street life in Chisinau doesn’t leave me optimistic. Especially knowing that whole groups of my furry friends disappeared at the same time.