Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Dogs of Winter 11/19/08

The Dogs of Winter 

Weather Report:
A balmy +.3 (33f)
Wind 3-10 mph

We have counted over twenty dogs in our neighborhood, not counting the two litters of puppies (2 and 4). At right are 3 of the 4 puppies in one litter that lives next to the generator used in a construction area on our way to the office. They get home under the concrete fence seen in the background of the picture at left. We have seen them often and note that the two adults with them are both females. The males seem to have other things to do.

It occurs to me that if a dog is more than a year old, it has survived a Siberian winter; brilliant don't you think? That being the case, I then reflected on how they do this. I have observed several things that contribute to their survival.

First, the garbage. There is an extraordinary amount of garbage available on the streets. In addition to the ambient refuse, most housing units don't have enough dumpsters to hold the household garbage generated daily. Our unit is an exception to this, probably because our dumpsters are located right on the street while those in the clustered housing areas are well off the main thoroughfares. We have walked to the 3rd branch building, where the baptistery is located and observed piles of plastic garbage bags as high as my head. I don't know if they get collected when the garbage truck comes by with it's hydraulic arms to grab the 1-meter by 1-meter dumpsters and dump them into a modern truck. Ours are located just to the right of the tree in this picture.

Well, not to get carried away with the garbage, but just to say that there is plenty of food for a creative canine. Many's the morning that I go to the dumpster to drop my load and discover one of the locals sitting in it having breakfast.

In addition, we have the "dog man" and "dog lady" that I see frequently dropping what I suppose is table scraps in the same place each day to the joy of the local street population. The wag their tails and prance around like any other pet about to be fed. I have seen the flock of dogs grow to 15 or more, waiting for "dog man" to empty his little bag.

OK, food is not a problem; how about the cold? Yesterday we noticed that the center of our "forest" (between our driveway and the street), where this tree stands snow-clad, there is no snow on the ground. None! Looking up and down the block in a line there is no snow as far as you can see. That means HEAT. Then I saw a dog curled up on a "man-hole-cover" and it flashed on me. The hot water that heats our building comes from a central heating unit and travels underground to our building, among others. There is a well of heated ground over those pipes and it heats the utility covers; a nice warm place to sleep.

I asked a local where these dogs come from and the answer was simple. All of these new apartment buildings are standing on ground previously occupied by small homes, each with pets. The birds could fly away, but the dogs became feral and have reproduced themselves into large packs that roam the streets at night, barking, and keeping the likes of me plotting how to demise them. Of course it is an idle thought, but satisfying at times.

Novosibirsk, at least in my neighborhood, could use a spay and neuter program. Otherwise, these creative and stubborn dogs will outnumber the people in not too many years.

What a country.

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