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On Dogs and Men

In this article series, our local reporter Anvar puts a humorous spin on his musings and views on the daily lives of expats and locals in Kazakhstan's former capital Almaty (and beyond).

You have probably heard these recent touchy-feely stories of a U.S. Olympic athlete saving stray dogs in Sochi. Another brazen example of a vicious global trend that not only undermines local animal control industry but poses a great threat to pedigree dog-breeding business worldwide. Unfortunately, Almaty, Kazakhstan, is not an exception.

There are not too many foreigners walking their dogs in Almaty, but when you see one, there is a good chance that the dog was adopted in Almaty either on the street or through a number of organizations such as Kazakhstan Animal Rescue and Education or  “Now, what is wrong with these foreigners?” one would reasonably ask. “Get a real dog!”

For the majority of dog lovers in Almaty a dog has always rightfully been one of the critical status symbols. I mean, how can one support his/her self-importance with a stray dog? That is ridiculous. No pedigree to be proud of. No easily recognizable appearance to demonstrate. Also, you can't dock their ears or tails without making them look stupid! They are made by nature. By the way, some vets in Almaty can even speak English although most foreigners with pets only need to see vets to get papers because they take good care of their pets.      

In Almaty we have a lot of different dog shows normally taking place during spring and summer. Can you imagine a respectable dog show - the only legitimate reason for owning a dog - that would allow a mongrel, let alone a stray dog to participate? Pedigree dogs would laugh at a mutt showing up at the dog show. Dogs can laugh, believe me.

That is so not cool. I mean, you save for years to be able to afford some purebred Franburg Schnitzel Terrier delivered to Almaty by air directly from a castle somewhere in Europe complete with a hundred-page pedigree. You give him a glorious meaningful name. Something like Pompeus Augustus Caesar the Third would do. And you feel like an aristocrat. And then you see some foreigner with a dog that was found on the street.    

The worst thing is that all of these expat ex-street dogs in Almaty are always happy and excited and friendly and well-groomed and fit and healthy just like most expats themselves are. Obviously, they would be reluctant to take part in dog fights which are by the way very popular here. Every local knows where these take place.

I truly think that local dogs and expat dogs are unable to effectively communicate with each other. The two would probably need a translator dog to help them out. I wonder where you can get one.

Think of how lucky a dog might get. Imagine a puppy born into a homeless stray dog family in a developing country with an acute continental climate. The outlook for the puppy’s future is not very bright. Constant starvation, exposure to severe climate conditions, ruthless dog-catchers, and crazy careless drivers are only few of the hardships that an average stray dog in Almaty faces on a daily basis. And then a miracle happens. A dog gets adopted by a foreigner. Life changes dramatically. Abundant nutrition, healthy lifestyle with regular walks and games, nice warm apartment or even a house in a safe neighborhood, fancy dog clothes in some instances, and the loving and caring attitude of the masters, because they probably watch Cesar Milan’s TV show on Animal Planet. In my view, something like that happening to a stray dog is like for a westerner to be suddenly freed from any taxes for the rest of his/her life. Not too shabby.

Some foreigners even come to Kazakhstan with their dogs. Anyway, they end up adopting a couple of local dogs. If you are planning to bring your dog with you to Kazakhstan, see the pages of the embassy of Kazakhstan in New York for all necessary information. Every decent vet in Almaty can consult a foreigner on procedures related to taking their pets with them back home. 

And while we’re at it, if we lived on a dog planet, would people who live in Almaty be called Almatians…? I’m sure Alsatians or Dalmatians wouldn’t mind.


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