Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The dogs in Bucharest

I've just remembered that I had to write a long overdue blog entry about the dogs of Bucharest. Bucharest is an old European city, meaning that it grew with the needs of the people, starting from a little village and becoming Romania's capital. A lot of things happened here, like the world wars. During the war a lot of pets were left homeless and ownerless and became street mutts. That created in time a large population of dogs, living in packs, having their own territory and so on and so on.

Now, fast forward to the Basescu era. This guy was so frustrated that Bucharest was not looking like most western European capitals, that he focused on transforming Bucharest, starting with what he probably saw while he was abroad. That meant getting rid of dogs and boutiques and street merchants, amongst other things. Well, I went for a small tour of Europe a while ago, and I didn't like it. All the cities were barren, like lifeless stone deserts, where you could only pay a lot of money for the smallest amount of food or walk aimlessly looking at old buildings. Basescu wanted to turn Bucharest into this.

A lot of people were for this getting rid of dogs business, while in the mean time, animal lovers were crying against it. In order to truly make a decision, one must know what the dogs of Bucharest are like. Most of them are very friendly, they let people pet them, while begging for food or attention. They are not wild animals, but liberated pets, and they act more like pets that way. Some of them, organised in packs, tend to become very territorial, defending their turf with loud barks and sometimes (when the human doesn't get it) with bites. Because of this kind of behaviour, most Bucharest dwellers agreed with the dog removal. But most dogs were having a very adapted life to the city. They had families, ways to get food that included being nice to humans as well as hunting and eating rats and, don't laugh, a culture of their own. I do say that because I have watched them behave and along with their natural instinctive behaviour and the stuff they learned during their life, they also exhibited learning and teaching abilities. I have seen mother dogs showing their pups how to grovel or how to cross the street and avoid cars.

But what does this say about us? That we want to destroy what we fear and don't understand. Even the more aggressive dog packs would not attack a human that doesn't provoke them and that faces them. A simple trick like walking backwards (and not trying to show the human superiority by kicking dogs or by throwing stones at them) would have left even a 20 dog strong pack barking, but not biting. And this kind of aggressive dog behaviour can be immediately fixed in each particular case. No, instead we chose to "nuke" the dogs, making us worse than the most bite happy mutt pack out there.

No dogs means also no life on the streets, no puppies except the ones in pet shops (the expensive ones that you have to buy because they have a pedigree and that get sick really easy), more rats. In some of the western countries that people like Basescu so blindly admire, dogs are being used in anger management programs in prisons. Taking care of an animal, just looking at a friendly, uncomplicated creature that craves your attention, gives us something that fights off anger and rage. We have enough rage in Bucharest, alright, but the dogs may soon be gone.


Justin said...

Its so true Siderite that no dogs can attack a man if he has not provoked him. The other day I saw a man throwing stones at a stray dog. I was so angry that I simply went to that man n just told him stop it..

Anyways, I have started a Dog Of The Week Contest! in my blog. pls visit it n check it out.

Anonymous said...

I disagree. Some dogs are violent. Every so often you even hear a story someone, usually a child being killed by a dog.

I know it was probably bad treatment by a human that caused the dog to behave like this in the first place but some dogs can and do attack unprovoked.

If a dog has been maltreated by a human in his past. What is to say that he will not attack a human in his future? And not necesarily the same person. In this case they are not safe to be on the streets.

Aside from that. Dog shit on the streets is disgusting!

Siderite said...

There are thieves and murderers that also attack and maim and kill people. We don't kill the entire human race because of it. I agree with dog catchers that come and do their job where it is needed, like with the aggressive packs I mentioned earlier, but why hurt the school dogs, the dohnut shop dogs, the block of flats dogs? Why kill the ones that truly learned to live along people? Why do we consider humans better than dogs, yet find it reasonale that only they adapt (100%) to people?

tudor said...

Smite them all. The dogs, of course...

Anonymous said...

"dog lovers" ... more likely "fundies": in 2001 they promised to organize shelters, got the money for this, then released about 2000 dogs nearby Bucharest. ["gruesome details" warning] Guess what, those dogs killed a man and eat it. [ end "gruesome details" warning"]. Only after that the culling of dogs began in earnest. Before that the stray dogs were sterilized only.

The stray dogs were not a problem in Bucharest before other fundies blackmailed (appealing to the public opinion from more "civilized" countries) the 1990 or 1991 Mayor into leaving them in the streets.

flowingly said...

"But what does this say about us? That we want to destroy what we fear and don't understand."

So true about myself. And Yourself, too, me thinks:)

Also, I totally agree with the human infractors analogy.

MZ said...

Get real. Just last summer, walking through a certain neighborhood in Southern Bucharest, I saw a small skinny dog that was sniffing a pile of rubbish on the edge of the sidewalk. I didn't do anything menacing (actually I barely noticed him) but after I walked past the dog suddenly bit me from the ankle and then run barking in a courtyard.
Several years ago as a kid I got bitten by a dog that was living for some time in the entrance hall of a block of flats near my home, right after I gave him some food.

Siderite said...

I would like a link to the information that the dogs killed a man and ate it, as I didn't hear about it and I am sure it would have been used by the administration as a reason to kill the dogs.
As for the dogs that ocasionally bite a man for apparently no reason, everybody has a bad day once in a while due to sickness, previous events, etc. The fact that one got bit (and we are talking scraped, not actually biting) twice by dogs is hardly a reason to kill them all.
The only serious bite I have is on my hand. The dog actually jumped at my throat and could have killed me, as I was only 8 years old. It was a chained dog that was taught how to kill.
And as a last note, I am no animal right activist or anything, but I like dogs and I think Bucharest is more beautiful with dogs than without. And this is what the post was about.

MZ said...

I didn't say that they should all be killed. If the inhabitants of a block of flats, caretakers of a school, owners of a doughnut shop collectively agree to keep dogs in this...informal manner they should be allowed, but they also should take every precaution needed that their dogs don't get on public domain.