Note: this post contains graphic content, may not be suitable for all animal lovers
They are an ever-present, though often neglected facet of life in Mongolia. Most hashaas (fenced yards) have at least 1 guard dog. The purpose of this dog is to bark at intruders and potentially scare away (or attack) unwanted guests. These dogs are often large and aggressive and rarely chained-up. One of the first things that we were taught in training is how to “deal” with these dogs. Almost every dog in the country knows “JOVE”, which when yelled at a dog, sends it away. We were also advised to carry a few small rocks when outside the city to use as projectiles if a dog gets too close. (Note: we were advised to throw the rocks near the dogs, not necessarily hit it.) In our city, there are large packs (~12) of roving dogs that are homeless. They remind me of a gang and they often tussle with other roaming packs. If a dog has a collar, it is supposed to signify that it is “owned”. Some of the pack dogs have collars, but most do not. The dogs patrol the trash bins/dumping sites and eat whatever scraps they can find. Due to the harsh winter climates, only the hardy stray dogs survive. Therefore, most of the dogs are large (50lbs+), very thick, short hair, and mutts. I read that initially Tibetan Mastiffs were used in the country, but that lineage as been diluted. Spaying and neutering are very rare in smaller towns. Therefore, every year, there are many packs of puppies found around town. Many of them don't make it through the winter. We were told by the vet that the most humane way to put a dog down here is with a bullet. There is 1 vet in our town and he does not spay/neuter. For population control, semi-annually, the police department conducts a dog round-up and execution. Any stray (or perceived stray) on a particular day is gathered and shot. Unfortunately, dogs with homes are inevitably caught-up in this practice (such happened to a previous PCV here). Vaccinations are also not common, but can be obtained in UB. House dogs are VERY rare in our town; though we do know of 2 Mongolian families that have them (1 in our building and 1 is a co-worker). Also, females dogs are less desirable because they can become pregnant and black dogs are the best (according to superstition).
Ashley and I have had 2 experiences with dogs, here are their stories:
Buddy: In front of the hospital was a sick dog that Ashley saw everyday at work. She occasionally fed it. Over time, it became sicker and unable to walk. We brought Buddy home to build up his strength and get him over his illness (he was an older dog). After researching his symptoms and one of our friends talked to the Vet, we were told that he had heavy metal poisoning (fatal). His cognitive abilities became increasingly impaired (unable to balance, etc). He lived with us for about 1 week before he left (walked back to the hospital). Ashley found him dead in his old spot.
Bear: Last Sunday, I was walking home from a friends’ house when I saw a very tiny dog in the street (not the main street, but a busy enough thoroughfare). I picked him up and moved him over to in front of a neighboring building. Many people were walking past him and there were no other dogs in the area. It was below freezing and he was shivering. When I put him down, he followed me all the way back to our apartment (2 buildings away). I had seen this dog the day before near the post-office. The amazing part is that he crawled up the 3 steps into our apartment building, given his tiny size. I showed Ashley and we decided to take him in for the night, feed/water him, get approval from our landlord, and talk about it the next day. We got landlord approval and decided to keep him. The convenient part is that one of our fellow PCVs’ host family will watch him (in their hashaa) when we go out of town. They have 2 young dogs and 1 old one (all excellent dogs, very nice to people). We named him Bear (he is all black except that his nose, tail, chest, and 4 paws are tipped in white). He weighed about 1.5 lbs when he came (less than 1 kilo of potatoes). Based upon his size and appetite, we estimated that he was 4 weeks when he arrived. He is still drinking milk, but starting to eat solid food. It has been very cold the past few nights (less than 0F) and he shivers when outside for more than a few minutes, so we doubt that he could have made it more than a few more days outside. He is very cuddly and affectionate. He is becoming paper-trained and we are working on chewing. Overall, he is a good puppy and is sleeping on my lap as I type this. We don’t have a plan for the long-term and frankly, he may not be with us that long, so we are enjoying each day as it comes.