. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dog Dreams in the Big City

A year ago a tiny, auburn Labrador puppy appeared in my apartment. At the time, my father asked, "Won't it grow into a large doggie?" "Come on, papa," I replied. "It's a very small dog. He might grow just a bit more and that's all."


After that, I repeated this same phrase every month and papa believed me less and less as the dog became bigger and bigger. At last, he said that what he saw reminded him very little of a puppy and was rather a big healthy dog with an excellent appetite.


His final words of advice went something like this: "It's heartless to keep any kind of animal, much less a big healthy dog, in a crowded Moscow apartment."


Every time I take my Labrador for a walk, I see the same old thing. The dogs become possessed by their captivity and drag along their torturer-owners on their leashes. Since far from all Moscow regions have suitable parks or squares, the dogs make their rounds on narrow strips of grass near their houses.


In general, the dogs aren't allowed to do anything. It's forbidden to run very far, to bark loudly, to fight with other dogs as well as the owners of other dogs, and -- what's really pitiful -- it's strictly forbidden to rummage in the tempting garbage dumps in the courtyards.


And yes, I almost forgot. Cats. Cats are a nightmare in the life of any dog lover. Even with my good-hearted dog, the sight of the neighbor's impudent cat makes its hair stand on end, and its eyes become filled with blood. And the nightmare begins. My dog chases the flitting cat, I run after the dog, and behind me, cursing and threatening, follows the owner of the cat.


Usually, the finale of this race depends on who runs the fastest and who catches up to whom first. I have to admit, I am always surprised by how quickly this rather elderly woman runs and how fiercely she hates my dog and me along with it. As if it were I, and not the dog, chasing the cat.


Then there is the constant Moscow grime on the streets. As I walk my dirty dog I sometimes can't help thinking: "Should I give it a bath or just buy a new one?"


Of course, all this would be very funny if a dog's plight weren't so sad at times. All dogs resemble their owners, and if the master has problems, their charges also share these problems. Almost all breeds of dogs that end up in Russia turn into real neurotics.


Take my neighbor's Doberman. He shares an overcrowded apartment with the most unfortunate of families, in which something is always lacking -- whether it be money, mutual understanding, love or common sense. And so they acquired a charming dog, who during the first few weeks managed to reconcile the mother and father and played the role of a dove in the family.


Two weeks passed before they realized that this "dove" needed to be fed, required care, attention, walks and patience. Insofar as no one in the family can provide such things to one another, never mind a dog, problems began to arise. Everyone's emotions were vented on the poor dog. He was the one who bore the guilt for wages not being paid or the car breaking down. As a result, this animal who was not guilty of anything and did not understand what was happening simply lost his mind and turned psychotic.


New Russians also relate in a certain way to their pets. As a rule, they choose their dogs according to two criteria: the fiercer and the more expensive, the better. In general, the neighbors take a dim view of their gold collars, and just one look at the dogs convinces them that these animals eat and live incomparably better than any inhabitant of the apartment building.


But enough of New Russians. I have another elderly neighbor who lives with 11 cats in her apartment. And if that weren't enough, every day she goes out on the street with an enormous pot of suspicious-looking kasha to feed all the stray cats, dogs and birds that fly by and even offers some to passers-by. Of course, only the latter turn her down, so there are always cats that look like bandits, ragged mongrels and insolent crows around the apartment.


Not long ago, I met this neighbor in the elevator and by some miracle managed to avoid my own portion of these slops.


I guess you can only go so far in showing kindness to animals. But I now understand why my father was so concerned about keeping my puppy in such a small apartment. And there's only one thing you can do if your puppy grows into the kind of strongly built retriever that mine turned into -- which is why I've come to learn more about what it is to lead a dog's life on the streets of this crowded city.