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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

GROWING PAINS: Snapping Stray Sparks Neighbors' Dogfight




Last week my 4-year-old, Bobby, was bitten by a stray dog as he was running up to our stairwell door. As we all know, packs of stray dogs are an occupational hazard of bringing up kids in Moscow, and you probably have one on a street corner near you f so you might also know that there's not a lot you can do about it.


This particular specimen belongs to a pack which roams up and down our road barking at passing cars and pedestrians. But Bobby's attacker is more aggressive than the rest because he is f wait for it f fed scraps by doting babushki in our block and has therefore taken to "protecting" the stairwells from their smaller inhabitants f namely the kids.


Since my daughter Anna had also been bitten by this hound from hell I was understandably vexed to find one of the neighbors scattering bones for it around the steps by our stairwell. I asked her if she couldn't just feed the mutt up the street.


"I know what he's done to your children, I know, I know!" she said, rounding on me. "It's not his fault, it's the way you bring them up. He doesn't bite Russian children does he?"


I was too taken aback by this baffling logic to frame a suitable answer: Both of my kids are excessively dog-friendly and were trotting inoffensively past the animal at the time.


Considering that we have an unleashed and unmuzzled rottweiler in our stairwell, not to mention a huge Alsatian that leaps out of the lift twice a day barking fit to burst a blood vessel, the children are remarkably fearless.


I was determined to get rid of it, but what do you do with a dangerous stray dog? I called the militia, who told me to call the Epidemic Control Station, who gave me the number for four district "dogcatchers." One was now a pharmacy, another a tailor's shop, the third a "firm" and the fourth a bakery. The dogcatchers had ceased functioning due to lack of funding. So, short of creeping out one night and poisoning it (the advice of one sympathetic mom!), there's nothing I can do except shoo it away. And even this fairly inoffensive policy has made me Public Enemy No. 1 in our courtyard. The trauma my kids have gone through f being attacked f and then being hauled off to the doctor for the necessary shots, apparently doesn't compare to the trauma I put the dog through at chasing it off.


Yesterday my next-door neighbor called me a skotina, a swine, and another one spat at me as I walked past. This might all have something to do with a "crisis mentality," but it's not at all pleasant.


"How can you be so mean to that poor animal?" one neighbor asked.


"But he keeps attacking my children..." I blustered.


"But a child's a child," she said with more unanswerable logic. "And a dog's a dog."


Too true, and it looks like it's here to stay.