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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

LETTER FROM VLADIVOSTOK: Aggressor's Bark Calls For Readiness to Bite




For some time I have had a rather Stone Age relationship with a little mutt named Belka who guards a greasy stretch of dirt where the cooks in the Borodino Cafe pitch slithery bits of fat out the back door.


This little foretaste of heaven has turned Belka into a guard dog, and she menaces anyone who violates her turf. She has repeatedly bitten my pants and sent me crashing onto the ice.


When last I left off this story, I had just chased Belka down the street, hurling rocks while baffled pedestrians watched.


This encounter, I am pleased to say, established a new frontier in our relationship. Belka is terrified of me.


Ever since, whenever Belka has bared her fangs at me, I have grabbed a projectile. She always flees. I hurl stones, dirt clods, chunks of ice - whatever comes to hand.


I bean her when possible.


This grieves me, or should, as someone who would fight under the canine flag if a world war ever broke out between dog and cat lovers. But I don't want rabies, and besides, cruelty to animals is more fun than most people let on.


Belka has become a nervous wreck.


So the other day I saw Belka and - ah, my little chum, you make this way, way too easy - she snarled and lunged before scampering off.


I launched a rock.


Belka hid behind the leg of an aggrieved maintenance man named Volodya, who proved to be her owner.


"Hey!" He strode over and punctuated his rebuke by poking me in the chest. "This is my little friend."


"Your friend is evil," I informed him, tossing a rock in my hand. "She keeps screaming at me. Screaming, da?" I chomped my teeth to demonstrate. "Oh, yes: biting. You must stop her."


"You are a big man, a bully," Volodya poked. "You are Bill Clinton, and Belka is Yugoslavia."


"No, Belka is Bill Clinton, and I am Yugoslavia. If she bites me, I will hurt her. I do not want this."


As we talked, Belka peeked around his leg and gazed at me with wounded eyes.


"Belka," I said. "Why are you so aggressive?" I scratched her ears. She did not bite.


"Now you're acquainted," Volodya said. "Maybe you can be friends."


Perhaps, I thought as I shook his hand and headed on. But I was still carrying the rock. Trust and verify.


There may be a thaw in human-canine relations, but whether you are in Kosovo or Vladivostok, it is best, in the face of aggression, to be prepared to respond with overwhelming force.