Not All Dogs Go To Heaven
In the Romanian language, there’s at least three words that refer to dogs. There’s the cute, little puppy that wouldn’t hurt anyone (câțeluș), then there’s the medium-sized dog that’s a little more impressive (câțel), and then there’s the caine, the big, ugly dog that could tear you to pieces.
Bucharest has all three types on its streets, lounging under parked cars, hiding behind garbage bins, sleeping in front of store entryways, chasing bicyclists down the street…
I used to like dogs alright, I even cried at All Dogs Go To Heaven when I was little, but then I moved here and got to weave through packs of them roaming the streets. That ended any sort of desire to ever buy an “I love my lhasa apso” bumper sticker.
Over summer, I was talking with a student, explaining that we don’t have packs of stray dogs on the streets in America. “What?” he asked, barely believing his ears, “then what do you do with strays?”
“Well, we catch them, lock them away, and usually kill them,” I answered matter-of-factly.
“And what about stray cats? With no dogs, surely the cats must be terrible!”
“Nope. No stray cats either. One or two here and there, but not like Bucharest.” The cats are bad here too, but they’re not as scary or as numerous as the dogs, so they don’t really bother me.
“Well what do you do with the cats that get on the streets?” he asked.
“We catch them, lock them away, and usually kill them too.”
“Wow,” he shook his head incredulously. “I don’t know about that.”
In all fairness, Bucharest seems to have way more dogs per square meter than any other city I’ve visited in Romania, and the dogs usually leave you alone, as long as you mind your own business. And, really, there’s only a few deaths every year from strays. It’s not like you’re walking through fields of landmines in Mozambique or something. In fact, up until recently, we’d been barked at but nothing more.
Well, a week ago, the dogs seemed to have noticed that they’d let us off easy, so they started getting more aggressive toward us.
One week, after passing out tracts near a mall, I noticed a dog that lay between me and the subway entrance. I started walking forward cautiously and suddenly, without warning, the dog barked viciously, jumped up, and ran at me, showing its sharp teeth.
I stood my ground for a second, hoping he was bluffing, but he kept running at me looking hungry for American food, so I turned and ran. I saw an overhanging tree branch on the nearest tree, so I jumped, planning on climbing up to safety. Unfortunately, I was in the middle of a fast, so my grip was really weak. I fell back down to the ground, turned around, and saw the dog about 3 feet away and nearing fast.
Then just as quickly as he’d started chasing me, he stopped barking and ran as far away as he could go. Thank you, Jesus.
Apparently a memo went out that I had embarrassed him, because then a warrant went out on the rest of my family. A couple days later, Jessie and the kids were walking when a big dog, out of nowhere again, started chasing after them. Having no trees to climb, Jessie responded quickly. She pulled the kids behind her, stood her ground, pointed at the dog, and fiercely told it, “No. No.”
Apparently the dog understood English, because he then backed away and decided not to mess with Mama.