Have you seen the stories about dogs in Russia riding the subways from the suburbs into downtown Moscow to scavenge for food? I missed these reports the first time around, but caught them during a recent email-to-a-friend cycle. At first, I thought it had to be fake. But according to The Sun and The Wall Street Journal, sure enough, the dogs commute like workers. Once in town, they put in a long day of hunting down scraps and begging.
Some of the details are pretty amazing: The canine commuters know where to get off the train and even work together so they don’t sleep through a stop. They rarely poop in stations, which could lead to banishment like in the bad, old Communist era. On the street, they have learned to rely on traffic signals. The canny pups have even devised new ways to get food, including barking at unsuspecting pedestrians as they eat street food in the hope they drop their comestibles. Apparently, it works. Most of the time though, there’s plenty of food to go around and strays often look well fed. At least, there was plenty back in 2008 when this story first appeared and Russia was flush with petrodollars.
Things have changed. And, despite Muscovites tolerance of and even compassion for their furry comrades, the city’s large stray dog population needs to be addressed with thoughtful, compassionate solutions, including spay/neuter efforts, shelters, education and adoption drives. I worry that economic hard times and/or another fatal attack will trigger a backlash and louder calls for old-fashioned culling. As adorable as images of dogs acting like people can be, the iifestyle is not ideal for most of these companion animals. Will Moscow take real and lasting steps to help these animals before it's too late?