Thursday, December 3, 2009


There is a little dog that lives outside my home. She is unusual because usually the dogs in Azerbaijan are homeless and feral. They stay away from humans and are around mostly at night, when they go through garbage heaps to find food. Muslims traditionally don’t like dogs, but I understand in Christian countries nearby there are many homeless dogs too.

My family lived in Moscow for 10 years and learned to like dogs there, so we have an inside dog. The neighbors think it is crazy. Her name is Julia and she is a chow. She is a beautiful, smart dog.

My host mother has been tossing an occasional scrap to this medium-size brown dog who lives outside and has been here since September, when I moved here. I guess this is why she stays nearby. She is about 30 pounds, brown and non-descript, but always greets me when I come or go. I don’t encourage her by giving her food, but she doesn’t stop trying to communicate with me. I am afraid to make friends with her because some people here mistreat dogs—I don’t want her to think it is okay to be friendly to humans.

It is winter and she has been sleeping on cold, wet ground now for several weeks. The days are still sunny, but it will get cold and dark for a couple of months. I don’t know what to do for her. There are no shelters here. Every so often at night, I hear her yiping in fear. I can’t see out my windows to figure out what is going on.

Our city is unusual, because we have a veterinarian who will treat pets. One Peace Corps Volunteer a couple of years ago actually found a dog while here, took care of him for over a year and ended up taking the dog home with him. All he needed was a veterinarian’s certificate of health and his dog went home with him on the plane.

That makes me think of the story about a beachcomber who comes upon thousands of starfish that had been beached by a tide. They would die if they stayed on the beach long. She was walking along the beach, picking some up and tossing them back into the surf. Someone saw what she was doing and asked her what impact she could have because she couldn’t begin to toss them all back. The beachcomber nodded at the starfish in her hand and said “What I am doing is everything to THIS starfish.”

There is only one starfish outside my door. But I don’t know what to do about her.