Russian Word of the Day: Дворняга-mutt

Even though I’m not necessarily much of a dog-lover I have designated this week собачья неделя “Dog week”.  The stray dogs in Moscow are very interesting creatures and the fact that they are allowed to coexist with humans and multiply is very fascinating for us Westerners.

These dogs all kind of look the same.  Every now and again you’ll see a cute one that looks like it was probably a domestic dog at some point but for the most part the dogs are all дворняги.

The statue by Mendeleevskaya dedicated to Malchik. Engraved on the stone is the phrase “Dedicated to the humane treatment of homeless animals”

This article was written by a British lady living in Russia and she tells the story of a дворняга named Malchik who guarded the Metro station Mendeleevskaya.  He kept other dogs and drunkards away and people were quite fond of him.  Well, the story goes that a supermodel came through with her little Terrier and Malchik started to bark at her dog and she took out a kitchen knife that she had in her purse and stabbed Malchik to death.  After that a monument was even erected in memory of Malchik and this article writes that Malchik “стала символом 35 000 дворняг, бродящих по столице России, – на каждую квадратную милю приходится примерно по 84 собаки.”

“Became a symbol of the 35,000 mutts roaming the capital of Russia-for every square mile there are 84 dogs”.

She explains more about these dogs:

“Их можно увидеть повсюду. Они лежат во дворах, слоняются возле рынков и киосков, спят на станциях метро и в подземных переходах. По ночам слышен их лай и вой.”

“You can see them everywhere. They lay in courtyards, hang around near markets and kiosks, they sleep in metro stations and underground crosswalks.  At night you can hear their barking and howling.”

But the most interesting thing about these mutts is that some of them have learned to navigate the metro. I remember seeing them just hanging out in metro cars, taking up a whole bench all to themselves.  I was always interested as to know how they got into the metro without a ticket because there are little old ladies that sit in booths and watch attentively to make sure no one is pulling any funny business as you put in your ticket and go through the little gates. I once saw that the dogs would just stay close to someone in a crowd and tag along behind them as they went through the gates.

But the most amazing part of this is that they actually know where they’re going, which is more than can be said for a lot of humans riding the Moscow metro.

One expert on the subject informs:

“Они ориентируются несколькими способами, – добавляет Неуронов. – Они понимают, где находятся, по запаху, узнавая название станции, объявляемое диктором, и по временным интервалам. ”

“They orient themselves in different ways, says Neuronov. They understand where they are located by the smell and recognize the name of the station announced on the speaker and by time intervals.”

There is even a website dedicated to these Метропсы (Metro dogs). People have come to love these clever little dogs.  One such post on this website tells about this metro dog:

Hanging out at the entrance to the metro.

“На скамейке на против сидела парочка и парень. Между ними было как раз достаточно пространства для этого пса. Он подошел, посмотрел на пассажиров, как бы спросил у них: «можно я тут прилягу», и забрался на свободное место. У девочки справа в руках был забавный пакет. Пес его вежливо понюхал, посмотрел на девочку и улегся свернувшись калачиком. Люди, глядя на этого пса, улыбались и снимали его на камеры.”

“On the opposite bench were sitting a couple and a man.  Between them was just enough room for this dog. The dog came up, looked at the passengers, as if he was asking “Can I sit here?” and got in the free seat.  The girl on the right had an interesting bag.  The dog politely sniffed the bag, looked at the girl and then curled up in a ball. People who were watching the dog smiled and took video of him.”

And here’s another video. Notice how the dog seems to know its station.

Here’s an article about this phenomenon in English and you might also find the Wikipedia page on the matter interesting as well.  Anyone who has lived in Moscow knows just how big of a role these dogs play in the scenery of the city.  And what’s fascinating is how everyone in the city not only doesn’t mind these dogs but like them. Tune in again for more dog words and stories.

1 thought on “Russian Word of the Day: Дворняга-mutt

  1. I really like your blog 🙂 I’m another expat living in Moscow but in my case I have a love-hate relationship with Russia and Russian language… But I love dogs and I’ve written on my blog about this topic too (I’m sorry, I write my blog in Spanish but here’s the link of that article I really liked the videos you posted, would you mind if I use them in a future post?

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