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Friday, January 27, 2012

Gangster Dogs of Bhutan

They own the sidewalks

I have been waiting to write this particular blog since the moment I got here.  Before I begin, I have to say that I absolutely love dogs as well as all animals and have grown up with dogs my entire life.  However, I am terrified of these mangy, scroungy, flea infested, rabies, street dogs that roam everywhere.  When I say everywhere, I mean every ten feet.  Instead of homeless people in the capital, they have homeless dogs.  For the most part they just chill and lay down where they please or toddle in out of traffic/crowds, but there are a few gangster dogs here, which I will explain.  

My first observation of the dogs was when Reidi, Ashley and I went for a walk and one dog joined us until he came to another dog’s territory and was chased away.  The dogs will go crazy if another dog even looks like he is thinking of crossing a boarder line that is not his.  The dogs are very territorial of their block, which reminds me of gangsters in their hood.  I didn’t like the dog strolling with us on our walk because there is a chance that it might have rabies and who wants to be bitten?  My second experience occurred when I was outside eating toast and didn’t realize that there were five dogs sunbathing a few feet away.  They saw my toast and all jumped up at once toward me.  I thought they were going to attack me for my toast, so out of pure panic I screamed and threw my toast at poor Reidi.  Oh my, it was so embarrassing to do this in front of several other teachers and I’m a horrible friend.  Fortunately, the dogs didn’t attack her as she caught my toast being thrown at her head without any warning.  She calmly hid it behind her back.  Luckily, Reidi likes these dogs and didn’t mind me throwing the toast at her.  Once I realized what I had done and that dogs were peaceful, I took my toast, put it in my jacket for later, and of course apologized to Reidi as well as had a good laugh at myself. 

Kujo II with his shoe moments before the incident
My latest incident with Bhutanese dogs was scary.  Four teachers and I went for a walk through the Chinese market and we met the head gangster dog of Thimphu.  I will call him Kujo II.  It all started when I saw a dog steal someone’s shoe and I thought it was cute.  So of course being the tourist we are, Simon and I took a picture of the dog with the shoe.  This was a huge mistake because apparently we didn’t have the dog’s permission to take his picture.  I think that the flash set his “rabies” off because as we walked away looking at our super cute picture, I heard a ferocious Kujo bark following us.  I turned around to see this mean pissed off dog telling us off.  Kujo the second started calling (barking) for his gangster brothers and I could see them one by one coming out of all these nooks and crannies in the street rushing to his aid.  Before I knew it, we had about six angry dogs circling us.  We continued walking trying to ignore them and I wouldn’t dare make eye contact with them for more than a second, but at one point we stopped because it was getting too intense.  Sara and I didn’t know what to do and we were filled with fear.  My heart was pounding like a drum and I was even starting to shake.  I thought about running into a near store, but I knew if I ran they might chase and bite me.  So I just tried to remain calm and I found my arms embracing myself.  Finally, Simon yelled at the dogs to go, but they don’t understand English, only Dzongkha so that didn’t work.  The leader of the pack, the head gangster Kujo came up to Sara’s leg and sniffed it.  I thought for sure her leg was a goner, but he just stood there aggressively barking at her as if he was daring her to make a run for it.   We slowly inched forward until we left their neighborhood.  Once we were out of their territory they let us go in peace and it took several minutes for my heart to stop pounding. 

Although I heard a few Bhutanese say shew to the dogs as they passed by, I was surprised that the locals didn’t help us more.  Instead most looked at us like “what did you guys do to these dogs to get them so riled up.”  If we couldn’t stand out enough already, having a mob of dogs chase you out of their neighborhood were a sight for sore eyes.  

The dogs also bark all night long and for some reason I find it comforting.  I think that it reminds me of my childhood boxer dogs or maybe even my dog, Frog.  However, I know those who disagree with me and want to scream, “SHUT-UP” at top of their lungs when the dogs wake them up at four in the morning.  Some people even wear earplugs to sleep because the dogs seem more active at night.  It sounds as though they form large packs at night running around looking for trouble.  It’s like there is a football team of stray dogs barking in sync.  I wouldn’t dare go out at night with a pack of alley dogs lurking around.

They sleep all day, bark all night
Bhutan is well aware of their problem with the overcrowding of dogs probably from complaining tourist like me.  They are trying to vaccinate and neuter/spay 50,000 dogs before 2013 to decrease the number of dogs in the future.  The stray dogs are not considered pets by the locals and are not petted.  I learned that they survive on handouts from the locals who seem to live with them in harmony.  The Bhutanese are Buddhist, so by nature they are against creating dog pounds for strays to be euthanized.  They had opened up a dog pound in 2009 for a short-term solution, but quickly closed it because they didn’t think it was humane.  They also believe that people can come back as an animal in their next life, so they treat them kindly and it’s good karma.  This is totally opposite in the states.  If you see a matted dog running loose, you call the dog pound asap especially if it’s aggressive. 

You have to walk around them
I asked one of our directors what should we do heaven forbid I find myself face to face with a Kujo dog and she said to pretend to throw rocks at them or actually throw a rock at them, which will scare them off.  So maybe they aren’t so gangster after all.  I can’t wait until the day comes when I feel like seeing dogs everywhere is normal.  I’m consciously trying to look at them in a different light like the Bhutanese and find that cute soft puppy side to them.  For now I’m just glad that I got my rabies vaccination because some of these dogs are straight up “gangster dogs.”


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  2. Hi Sabrina! Dad, Grandma & I viewed your beautiful photos last night. My tears came out when you wrote you were crying at the airport cuz i was too. but then I laughed when you said your face was like a prune. We are so proud of you for making your dreams a reality you are stronger than you think you are. I love the picture of you taking in the view and the one from the plane . BE nice to the dogs give them a snack . Dad & Grandma Avol said hello . And I want you to keep on Blogging because you make me laugh. Love & miss you much! Love Big Mama lol.

  3. Awww your so funny.Those dogs look so cute they coldnt hurt a fly Lol just kidding.Just stay away.Your adventure is so amazing I love it.Keep us posted I keep looking for more.Love you.

  4. It was interesting to go through the facts that I already know and experienced throughout my life. I am glad to know that you are also exposed to daily lives of Bhutanese. I hope the rabies vaccination helps you keep yourself protected.

    TIll then, you have a safe stay in Bhutan and enjoy the serene and a beautiful environment.

    P.S,Seeing dogs in street is a normal and a usual thing in Bhutan.