Experiences of an American woman who was married to a Serb.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Stray Dogs of Serbia

Here's one of my favorite stray dogs of Sombor Serbia as he jauntily trots along the main drag on the day they ripped up the pavement to do municipal work:

The dozen or so stray dogs of Sombor are well-known town characters. Back in the US, before I lived in Sombor, I was filled with horror and pity whenever my husband mentioned the stray dogs. No shelter to feed them and help them find a loving home, no vet service to spay them so they would not be burdened with litter after litter of unwanted puppies....

My husband was similarly horrified when he learned our US town had no strays - no option for a dog between ownership or euthanasia. And the whole idea of spaying any animal outraged him - how could Americans mutilate a defenseless animal?

He's not changed his mind and in fact heartily feels our own dog, originally adopted from a shelter, would be much happier as a stray albeit with visitation and feeding rights. After meeting the strays of Sombor, I'm inclined to agree with him.

Sombor's strays are the happiest dogs I've ever seen in my life. Confident, peppy, joyful, self-important. They dart busily about town sometimes playing together in small packs, sometimes alone. They all appear well fed, but not fat. (Restaurants, bakeries, and people put out scraps for them at night.) They are all smaller breeds, maybe 15-35 pounds. I never felt threatened and never heard them bark annoyingly.

Serbs love dogs. Most houses have dogs, and all Sombor apartment buildings allow dog-ownership (infrequent in the States.) Domestic dogs are clearly well looked after, but their frustration and jealousy of the stray dogs' lifestyle can be palpable. Oh to be allowed off leash! Oh to be allowed to go outside and play wherever you want all day and all night long!

I'm not stupidly naive. I'm sure Sombor's good-natured strays would be far better off if they had access to medical care, a secure warm place to sleep in the winter, and adoption services for those that prefer the security of a home (you can tell at a glance which dogs these are - it's all in demeanor and personality.) I'm also sure that strays in larger Serbian cities and perhaps smaller towns, might have a far tougher life. As a mid-sized city, Sombor may be as good as it gets.

Sometimes I say, "If we lived full time in Sombor, I would have to do something for the stray dogs." My husband always replies, "Why do you Americans give so much to animals when people should come first? If you have something to give, go down to the town orphanage." It's a thought to consider...

In the meantime, here's a snapshot I took of two strays snuggled in the warmth of a pile of brush downtown. Incredibly adorable. And they'd be miserable if I tried to confine them to live in a yard like American dogs.


michel said...

Hello Rosemary,
I'm reading your blog with a lot of pleasure, people like you from "abroad" give our people a chance to understand life "outside" isn't only cream & honey, since most of them can't see it by themselves.
With such a blog, I really hope Serbs will start to do a bit more by themselves & expect less from gov/Europe/nato etc. & especially stop spitting on themselves !
Best regards,
A lower profile collegue of yours from Paris.

Mario said...

There are occassional attacks of hungry stray dog packs! My 6 month old samoyed was chased few times in Jagodina. I found very friendly one just before departure to Ljubljana on Sunday.

If money changers and petrol sellers show up on the streets, leave Serbia in chrisys!

Anonymous said...

Hey Michel,

Serbs, well nationalist serbs live by the "We don't need any outsiders help, we only need US (Serbs)."

With that kind of attitude they pretty much landlock themselves, hence why Serbia's global image is so bad.