The Animals of Kostanai

October 10, 2008 at 2:02 am 2 comments

Note: This is the third of three posts I’ve just put up (the other two dated earlier this week). We’ve had a busy week and I haven’t had a chance to update the blog until now.

Friday, October 10, 2008: Day 37 in Kostanai

One sad occurrence here, in Kostanai, is the abundance of stray cats and dogs that live in and roam the city. On streets and sidewalks, in alleyways and apartment courtyards, live numerous animals trying to survive with little help from their human counterparts. [This is my favorite courtyard kitty; all black except for the very tips of his ears which are bright white.]

Packs of dogs seem stake out their territories, claiming trash bins and food scraps before being snatched by others. The market dogs stay in their area while our courtyard dogs return nightly for trash picking. They’ve marked their homes and are protective of these claims. [This is a mom and her puppy (one of three) we saw playing in a street gutter.]

The dogs tend to be very small and compact, perhaps an adaptation to their city environment. They’ll play or even lie in the street, oblivious to oncoming traffic, and trot down sidewalks like kings strolling to their throne. We’ve actually witnessed packs of dogs waiting at crosswalks until the lights change and it is safe to cross.

The amazing part about this phenomenon is that human beings feel absolutely no threat from these animals. Based on the reactions of the dogs, humans are feared and probably for good reason. However, if you look as though you may have food to share, they may sheepishly coax their way towards you and then quickly scamper away at the slightest sign of threat.

Homeless cats and kittens seem to be even more abundant than dogs, and a little more cared for. Empty bowls along side apartment building walls and kitties following and sitting with babushkas are a sign that felines receive a little more sympathy. We’ve witnessed one survival strategy of these outdoor scavengers; warming themselves on the hot water pipes that run above the ground throughout the city. The colder the air, the more cats you will see wrapped around these conveyors of heat.

Along with adopting a son, we’ve also wanted to take home various homeless creatures. Not all creatures shy away. Unbeknownst to us, one kitten followed Doug and I number of city blocks and across a very busy main street. It was only on our return trip from our destination did we find that this crying little creature had chased us such a long way. Crushing! There was nothing we could do.

Like all areas of Kostanai, the Delphin House has its share of the homeless animal population. Hunting cats and dogs are a familiar sight in the grassy areas surrounding the home. One little puppy that strategically sat outside the kitchen door seemed to be a resident at the house but has since disappeared. After a little gentle convincing, he would come over and visit us for a couple minutes at a time. Another tiny kitten spent a couple days following us as we walked our daily circle around the baby house but also hasn’t been seen for a while. Some of the animals seem to come and go while others are more of a constant.

When asking our coordinator about animal shelters for strays she explained that the city of Kostanai is just getting their human homeless situation under control and it is more important at this time to give money towards people versus the animals. However, according to her, the stray animal population has decreased over the past few years.

To help you understand how far Kostanai has come in recent history; our coordinator has college age children who began their lives in a home without electricity. Most homes didn’t have it or many other common conveniences that we take for granted. Changes are now happening at a fast pace in many areas, for many people, and, hopefully, eventually for the animals of Kostanai.


Entry filed under: Kazakhstan Adoption.

Changes are Tough…For Grown-Ups Potty Talk

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Susan  |  October 10, 2008 at 9:53 am

    aww I love the pic you got on the lil brown baby house puppy…that is a great photo!@

    Today, while shopping with Leeza, we saw a pack of 14 dogs (I counted) strolling thru the square. They are so cute-and I , like you, feel bad for them too. At night, we hear them barking-like some kind of dog chorus line or something. I wonder if they’re all barking cuz one of them found food or something…it’s sad, but the dogs are seem friendly and the people are nice to them, so that’s good.

    I love the pics of the back of you and Natasha going around the baby house.

  • 2. karen  |  October 12, 2008 at 9:31 pm

    Your entry made me cry. That was the hardest thing for me to see all those poor helpless creatures huddling together in the cold. Staking out their territory around the overfilled dumpsters. I swore I’d come back and make a documentary about the homeless dogs of Kazakhstan. They have amazing survival techniques. We were in Uralsk for five weeks and not once did we see any “road kill.” Somehow they were able to dodge traffic (and very deep mud—March is a very difficult month to maneuver around). It amazed me how they were scared of us and I agree, it seemed like the cats were treated better. The dogs looked so mangy with all the mud caked on their fur—it’s as though they’re invisible to everyone there. It was heart wretching to watch.


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