Thursday, 23 April 2009

The dog catchers cometh

Well, on Tuesday, the dog catchers arrived. Not at 9am as arranged, but by about 12.45 which would have been in the middle of my Russian lesson if my teacher had not come exactly one hour later than planned by accident. 

You know how sometimes you see these photos of humans with their pets, and each bear a striking resemblance to the other? Well, in the same way, I think sometimes you can tell a persons profession by the look in their eye, their demeanour, or their style. 

If I could have taken a quiz called "Guess my job" I reckon more than I would have guessed something like Dog catcher, works for Rentokil or something like that! 

There was a ring at the door and I opened it, these two scruffy guys came in holding round lengths of wire with a sort of plastic device at the end. One of them, a little, wiry guy was wearing a really shiny grey and orange T-shirt with a pair of bright blue trousers and flip flops. The other, a tall half-wit-looking guy was wearing a tracksuit with the top zip done right up to under his chin, so he looked like his mother had done it up and sent him out. The small wiry guy had very shifty eyes, the kind you don't often see if you are a law-abiding person. The last time I remember seeing those eyes was when one of the kids had locked our downstairs loo in Thailand for 10 days and there was no sign of the key, so our maid got one of the guys from her street to come in and sort it out. He had those shifty eyes, and was able to open the door with a cut up plastic water bottle in about 5 seconds. Useful skill, but how you become so proficient at that kind of thing you just don't really want to ask!

"Sabaki (dogs)?" I asked 
"Da (yes)", the wiry fellow replied. 

I took them round the back and we peered through the hedge at two of the annoying dogs, out of their pipe and lounging about and sunning themselves on my river side patio. I showed them where the tunnel was and we crept down to open the gate onto the river bank. The larger dogs of course legged it and the dog catchers set to work, clambering about in the river and all over the bank picking up little bits of sticks and rocks and making themselves busy. I made a mental note to add dog catcher to my list of worst jobs in the world (alongside cleaner of the toilets at the border with Kyrgyzstan as previously mentioned in this blog - although clearly that person has gone on sabbatical about 20 years ago). 

The deal with the dog catchers was 5000 tenge paid up front, if they don't catch them no refunds. So they poked about around the tunnel where some of the dogs were sleeping. Stuck a few sticks inside and pulled out a couple of the rocks from around the front of the tunnel. Then the tall stupid looking bloke got some massive rock and started pounding on the top of the pipe while the shorter wiry looking guy stood with his wire noose around the exit of the pipe, ready to snag any mutt stupid enough to make a dash for it. 

This didn't work, so then the tall guy started stuffing little firecrackers into cracks in the ground and letting them off, to try and scare them out with noise. 

At this point, I started to feel quite sorry for the dogs, imagining them cowering inside their stinky old tunnel, all scared and quivering. It was all very well to order a dog catcher, but quite another to watch these rather rough looking blokes catch a dog - the wire ring looked like it might strangle them in one go, and neither dog catcher looked like he gave a stuff about animal welfare at all. I know some of my previous comments about the dogs have been murderous in tone, but I did not want these annoying dogs to really suffer, I just wanted them to go somewhere else. And I am sure that if you call dog control in England it is someone who has worked for animal welfare projects, or even a fully qualified vet who will come with some amazingly expensive bit of dog catching equipment which would make it all seem much better. 

So I stopped watching for a bit and came back to the house. Finally, my Russian teacher arrived, so we began our lesson, just in time for them to re-appear, already giving up. 

They shambled over - no, they had not been able to catch the dogs, so they had blocked off the tunnel and in a couple of days the dogs would surely be dead, he told me. 

Aghast, I got my Russian teacher to translate to him that this was not really an acceptable solution. Presumably, 10 dogs trapped in a tunnel would bark incessantly to be let out, whine, moan and eventually die a slow agonising death, followed by making a disgusting smell for the rest of the summer of rotting dog corpses. 

"Well", he said, "They will most likely find a way out of the back of the pipe, which will also be a good solution for you". 

I agreed, that was a good solution for me (not as good as a dog catching van full of 12 dogs on its way by road far far away from my house, which was the image I had had in my mind when dog catching came up in conversation the first time), but what if they couldn't find their way out, then we would be back at barking dogs dying slowly and smelling. Not good. 

"But can't you come back in a couple of days and open the blockage to the tunnel, then catch them as they rush out into the light?", I asked 
"Maybe", he said, "But you will have to pay the 5000 tenge again, that is our call out rate and you have to book us through our company,"
"But you haven't caught anything yet," I said, (and haven't tried that hard, I thought), "How about you come back for 2000 tenge and we don' tell the company?"
He was quite nervous about this idea, but finally agreed on the understanding that if they did catch lots of dogs on Thursday that we would have to pay the full 5000 because then they would have to take the dogs back to their headquarters. 

And that was that. I think I have seen two of the dogs at the front of our house in the last two days, and although the barking is slightly less, there are just so many bloody dogs in this town that you can barely notice the difference. I have been and checked the tunnel twice and there has been no appreciable desperate whinings of dying dogs, so I am assuming that they have made their escape and are now living happily somewhere else.

Needless to say, old shifty eyes has not been back today, but I do have the privilege now of having "Grisha the dog catcher" as a contact in my mobile phone!


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