Monday mornings usually sees me on a power walk up the river behind the house (the site of the infamous pack of wild dogs that keep me awake most nights and live at the bottom of my garden - you can read some of the numerous posts I made on this subject before I gave up here and here (there are others but you will need to browse)). This Monday was no exception, and the boss's girlfriend and I briskly made our way up the river chatting about all sorts of interesting things.
She has two fantastic golden retrievers. One is quite aged and has a slight labradorean-hippy limp, the other is younger and trots along happily. The dogs have their own special places that they like to get into the river and have a drink and cool off, and it is a nice routine for everyone involved. All the way up and down the pathway, we meet people we see all the time. Some are friends and we might stop and have a short chat. Others are dog-walking buddies - the people you see every day but don't know at all, so are given a cheery "Straast-voy-che (Hello)" and on we go.
This Monday, however, was a very sad dog-walking day. We had gone about a kilometer (for anyone reading from Almaty who has managed to get past the Kazakh internet censors (boo hiss), we were just past the Kok Tobe Supermarket at the next bridge) when we saw a small crowd of people stopped, and a man dragging away an absolutely massive dog, with a rope, up a steep mud and rock bank where a footpath has been worn down to the newly-surfaced river-side walk. There was also a very sad looking Korean man wearing a white plastic baseball cap, and some other local people standing a little way away on a bridge.
We walked up, not really suspecting anything was amiss, but commenting on the sheer enormity of the dog which was being dragged away. And it was only when we came really close up that we saw that the sad-looking Korean man's small, black and brown yappy dog (a real pet, who always wears a special harness-type lead), was lying in the mud on the side of the path, mauled and dead, eyes staring, blood on its lips. We stopped in horror, and then realised that the small group of people had obviously witnessed the attack on this tiny dog by the huge beast that had now disappeared. Everyone was clearly pretty shocked, talking in hushed tones. Noone knew what to do, or what to say to the owner of the dead dog. It was tragic. The owner was really upset. He crouched down and gently stroked his beloved pet while we all looked on, feeling terrible for him. It was really sad.
Later, on the way back, we passed the owner again. He was crouched on his haunches, Asian-style, under a tree next to the river, sobbing and sobbing. We went over to comfort him a little and he was just crying. He had blood on the arm of his jacket and dog hair on the front where I guess he had been carrying his dead pet (which was no longer with him - I did wonder for a second if he had just chucked it in the river to dispose of it, but then decided probably not. But even now, I slightly wonder - the Kazakh approach to waste disposal is FAR from what I would consider satisfactory). We asked him if he was planning to report the attack to the police, but he shook his head in a resigned fashion - what use would that be to his dead pup? I felt so sorry for him, he looked absolutely broken.
I have already seen one of these dogs in Kazakhstan. When I was able to regularly hike (life before 4 kids!) we did a fantastic walk one day up past the Kumbel hotel in the National Park which contains Big Almaty Lake and on the way down we passed a guy who looked like he had walked here from Afghanistan. He was black-haired and black-bearded, wearing rough, dirty clothes, carrying a sleeping mat on top of a small, efficient-looking back-pack. He looked like he lived in the mountains, a real shepherd/mercenary/outlaw or something. In one hand he held a piece of rope which was tied around the neck of the biggest dog I have ever seen. It must have weighed about 90 kilos. It was an absolutely gigantic, huge member of the canine race. Its shoulders were probably 1.4m high, its head was the size of a car tyre. He had to restrain the dog as we walked by, and as I looked over it uttered one of the most menacing growls, and all us Almaty housewives on our Monday morning stomp through the hills nearly wet ourselves in fright and scurried past!
It was only when I told the story of the sad Korean man to my husband, that he said, "Yes, that would probably be an Anatolian Karabash,". I was quite surprised that he knew the technical name of a rare, fighting dog, but then he reminded me that we had once been to see a girl that we had both known at university when she was living in Rhu on the west coast of Scotland. We were living in Glasgow at the time and Rhu was not far, so, having exhausted the novelties of the Glasgow night life for a while, we decided to go and get drunk somewhere else for a change and went to Rhu for a night. At this time in our lives, a standard Saturday night out would include drinking enough at the pub to be really quite smashed, then going back to a mate's house to drink some more. And this is what we did in Rhu.
After meeting our university friend and her latest boyfriend in their local, we then staggered back to her place. Her boyfriend was a bit older than she was, and had knocked about a bit. I can't remember what he was doing at the time, but he had already tried out quite a few trades and was clearly much more worldly than we were. Frankly speaking, he was dodgy as hell. One of his 'hobbies' was fighting dogs, and he owned a beast of a dog, which he called an Anatolian Karabash. To be fair, he had warned us that the dog was large, and not very good tempered, but nothing could prepare you to meet a dog like that in someone's house. The beast was kept chained and permanently muzzled when unfamiliar people were present. It more or less filled the hall way of their small Scottish cottage. It had a coat on it like a fur and absolutely huge paws. I remember having to pass it by myself on the way to the loo, late at night and in a seriously inebriated state. But being a bit of a wally sometimes, I thought I would say hello. The dog was already looking at me, so I crouched down and in my most friendly voice-for-animals said 'hello' which was a bit like saying that a Great White Shark is cute. From deep in its chest came the most frightening growl I have ever heard. I looked deep into its eyes and saw no sign of understanding there. They were the wildest pair of eyes I can remember seeing in real life, and just thought to myself, "Right, that is one wild animal that will attack me for sure if I do anything other than leave this spot immediately," and lurched off into the loo, to sit there in shock wondering why anyone would want a killing machine as a pet.
It was the owner of this dog who told us that these dogs were basically not completely trainable. They were bred over years, initially as shepherd dogs for people in the mountains of Afghanistan, Pakistan and other inhospitable remote places where bears, wolves and other wild beasts abound. But then during the Afghanistan/Russian conflict, the Afghans apparently bred these dogs and let them loose in the mountains. Noone knows how many Russian soldiers were killed by them, but the numbers are thought to be significant. These are huge, lightning-quick dogs that are not afraid of wolves. A small yappy dog off its leash would be like the equivalent of an elevenses kit kat to this dog. And there is one of them living within a kilometer of us, with an owner who cannot keep it under control. It has certainly made me think twice about letting the girls go too far ahead on their bikes when we are walking there. Scary.
I have been looking up the pictures of these dogs on the internet, but have not found a proper image for the particular one I saw. However, the kinds of things that do come up have titles like: Kurdish Kangal Dog Pulls a 4.5ton tractor, Anatolian Shepherd/Dane Play fighting, and this amazing you tube clip which is backed with "metal" music of the World's Strongest dog - watch it and you will get the idea! Click here for scary dog video!