How It All Started
On a cold autumn day in 2008 a homeless puppy ran up to us. It was very cold and without thinking twice we took it home.
We didn't have any intentions to keep a dog, though our children more than once asked us to take a pet dog. We were not ready for that. So we decided to let the puppy stay for the night and in the morning find her new masters. We put positive and optimistic adverts all over the district, but nobody phoned. Then we addressed different shelters for homeless animals, but it turned out they were overcrowded. Besides the volunteers' stories were horrifying. It was out of the question to deprive a small puppy of a happy life. That's how we got our first dog, Ressy.
Six months later Andrew found Hilda. She was an extremely beautiful and charming puppy. The whole family doted on her. For two years we lived without worries, the dogs became part of our life and made us happy.
Then there was a tragedy - Hilda was run over by a car. It was difficult to overcome it, you always feel guilty when your pet dies. Even Ressy stopped playing and refused to eat.
After discussing it with all members of the family, we decided to take a dog from a shelter for homeless dogs.
But on coming there we found ourselves in a difficult situation. Hundreds of dogs rushed to the bars of their cages staring at us and hoping to be taken home. We took two dogs, Gladys and Arisha, and our life changed forever.
Dogs in a Flat
It appeared the world was full of homeless dogs. We don't know, maybe we simply didn't pay attention to them before or maybe now for some unknown reasons they started coming to us deliberately. Otherwise how would you explain the fact that on a freezing cold winter night two sisters Martha and Alice were sitting near our house waiting for us to return from our walk. They were hungry and frostbitten and were immediately taken into the family. Or how could it happen that Andrew drove along that very road where Alma was lying with broken legs and spine. She had been run over by a car. Or why did we come to a vet hospital on that very day when two puppies Gerda and Odin were brought there to be euthanized?
It wasn't easy to live with a dozen of dogs in a block of flats in Moscow. Fortunately, we lived in Butovo near the forest and our walks were great fun. On returning home the dogs queued at the door of the bathroom and one by one jumped into the bath to have their legs washed. We tried to keep the house entrance clean, and we must say, that most neighbours treated us sympathetically.
However, we understood quite well it couldn't last forever. Long walks and washing of the floors and dogs took too much of our time. And there was our work to do and our children to look after.
The neighbours, who continued to smile at us, in fact started a war against us. First they spread the rumours that we were keeping a severe, angry and uncontrolled pack of dogs. And there were a lot of enforcement authorities and inspection commissions coming to check us. They tried to find faults with us, but all our dogs were vaccinated, had veterinary passports, didn't reproduce, didn't run freely round the village and didn't attack people. So there weren't any legal reasons to get rid of us. Then slanderous rumours were spread that the dogs attacked herds of cows and sheep which were a dozen kilometers away from our place. They whispered behind our back that we were making profit of the dogs, that the government was paying us enormous money for keeping them and that we were getting a substantial fee from some firms for testing their dogs' dry food.
We tried to defend ourselves: we showed vaccination certificates and explained patiently that our dogs got used to living at home, they were never hungry and they were grateful to people for saving them and giving them shelter. We paid fines which, as we now understand, we could easily appeal in court. But we still wanted to get on well with everybody.
However, that didn't suit some of our neighbours. Smiling hypocritically they started collecting signatures against us.Those who had nothing against the dogs and didn't sign the papers, were considered to be outcasts. One of our neighbours, a talented poet was insulted and beaten, because he refused to take part in those infamous actions. The police ignored the incident.
When winter came the matter became worse. We were threatened that our dogs would be killed. Local poachers headed by the senior hunter (dealing with illegal hunting in those places) were determined to kill all our pets. As local hunters said they wouldn't be given licenses for hunting wild hogs, roe deer and elks until they killed all our dogs. Again the police refused to consider our plea for protection.
In January 2015, at Epiphany, our beloved Gladys was shot right in the heart. That very Gladys we took from a dogs' refuge and our children grew up with, and we wanted her to live in the country quietly and peacefully till the end of her life.
When the summer came the situation became even worse. Our neighbours, quite well-off Moscovites, spending their time in gossip and slander, decided to poison our dogs. It's difficult to say whether they did it themselves or hired some unscrupulous people, but our dogs, one by one, began to beat in convulsions and die, as if they had been bewitched by a black magician. The words "a black magician" were used on purpose, as our neighbour more than once mentioned that she was a hereditary witch. No matter how hard we tried, no matter how many antidotes against different poisons we used - we were not able to save all our dogs. A friendly young dog, Baron, died.
We still live in the village of Mochalovo (200 km from Moscow). Every week, taking turns, we go to Moscow to work. Every week we come back with a full boot : there is dog's dry food, meat and sinews, cereals and various veterinary drugs there. And every week we thank God that we are back home to our pets and nobody is hurt or wounded this time.
People in the village are afraid of saying it out loud, they only whisper to us, " An order was given to kill all your dogs and burn your house. You are being hunted."
We know that's true, but nothing will make us give up the matter of our life, for the sake of which, perhaps, our lives are given to us.
One of us always goes out first and says on the radio, " Everything is secure!" And we are going for a walk!
A House in the Country
We started thinking about buying a house in the country somewhere far from Moscow. It was rather difficult to do it. Cottage villages were not suitable for us as there may be special rules concerning dogs. We needed a remote village far from highways and towns, next to a forest or field, so that we could take our dogs for a walk without disturbing the neighbours. At last we found what we had been looking for! It was the house of our dreams, with carved windows, tiled roof and all modern conveniences necessary for living there all the year round. It was situated on the edge of the village. The place around the house had a wicker fence. There was a lake in front of it and a gate facing the forest, which was very important to us.
We went to see the house, got aquainted with the neighbours, making sure they were not against a large number of dogs, and sighed with relief. The village was small, the place was deserted. We were lucky, really!
In May 2014 we moved to our new house in Mochalovo. Our dogs were happy: they ran around the garden all day long, dug holes, caught mice and then slept реасеfully in the shade of the apple trees. We worked out special routes in the forest, so that not to run into people who also go to the forest to pick up mushrooms and berries. We were going to be on friendly terms with our neighbours, letting them know that were ready to take into account all their suggestions and wishes. So that's how it started, but... as soon as our dogs really felt as if in paradise, their masters felt as if in hell.
We don't place dogs above people.
We still want to live in peace with everybody.
We don't allow the dogs to go round without supervision, they don't bark all day long, as they have all they need: food, home and loving masters.
But while there are people ready to hurt or even kill innocent animals, we will do our best to protect our pets.
A lot of people say to us, "We bet, you don't have your own children if you bother with dogs!"
Our daughter studies at Moscow Veterinary Academy, our son is a student of Moscow University. They always support us, share our troubles and help us as often as they can.
The other day we asked them whether they had taken a puppy 7 years before if they had known how many difficulties they would have faced.
Without any hesitations they answered, "Of course!"