It’s a Dog’s Life

© Victoria Evangelina Belyavskaya

To my Ranger, the Yellow-Mellow Borjomi Mountain Husky Gucha is a very spoiled “baby”. He sits at the table with grown-ups, he eats only meat and mushroom filling from pies and he drags the curtains off the windows and cries in distress when left home alone. “Just do not pet him, not under any condition, he has a history of biting people,” I was told when first coming to Gucha the Staffordshire terrier’s premises, which was the whole house, the yard and as it seemed to me, way beyond the official borders of a fence. By the end of the visit, Gucha was goofing off by my feet while I was petting him; then when we were already set to walk out of the door, he brought his leash and put by my feet, waiting… and then ran to the main room and back, eager to put his precious toy monkey next to the leash. “Gucha is gathering his suitcase!” said the owner. “What did you do to my dog? He obviously wants to never part with you!” I have always been a dog person and these days I have loads of accumulated dog love: the flat I am currently staying in does not allow pets so my dog is staying in a “B&B” of a vet doctor… Ranger, my “Borjomi Mountain Husky” as I wrote in his pedigree, is the smartest dog I have ever met, and my household has always been full of dogs. I would love to learn the story of his life before we met him: or better to say, before he found me and my friend in the Borjomi woods two years ago. We were walking up the path No 1 when I saw yellow eyes of something, hiding behind the bushes. “O my God! There is a wolf!!!” I cried out, trying to desperately reach for a pepper spray bottle, hidden on the bottom of my backpack…. Needless to say that I did not risk stopping and actually taking the backpack off my shoulders: talk about monkey and a bomb. The friend, walking way ahead of me was his usual kind self: “Well, then you’d better keep up!” he cried back. After our joint unsuccessful attempts of throwing stones towards the bushes to scare the hiding creature off we came to a meadow: the turning point for our one-day hike. From here we were supposed to go down following the path No 6. A bright-orange dog slowly emerged from the bushes and dropped in a worrisome sleep in a safe distance from us. It was tired, afraid of us, and afraid to loose a sight of us at the same time… finally, I went to give it some cookies: beware to give homemade cookies to dogs and men… they’ll follow you forever. That’s exactly what the woods’ dog did. It would follow our steps, dropping down for a power nap every time we stopped to gulp some water or chew on Snickers. It did not take us long to find the path was buried in the bushes all the way round us. No GPS neither cell phone signal were available; we were lost. Later we learned that the Borjomi-Khargarauli Park staff had sent us down the path, which had not yet been cleared for the season. After many hours of walking/falling down the steep hills, there came total darkness. Thanks for the headlights that were still hanging in my backpack from the times of the Egyptian desert camping! Not that we knew exactly where we were walking to: with the huge trees covering the sky, even stars were difficult to see. And then the dog found a stream: some little mud, flowing from under the old leaves covering the new grass. “The stream leads to the river and the river leads to people!” happily announced my friend. Clutching my newly acquired walking stick, I followed him; the dog was still in a very safe distance behind us.

Long story short, we made it out of the woods by the very late at night (or was it very early in the morning?) and of course the last thing I could do would be to leave the devoted dog on the highway, when some kind people put us in their Mercedes with the white leather sits. “Vaai me, forget about the sits,” said the driver when I tried to refuse his kind offer to give us a ride to Borjomi, which was 32 km away. “How can we leave you in such a condition on the road?” and he forced the two of us plus the dog, all dripping with mud, water and blood on the back seat. Long story short, after sleeping for half a day, we went to the villages around the woods, hoping to find the owner of the “Ranger’s dog” as we called it. Nobody would recognize the tired skinny orange boy, and we ended up taking it to the capital, were I was hoping to continue my life-long campaign of finding homes for the many saved pets. (A note to my friends: do not be too happy that I am not in your country now. This campaign of mine is international!) Ranger slept all the drive back to Tbilisi. After the bath and some puri with a piece of khachapuri, he fell asleep and slept till it was about midnight and I wanted to walk him outside. Then he slept till 10am, when I woke him up for a morning walk. This patter was on for several days, then I decided to contact my veterinarian for the documents for Ranger and a health check up. By the time I had already known that this dog was not going to have any other owners but me: the immediate bond we experienced grew stronger and I could not imagine how I lived without this “yellow mellow” guy in my life. Zoia the vet doctor announced Ranger to be absolutely healthy. Plus, he is the most clever dog: sleeps all day long, goes to do his business outside the flat (or outside a yard when we are staying in village houses), protects me from strangers and never damages anything at home. Over these years I’ve had to spend lots of months outside Georgia, and Zoia’s family takes Ranger on board every time I am heading away. They treat him like a king, and seeing Ranger’s sheer happiness every time he sees Sasha, Zoia’s son and a second vet doctor of her clinic, I know it is not only the obscene amount of money we pay for his “holiday’s at mama Zoia’s.” Every time she complains at the amount of fur Ranger sheds, and the long walks her “kids” have to indulge into, and the borsh and dumplings catering he requires (trust me, the food is way simpler when he’s back at my place: chicken and oatmeal/rice are our main dish… though yes, I DO have to cook it for him!) But all the whining ends up with Zoia saying: “What a golden dog Ranger is. It is not a dog, it is some genazvale…. Just can’t talk.” Since I was a kid, my family showed me an example of saving animals from the streets, getting them treated from the many diseases at a vet’s and finding a new home for them with friends, co-workers and even strangers, plus following up on their lives. I have been doing this in many countries. I am thrilled to see that some nephews and nieces of my friends have followed my path of animal rescue. And believe me, there is no one more devoted that a street animal, to whom you gave a “green card” to life. If after my story you want to go spend your four-day weekend in the Borjomi Woods in search for another Ranger the dog, I am thrilled with such recognition of my storytelling and advertising abilities. But look out of your window, walk a bus stop away from your house and you will see plenty of homeless, tired and hungry, always on the run to survive dogs and cats. Each of them has tons of love and devotion for its savior. And all of that can be showered on you.

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