Setting the Scene
This photo was taken this week during the first school break. My site mate and I went on a hike to a stupa on the eastern edge of Arvaikheer. As we were walking, this mother and puppy joined us. They walked with us starting from the new Khan Bank in the center of the city to the edge of town and back to the center of town to one of our favorite restaurants, Nomadic Irish Grill. As the hike progressed, the temperature dropped drastically the further we got from town, but the excursion was delightful and provided ample opportunity to snap photos of the dogs and a herd of horses on the hill in front of the stupa. Clearly, the dogs are vicious as they play-fight… (I will admit the puppy had a habit of trying to nip our legs as we walked, but she was extremely sweet and lovable).
There is a clear difference between how we, in the United States, view dogs and how the local Mongolians view dogs. Most dogs are outside dogs here. While some wear makeshift collars (rope or cloth tied around their necks), most are strays who roam around the city in packs. Many of the dogs with collars are still part of these packs. As a result of the large stray population and outdoor lifestyle, most of the dogs around the city are typically hungry, which can occasionally result in aggression towards people who have food. I have seen Mongolians pick up rocks or act like they are picking up rocks to throw at dogs. Just the mere sight of a raised hand is enough to chase a dog away. Now, I myself have done this motion once or twice, but typically it was to make sure a dog I liked who was following me was not attacked by a larger dog. This environment has resulted in Mongolians viewing all dogs as outdoor dogs rather than companions. My current difficulty is attempting to convince my school and landlord that adopting a puppy would not put me in danger and that the puppy would be fine living indoors. Ah, the ever-constant nature vs. nurture debate… Hopefully I will get the opportunity to demonstrate that dogs can be wonderfully kind companions.