Dogs are a fact of life in Romania. That first night in on the bumpy bus ride to Targoviste Michael mentioned, "I read that Romania has a lot of stray dogs". Hmm stray dogs? I hadn't really heard of such a thing. Corning has a lot of stray cats but I don't believe I have seen stray dogs. As the bus came to a stop at the spooky Hotel Valahia Michaels stray dog statement became real. There were stray dogs in the parking lot, stray dogs in the street, stray dogs in the square across the street. They were barking, fighting, sniffing around the plants by the hotel, sniffing around our bags as we unloaded them off the bus. I must say I was shocked and a bit scared that maybe they were all hungry, with rabies, and ready to bite.
Here I am with my close of service in sight and I have yet to be bitten by a dog (knock on wood). There have been a few close calls. Last fall, hiking on the railroad tracks with E we came upon a quite angry territorial pack. That was when I learned the magic of a single stone. Frightened I stopped and that only made the dogs more aggressive. Ernest told me to pick up a rock. I noticed that as soon as I bent down to get the rock the dogs began to back up a bit. Simply holding that rock allowed me passage. Another time I walked past the post office at 2 in the morning after a late train. Night time is their time to hold down their area and there was one in the park next to the post office ready to showed me that. He came running at me, there were no stones around but I bent down to grab one anyway. My motion to the ground was enough to halt the beast allowing me to quickly walk by. The last close call was outside the train station in Deva where I was just walking along, lost in thought, and I felt something nibbling at my pants. As soon as I turned around the dog backed off. He was a little guy.
After those few close calls I have learned to be attent in certain situations but for the most part I have learned to love Romania's canine population.
Lately it seems that the dogs have been out in full force. Maybe it has been the spring-like conditions of the past week or two, maybe I have just been getting out to more populated areas lately. Whatever it is, their presence has been enjoyed. After Sunday's hike in Straja I realized that with all of the hiking I have been doing in Romania, I don't think I've gone for one hike without seeing a dog. Usually one accompanies us on our hike at least part way. If there isn't one walking next to us we at least see some on the way. In Straja a group of 7-10 puppies that were born in the fall came running out after their mother to play with us as we passed by their house. They even tried to follow us for a while but their tiny legs couldn't keep up.
Of course by now I have my favorites. There are two wonderful dogs that hang out by my block. I'm not sure if they have names but they are always around. I can count on them to be there in the morning when I leave for school and I can count on them to be hanging out somewhere nearby when I return. There is a large black one that appears to be quite old and a smaller, younger looking blond one. At first they were a bit mean but it didn't take long for them to get used to me. The blond one lets me pet it from time to time when its in a playful mood. I found out by a growl that the black one prefers not to be touched. On sunny days they lay out on the walkway and take in the sun to warm their bodies up. Usually during the day time they're resting after a long night of fighting with other neighborhood dogs. Sometimes I hear them barking at each other when I go to bed. One cold morning I opened my door and almost tripped over the blond one. He found my door mat to be quite comfy.
When I sit down and think about the things that I'll miss about Romania when I leave a number of things run through my head. The people, the landscape, the language, the food, and of course the dogs.