Everyone who grew up in Bucharest in the nineties will tell you about the feral dogs, every child’s nightmare and natural predator. The nicest ones had names and were neighborhood mascots. The scarier ones were pretty much city wolves, except with no fear of man whatsoever. Of course, having a name didn’t disqualify a dog from being a ravenous consumer of human flesh. Neither was an unnamed dog necessarily vicious. The science of feral beasts is one which is full of grey areas, gray like the huge apartment buildings of Bucharest, or like the matted fur of the gigantic Bobby who once gave me a hell of a chase in the back of my momma’s place. I have my own horror stories and terrifying dreams which haunt me to this day, and I might have some more growing up to do before I manage to put it all behind me. But it wasn’t all blood-curdling screams, running and rabies shots.
There were the light-hearted moments in the relationship between man and man-eating beast. Those moments which seemed utterly frightening at the time, but which seem kind of funny in retrospect. A typical one is driving at night on an unpaved road, when suddenly a pack of dogs springs into action and gives you the chase. They bark ferociously and try to bite the car, thinking they might bring it down together or at least give it a good scare. I thought that was hilarious, but then I went to Bulgaria.
On our way to Greece, in 2008, we passed through the sparsely populated (but rather pretty except for the cities) lands of Bulgaria. For the longest time I’ve been trying to remember something of note that would have happened on our four Bulgarian passages, but it is only when I turned my attention to the subject of dogs that I managed to fish out a memory.
As I was saying, we were riding an infernal bus through Bulgaria – hoping to get to Greece before our lives expired like our patience had, a long time ago – when the driver decided it was time for a pitstop. He pulled over at this shack next to some train tracks. A muscular, one-eyed dog was hanging around. At this point I wish I could write down some details about what exactly we did next, but I really can’t remember – although I vaguely recall some sandwhiches being eaten.
Anyway, so we blah-blah-blah until the tracks started shaking. A horn in the distance. The train was coming. Suddenly, I saw the dog stir. His ears were upright and he assumed position next to the tracks. “Dear God! Is he going to commit suicide?” But no! This brave Bulgarian dog waited for the train to get close, and then started CHASING it, like those Romanian dogs chased cars! I was absolutely overwhelmed with admiration. I wondered if that was how he’d lost his eye. Perhaps from a pebble turned into a projectile by one of the train’s wheels. I convinced my fellow travellers that the dog was doing this as a show, and that they should give him some food.
You know, I really don’t hate the dogs of my childhood. I feel kind of sorry for them actually. And I wish they’d eaten more people. Then gone to other countries and eaten yet more people.