The Russia Chronicles: The Hounds of Lake Baikal

Part two of a three part series highlighting some memorable stories from our trip across Russia. For part one, check out Superman/Red Son. For part three, read Vodka and Chainsaws.

Man, do not pride yourself on superiority to animals; they are without sin, and you, with your greatness, defile the earth by your appearance on it...
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

It's October and I find myself meandering along the brisk coast of Lake Baikal, the deepest lake in the world. I've been staying in a quaint cabin a mere stone throw from the shore, owned and operated by a lovely Russian woman who speaks but the merest pinch of English. She is enthusiastic about everything, it seems, and she adds a cozy feeling to the entire house with nothing but her ever-present smile. That very smile erupted into laughter shortly after our arrival when we came running in, half naked and shivering, from a brief plunge into the icy waters – an act that earned us applause from passers-by as we dove headlong into the clear, frosty expanse.

In addition to a comfy bed and a happy host we are also served a complimentary breakfast every morning, bright and early. Buns, yoghurt, eggs, cheese, and sausage (boiled hot dog) are all included in the modest price for our rustic room. Granted, there isn't much here to tempt a vegan's tastebuds but that can really be said for most of Russia. Christine, being vegetarian, can make do where I cannot, though for some reason the pleasant owner never catches on to the fact that she doesn't eat meat. Ergo, every morning our amiable innkeeper places a slippery sausage on her plate, blanched and steaming. As to not offend, Christine deftly pockets the wiener each time our host has her focus elsewhere. Wrapped in a damp napkin, she then tosses it aside when we venture out into the village or surrounding forests. That's the routine, anyway, until Christine realizes that there are innumerable stray dogs in and about the town that would no doubt appreciate some freshly cooked “sausage.” 


The next morning we step outside into the dreary, Russian damp. Christine is visibly excited to feed the masses with her pocket full of meat, plucking the tidbits from said pocket as she begins to call the beasts over. The sausagey-scent catches quickly and a horde swiftly gathers and begins sniffing about. There are at least a dozen dogs of rag-tag breeds that patrol this backwater town, rain or shine, the majority of which are now within pouncing distance. The very instant Christine exposes her luke-warm wiener to the crowd they swarm. I'm only several feet away but she can't take a single step without a dog impeding her, the larger ones starting to jump and bark. Naturally, she panics.

She is calling out for help but I am already bent over and crippled with laughter, unable to do much but shake my head at her folly. Unfortunately, it is then when I witness the situation deteriorate from comical to borderline dangerous. The leaping dogs begin to snap at her hands while the smaller ones claw and yap at her ankles, a sea of angry fur enveloping her. And so I shout to her over the chaos, insisting that she toss the meat and run. Flustered, and with dogs vaulting at her face, she tosses the meat, chucking it down the muddy lane and escaping in the opposite direction as the beasts spring after their prize. The dogs hunt down ever bit of wiener, fighting over whatever choice scraps they manage to find in the mud and grass. Christine catches her breath, a bit shaken, and thanks her lucky stars she didn't lose an uninsured finger to the dire wolves of the Russian steppe.

As for me, I just kept laughing.