- Dogs In The Fall
This happened to me in 1972 in the former country of mine, Russia. I was 16 years' old and it was a deep fall. I was alone in our "community garden', removing the electric water pump from the well. In those times organizations were assigned parcels of land which were divided among the employees, approximately 4000ft^2 per family to erect a summer cottage, grow fruits and vegetables, spend time with the kids. The organizational parcels were surrounded by fences with gates but inside there were no walls between the family areas except that people planted all kinds of bushes. The parcels were down the river from the city; you had to go for about an hour by the ferry and then- disembark and walk for an hour to reach the destination. There were no paved roads, only gravel lanes and makeshift bridges over the streams. Those with the cars were the lucky ones but most of us never had a car at those times. I came alone, late in the fall, several weeks before the navigation stopped for winter. I loved n those days of silence. It was a weekday (did I mention that I skipped school) and then the place was truly deserted. I unpacked, picked the remaining apples from the trees and proceeded to unscrew the electric pump from the suction tube. Electricity was there through winter but nobody would go there in the frost. I took off the pump and was plugging the tube when I felt that someone else was there with me at my place. In fact, not just someone else but a group of strangers. A pack of dogs, about ten of them were standing quietly behind me, watching for a while.
People abandoned their dogs routinely. In summer they would pick up a puppy to play and in the fall they would realize that they could not keep it. The abandoned dogs would form packs and roam the countryside. Eventually they all would end dead; country people would kill them in winter. But it was fall. And here they were, between me and the cottage. They entered through the open gate, ten mongrels, the leader being a rather ugly mutt- a combination of a Mastiff and maybe a Labrador. He was big. And he was looking me straight into the face. No fear and no subservience.
I stood there looking at them desperately trying to keep cool and not get scared. The leader was growling quietly but so far the dogs did not look angry. They looked more like confused. But they surely looked hungry and I was the only meal around. Even if I could maneuver myself to the cottage, I was stuck there with nothing but apples, even without water because water was here, in the well with the manual pump remaining. Water? I looked at the leader again:; he seemed wanting to tell me something.
- Do you want water?- I asked.
The leader growled in a somewhat different tune and licked the wet grass around the pump.
- Ok.- I said. "I need to get the barrel."
I moved slowly towards the cottage and the dogs didn't seem to mind. I pulled out a flat aluminum barrel, the one we used for laundry, placed it under the pump discharge and started to pump manually. In about 10 minutes the barrel was filled with crispy water. I stopped and said,
- Help yourself.