Anyone who has spent even a small amount of time observing the goings on in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk would after a while notice the incredible number of dogs that are in the town. Everywhere you go outside, there are dogs, lots of them. Generally, there are three types of dog in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.
The first kind is what you’d expect to see in any normal country, and that is a dog being taken for a walk by its owner, or the dog taking its owner for a walk as is often the case. These come in all different shapes and sizes, but for some reason they are often either so small you think somebody is taking a rat for a walk, or it is some enormous hairy beast half the size of a horse which looks as though it could swat you out of its way with one paw. I’m not too clued up on the different breeds of dogs, but there are a lot of mongrels scattered amongst the more recognisable breeds. Dog ownership is very popular in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, and dog walking is a popular pastime, even amongst the kids (one of whom recently almost disappeared under the wheels of my Landcruiser when her dog, six times bigger than her, shot into the road with her in tow).
The second kind is the yard dog, which are always mongrels. Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk is an industrial town, hence there are dozens and dozens of warehouses and goods yards all over the place. Almost every one of these has a dog or several hanging about, whose job seems to be as much about keeping the security guard company as providing any security himself. We have premises at the rougher end of town opposite the power station, and the security hut there always has a three or four dogs loafing about outside, usually sleeping in the snow. When we first set up our equipment yard at the LNG site in Prigorodnoye the yard manager found a small puppy sniffing around and adopted it. Two years later, it charges at anyone not wearing a company boiler suit. The secure parking areas where residents of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk keep their vehicles at night usually have a few dogs snoozing on the steps of the security hut, and my parking area is no exception. Even our main office has a dog chained up outside, and I have no idea who it belongs to. These dogs don’t seem to bother the Russians one bit, they seem to be accepted as much as the snow and the bad roads, and I have never heard anybody suggest that they shouldn’t be there.
The third kind is the stray dog, and these hang about in packs in any spare patch of land they happen upon. There is a pack of six or eight of them living just behind our apartment, I think underneath some shed or other (see picture below).
On the other side of our apartment another pack lives on a large piece of wasteland, and chase each other around it for hours. In fact, nearly every open area you go to has a pack of stray dogs occupying it, and often you see these trying to cross the roads, risking their lives to do so. I even saw a family of dogs living in an underground burrow in the grounds of the regional hospital. These packs of dogs sleep all day, as the picture shows, but at night they start running around and fighting other dogs and it creates one hell of a racket. In my last apartment, at 4:00am every morning without fail this damned stray dog would start yelping and running around like it was possessed by demons. Things are slightly better in this apartment but not by much. Apparently in the larger Russian cities the authorities round up and destroy the stray dogs, but in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk they are free to roam, breed, fight, and make a racket whenever and wherever they please, and indeed they do. How they survive the cold, and what they eat, is anyone’s guess.