This post is dedicated to my sweet girl, Xena, who is now with another loving home better suited to her size, energy, and socialization needs.
|Beautiful, loving Xena at nine weeks|
Walking home late one Friday night at the end of March, I came across a young dog and a puppy on Peace Avenue in downtown UB. The dog, barely out of puppyhood, seemed lively and friendly. The puppy was a tiny thing who waddled over to me and wedged herself between my feet. That was it. I scooped her up, not thinking about what the consequences would be, and took her home with me.
|Only a ROBOT could resist this face! Even Data wouldn't have left her on the cold streets of UB.|
|Sock added for scale|
She needed a name. Given her dual nature, Xena (Warrior Princess) seemed like the obvious choice. But I wanted to double-check that she was in fact a 'she' and to see what health problems and illnesses might be plaguing her. Julian goes to a veterinary clinic about 15 minutes walk from the apartment and I brought Xena there the next day in my bag. The vet thought that Xena was about 4 weeks old and in relatively good health, although she was malnourished and had been separated from her mother far too young.
|Here is Xena's "warrior" side. This face expresses the maxim: let sleeping dogs lie (or else they might pee on you)!|
|Xena at 5 weeks, probably strategizing her next pee attack|
|Julian and Xena (about 5 weeks) lounging around together|
|When Julian still had the advantage in their play fights...|
|Ready to go outside and play! Xena at 6 weeks, after I finally got her a collar. Whoever designed that collar and added the bell is a genius.|
|And not at all grateful to Julian for his instigation and bullying! But he was to get his comeuppance shortly...|
There is an unfortunate bias against female dogs in Mongolia. While obviously not universal amongst Mongolians by any means, the rejection of female dogs often leads to female puppies being abandoned or killed. A number of people (all men, I might add!) dismissed Xena as a potentially good dog when I told them that she was a girl. Part of the reason is that spaying and neutering are not widely practiced in Mongolia, which leads to numerous problems from the owner's perspective: heat, endless puppies, etc. Certainly those concerns are legitimate, although they can all be addressed by fixing the dog, whereas the idea that only male dogs make good dogs is laughable (although the results of that belief are not funny at all). Such a belief may be practically tied up in the perceived need for ferocious guard dogs (although there's no real evidence that intact male dogs are the best guard dogs) but I suspect that something else is going on. The only times I've heard people (let's be honest, they are almost always men) in the US take a vested interest in keeping their male dogs intact and asserting that male dogs are 'better' is from people who practice or uphold certain patriarchal values that I find distasteful at best. Moreover, the practical results lead to animal suffering through unplanned pregnancies and unwanted puppies. I can't say for certain whether this attitude is a decisive factor in the treatment of dogs in Mongolia, but I do think it is a factor. Luckily this ugly attitude is not shared by all, and certainly not by the kind, dog-loving people I've encountered when I'm with Xena.
|Puppy smiles! Xena's personal specialty.|
Over the weeks Xena grew and developed rapidly. Her energy level rose and she got quite strong, pushing over little barricades I had set up to keep her out of trouble with relative ease. Many people had trouble believing how young she was; it's possible that the vets misidentified her age, as we'll never know her actual date of birth. It was a long while before I could sleep for more than 4 hours at a time; at least, it felt like a long time! The whole time Xena was with me I got up later than 6am exactly once, and that was to get up at 7am. This began to take a toll on my work productivity and my mental acuity fairly early on. By 7 weeks or so Xena started to look and act like a real dog, rather than a Beanie Baby with bodily functions.
|"Sit" was the command she mastered very young, as seen in her standard photo pose (7 weeks)|
|Xena at 8 weeks with some of her toys. The white sock under her paw is the same one from the first photos of Xena at 4 weeks of age.|
|Not that Julian stopped looking for trouble. Here they are in a play fight that he started (as usual)! Xena is about 7 or 8 weeks by this point.|
|Julian and Xena: a complicated relationship (9 weeks).|
|Xena at 9 weeks: how my warrior princess has grown!|
UPDATE: I am beyond sad to report that Xena passed away only a few months after this original post was published in 2014. One day Xena escaped her new family's khashaa (enclosure) and was hit by a car. The family's mother found her body in the street when she returned home from work that night. Xena was a wonderful, sweet dog who brought light into every life she touched. I mourn her death, miss my time with her, and treasure my memories of her. I take some comfort in the fact that her Mongolian family loved her as well, making her months with them full of fun with small children and other dogs to play with, and that overall her too-short life was a happy one. I love you, my good girl!