I forgot to note something in my last post about Bulgaria. I discussed the good and the bad, but I seemed to have skipped over something.
Namely, the weird.
Because one of the strangest, and most disconcerting things about Sofia was the packs of wild dogs that roam through the city.
I bet you think I’m joking, right? She can’t possibly be serious, you think, as you rush to do a Google search about the wild dogs that live in Sofia. And there are results. Oh, how there are results. Some are horror stories – tales of dogs killing people in the Bulgarian countryside, or packs of wild hounds killing animals in the Sofia Zoo – while others just note the problem is a growing one. In 2009, the Bulgaria Academy of Sciences estimated that the total number of stray dogs in Sofia alone was around 9,000.
It was something Rand and I were unprepared for when we arrived in Bulgaria. I know that stray animals are far more common in the Europe than in the states. In America, it’s rare to see a dog without a leash, and even rarer to see one without a collar or name-tag. But in my trips to Italy, I’d see a local dog or two hanging out in the villages. I’d ask locals and they’d explain that everyone watched out for the animal, and had named it or considered it, at least in part, theirs.
But this wasn’t the case with Sofia. There were packs of dogs – literally packs of them, running around, sleeping in clusters in the parks or near shopping areas.
In some respects, they’re not as dangerous as the news stories would have you believe. You can pretty safely walk around downtown during the day and not have to worry about getting attacked. But parks, remote areas, and nighttime walks are a little more dangerous. A friend explained to us that after a evening jog resulted in her getting attacked by one dog (while several others were in close proximity), she now carries a can of mace with her. She and her husband recently became parents, too – if the idea of wild dogs is frightening to me, I can only imagine what it must be like for someone with a kid.
Governmental officials say they’re trying to do something about the problem, and are telling folks that they’re going to build a bunch of shelters to help resolve the issue in the coming year. In the meantime, I suppose locals will simply have to continue carrying mace.
But, seriously, WTF, Bulgaria. Wild dogs? That’s a concern your citizens shouldn’t have to deal with on a daily basis.