OUR TIME WITH ‘COBAKA’
LOVERS (Russian for Dog)
In 1999 I befriended a fellow lover of the Irish Setter called Nino Lazareva via the Internet. Over time we conversed, we exchanged views and discussed our passion of dogs and especially the Irish Setter.
Sadly, Nino lost her Irish Bitch called Linda (BANTRI x LORA), in 1999. In 1994, Linda whelped a litter of eight puppies, but unfortunately, to Nino’s dismay, the litter suffered ‘broken tails’ and could not be shown like their mother. Eventually Nino began to look for another ‘quality’ Irish Setter of the ‘type’ she liked. Due to the fact that Russian breeding was focused on the hunting abilities of the Irish Setter and with no separation of 'Show and Field' dogs prior to 1990, this proved to be rather difficult. Given this, Nino looked towards the UK.
1995, Nino travelled alone to England, to the IRISH SETTER BREEDERS CLUB Championship Show held at Newark. Here, she found that many of the Breeders were not forthcoming, but one person, Linda King of the Kirkavagh Kennel, was very helpful and discussed the Breed and Show format at length. To a Russian person in a new country, this was ‘delightful’. Nino acquired the Year-Book and continued to study the bloodlines in order to find her Setter. However, one burning question remained, would Irish Setter Breeders in the UK consider exporting a puppy to live and show in Russia? In 1999 she asked the same question of me, so on her behalf, I asked several Breeders and advertised on the Midland Irish Setter Society Web Site ‘Setternet’
Nino and her husband George invited my husband Mark and myself to visit Moscow to see how dogs lived in Russia and also to visit ‘EURASIA’ the Russian equivalent of Crufts.
We boarded the flight at Birmingham airport at 06:55 armed with Visa’s, guide books and translation software. We could not speak Russian and we had no idea how much English Nino could speak. We transferred flights at Munich and arrived in Moscow at 16:30 hours. Russia is 3 hours behind our time, so we were wide-awake. The views from the plane were breathtaking and the space was overwhelming! The airport seemed daunting and the Police presence was evident. We worried about our Visa’s, after all, a dog show was at stake! However, we went through without any difficulty, but once through, there was no sign of Nino and George! Then I realised that the times given to me by the travel agent did not take into account the time difference. Because of this, Nino expected us at 19:30, but in actual fact it was only 16:30! What should we do? I telephoned Nino with phonetic phrases in my mind. I had never spoken to her before and I did not know what to expect, would she understand me? A very gentle voice answered the telephone, I pathetically mentioned "Airport, here now," and was greeted with, "Hello Wendy, welcome, we will come straight away." Was I pleased! Whilst we waited in the airport, many people came to us and offered "Taxi." On reflection we were afraid because this was Russia, but I don’t think we would have been concerned with the attention from the taxi drivers, if it had been Spain!
George and Nino found us. They were accompanied by their youngest child, 10 month old Show Junior Saluki Dariy imported from the Caravan Kennel in Norway. How would a Russian speaking youngster greet us we wondered? With a wagging tail of course!
OUR HOSTS & MOSCOW
Nino and George reside in an apartment. How would an Irish Setter, or any other dog, enjoy life in an apartment in Russia? Silly question, as many dogs in England live in a flat, but this was Russia, so we expected things to be different. As we entered the lift to the flat, we were informed that they have a young sight hound, the ever tail wagging Saluki, Dariy. "He is still in the destructive phrase," we were told. I wondered how I would explain that we had four adult Irish Setters that leave their mark in disgust when they are left, with not even the excuse that they are young!
The apartment was very clean and tidy; attention to dog comfort was very much in evidence, with couches and toys in abundance, very much a ‘home from home’. Certainly, our hosts, like us, love their dogs. They were as described, ‘Cobakas' or, ‘doggie lovers’. To compensate for the lack of a handy garden, Russian dogs are walked in spacious gardens, conveniently placed to the front and rear of the apartments. Access to larger areas of ‘free running ’ are never far away, as Russia has lots of open spaces. That night the temperature became very cold; the usual, "Let’s go out, - wee wee’s," was preceded by the donning of wool jackets and waterproof jackets, for the dogs, not the humans!
We arrived at the hall at 10:30am, the immediate impression being that things were fairly chaotic but soon it became evident that the arrangement was no different to a very large Open Show in Britain. Show dogs waited patiently with their excited exhibitors beside their allocated rings and the judging order was evident, although foreign to us, as it was in Russian. Each breed was given a ‘judging time’ slot, enabling a constant flow of exhibitors, into the ring. That familiar feeling of excitement was soon contagiously evident, even though we lacked a brush, a slobber cloth and a familiar wagging tail!
The Irish Setter entry was a total of 6 dogs. Unfortunately we missed the judging which had commenced with only four dogs showing, so the class was over very quickly. However, we were able to meet the BOB BIG II Scirocco’s Phil the Red Destiny (Bardonhill Rivers of Time X Scirocco’s Fairness) DOB 17.07.98. He was imported from kennels in Germany. I was fortunate enough to be able to take a long look at this boy and found him to be very pleasing. He was a nice dark colour and had a pleasing head, with good bend of stifle and front angulation. Phil has been very successful in the ring and is very different in type from the other Irish Setters in Russia. His owner Lena Petrova lives in St Petersburg with her husband Taras and their son Anton. Her web site address is: http://members.xoom.com/ktaras where you will find more photographs and information regarding showing and judging in Russia.
Moscow is a very dog-friendly place, where dogs are very much in evidence and accepted into most areas, including, shops, banks and airports etc. How nice it would be to be able to take your four-legged friend with you when you shop.
On the day we went to the food hall, fresh produce was fully available and the fresh flowers were superb! Dariy was with us. He is known at the market and was not a hindrance (I can only dream of our Setters being at Tesco’s). In Russia it is acceptable to taste the produce before you buy, so a great time was had by all. There we were, a Saluki with a large T-bone steak in his mouth, a husband with fresh tomatoes and I volunteered for the taste of Black caviar! The prices were astounding. "Fillet steak of beef is a good diet for a dog?" I was asked. "Good diet for the owner," I replied. We shopped with vengeance; I’m good at shopping. Our bags were laden with goodies, among the items lay Black Caviar and Cognac. "Do you like Black Caviar"? I was asked. "Not sure," I replied, trying not to look ignorant. "Dariy, (the Saluki), prefers Red Caviar to Black," I was informed. Now is that a spoilt Saluki or am I jealous?
One evening we decided to visit the American Diner where Nino had designed all the advertising. Dariy is only a young dog of 10 months, so all precautions were taken prior to us leaving. Dariy was in the hall with the doors firmly closed. He had many toys, a very large bone and scattered pieces of cheese hidden in places to amuse him. "He will be fine," I confidently announced, after all, Irish Setters can be naughty when they’re young. At the Diner a vibrant display of advertising was evident. Nino met us there and was quite rightly proud of her achievement. More talk of shows, Setters and comparability of available foods commenced over a delicious Strawberry milkshake.
When we left, George attracted a taxi in the usual manner of stepping into the road. A strange road system operates in Moscow, there are three lanes for traffic, but there can be up to six lanes of cars. During our journey home, a rare event occurred, we were stopped by the Police for a document check. We stood to the rear of the car while George spoke on our behalf. The Policeman, who was wearing a firearm, was very authoritative. After what seemed like an eternity, we returned to the taxi and continued home. George stated "It was just a check." These checks are for foreigners only and only occur in large cities, but it seemed very different to us, having to carry passports for checks, but then it would, wouldn’t it?
We arrived en mass at the apartment and as the door opened the destruction was evident. All the beautiful woodwork around the door had been ripped from the wall and the plaster had been shredded! A very ‘sheepish’ looking Saluki greeted us with flat ears and tail. I think I would have been far angrier than our hosts! Russian words were exchanged between George and Nino, whilst Dariy watched. He understood, even though we did not! Much to our amusement we heard, "Asshole Saluki," but the only advice I could muster was "Maybe a large cage?" I recall our English Setter’s idea of fun whilst we were out, was to pluck out the entire contents of our settee and spread soft stuffing material around like confetti and pull down the curtains for good measure!
Due to the lateness of the night, it was agreed to let Dariy stay with us for the night. Our Russian vocabulary now consisted of Dariy pronounced in a Russian way and ‘Niet’ (No). Our hosts left with looks of doting parents leaving a child with strangers for the first time. After George and Nino left, I mentioned to Mark that maybe Dariy should visit the garden prior to bedtime. "You walk, I’ll feed," I suggested, (wise female), it was –150C outside. As I prepared Dariy’s supper, I imagined that I heard an English voice shout. I looked out of the window and saw nothing. Five minutes later Mark appeared looking very flushed, with a ‘grubby’ looking Saluki beside him. Dariy had slipped his collar and had been running around the garden, near a busy road, playing ‘catch me.’ Apparently, Dariy thought this was a good game especially as he spoke no English. Luckily for Mark and Dariy, George and Nino witnessed the fun and persuaded the bouncing Dariy that playtime was over. What a night!
Nino’s parents, Victor and Larisa, both work in Moscow and at weekends they travel to the family house at Istra, which is about 50km from Moscow. Nino and George also spend weekends at the family home, taking their dogs with them; it is a good place for the dogs to stretch their legs. The house was fantastic, all the floors were marble and under-floor heating kept the house very comfortable. Istra was still cold and had heavy snowfall; the temperature was rising in Moscow, with the snow melting, so it was a pleasure to see. Nino’s grandparents, who spoke only a few words of English, greeted us very enthusiastically. We enjoyed a large spread of beautiful food, salads, meats and traditional ‘Georgian’ dishes remembered from the family origins. In Russia, it is traditional to toast between courses, with many references to families, friends and dogs. One toast caused amusement; Victor asked me, "Do you like politics?" I replied, "No." This was translated to all the guests and loud laughter followed and of course another glass of Vodka. After dinner we went to the garden with the dogs, Anzor, the Middle Asian Shepherd Dog, was the biggest dog I have ever seen. Anzor is a guard-dog and lives at the house with Nino's grandfather, we were advised to be watchful with no sudden movements. Anzor's duty is to protect the contents of the house and the people; we were, of course, respectful of his duty! In the summerhouse, there was a large fire and we sat on a bench, watching the fire, drinking Cognac and wearing warm clothing. The silence was incredible as the snow fell, creating a very memorable evening.
As we retired to our room, influenced by Cognac, Vodka and the general ambience of the evening, in marched Anzor, who proceeded to climb on my bed for a cuddle, so I moved over and gave him room! In the morning, the rarity of this action was discussed at length. Indeed, a dog lover is recognised by dogs, even if they do not understand the language.
The following morning we left the warmth of the house and a few steps from the path left me thigh deep in snow, much to the amusement of the party and dogs! It was hard not to laugh. We walked to the frozen lake. It was about 15km long and a similar width, people were fishing in the centre through holes in the ice. Dariy did cause concern when he ran onto the ice at speed and continued to try and cross the lake, but much shouting by all in the party, enticed the frolicking Dariy to return, much to our relief.
The snow fell around us although the sun was warm, we walked through the forest with the dogs running free, certainly, there were no problems of meeting people whilst walking. Amazingly, I was informed that wild bears and wolves still occupied the forest, but the ever-watchful, 180lb Anzor was more than capable of protection. In the forest, the trees were mainly Silver Birch, with snow-laden branches, the epitomy of a Christmas card. Amusingly, Anzor has a harness, which is used to attach him to a small sledge. We took turns to have a ride, even I had a go after protesting he could not possibly pull me, (I’m no twiglet), still, away I went. It was a unique feeling to be pulled along like butter by Anzor. Apparently, Grandfather uses the sledge to visit the shop when the snow is high; it causes amusement when he arrives with Anzor, especially when his mobile phone rings in the shop.
We returned to the house to eat a large lunch of wild trout and salads, I asked if the trout were from the lake? "No, the market," was the reply. The men returned to the Summerhouse for more fire building and male bonding, whilst Nino and I continued to talk of Setters, shows and dreams. We returned to Moscow that evening and slept very soundly including a suitably tired Dariy.
When we returned to England we arrived home tired, but elated. As I proceeded to unpack our suitcases our four Setters were very interested in the Russian Saluki smells, but they consider suitcases to be 'fun' anyway. Our cases had been in the bedroom where Dariy had taken great delight in checking for interesting smells, but then, I had expected a certain amount of interest. Our youngest Setter, Devon, was particularly interested in one of the cases and eventually uncovered a well chewed ‘chewy strip’ tucked neatly in the bottom corner of the case. Was this a present from a Russian Saluki, to the Setters maybe?
We enjoyed our time in Russia immensely; the people were very friendly to us and very interested in the show scene in England. Preparation of the dogs was similar, although sprays and other ‘beauty’ items are accepted. George and Nino are not ‘Rich people,’ they are similar to us and enjoy their dogs, as we do. Many people I have spoken to in England, remark about the ‘wide spread’ poverty that they believe to exist in Russia, yes, there are some poor people but then poor people also exist in England.
To return to the original question; ‘Would an Irish Setter Breeder, allow an Irish Setter to be exported to Russia?’, maybe this letter will help, plans are hopeful. A recent mating of ‘Olivia Hensons’ bitch, ‘Ornella Vienna for Tatsbro’ to our boy ‘Shebonnae Dancing Deacon of Kegil,’ will produce a suitable puppy. ‘Olivia’ has agreed to allow a puppy to be exported. I am sure that puppy will grow up in a warm, loving home, not in England, but in Russia.
Nino and George would be interested to hear from Setter, Saluki and Weimaraner Breeders.
Nino and George’s E-mail address is: email@example.com
© Wendy Lewis