Dogs And Romanians

Mihai Eminescu published an article entitled “What happens when dogs are not looked after” in Curierul de Iasi, no. 129 of 26 November 1876. The text was the following: “D. N. Pascu, deputy-prefect in Dorohoi, was bitten by a rabid dog while strolling on the streets of Mihaileni. The above-mentioned was so severely affected by rabies that, notwithstanding all the efforts of his friends and relatives, and especially the laudable close care provided by Mr Dimitrie Moruz, the Dorohoi prefect, on the 17th he died. This case brings back to our minds, the rights which the dogs enjoyed in the good old days in our beloved town of Iasi, rights which should be subjected to a philanthropic revision from the competent authorities. As it is well-established that there is a certain difference between Iasi and Mihaileni, we would humbly address one question: will the immunity of the dogs in this town remain intact, which sometimes isolated, sometimes in pairs, sometimes even constituting in small travel companies, enjoy the good life, not bothered by anyone and still very bothersome for their biped cohabitants. For this reason, in order to avoid a statistic of the rabies cases, so specifically characteristic to Iasi, we believe we do no wrong thing when we ask the competent authorities to arrange for stricter measures for the eradication of stray dogs”. Eminescu’s text cannot but make us fancy at such a world. That is to say, 130 years ago, the local landscape was already preparing the future. Despite the differences (unavoidable as in the case of Iasi and Mihaileni), the Romanian contemporary town still maintains the atmosphere and problems of the old towns. We have traditions. And we keep these traditions with devotion, without “taking” any rash measures against them. Carol I, newly arrived in his new (and modest) Bucharest residence, also saw dogs for the first time: dogs and quaint groups of Roma dancers, men and women (at the time still called “gypsies” with an innocent political incorrectness). Just as in the countryside the Romanian becomes brethren with the forests, in towns he surrounds himself with dogs, which he associates with an affectionate mythology: for example when he wishes to evoke wealth, the Romanian speaks about the land of milk and honey where “dogs carry pretzels on their tails”. When they want to stigmatise the disorder of a community they speak of anarchy, of “villages without dogs”. Therefore, the dog has mainly positive connotations: when you think about a dog you think about friendship, fidelity, good wealth, protection and Brigitte Bardot. God Himself, at some point, needed a monastic order to represent Him on earth with the humility and rigour of dogs: the Dominicans, the “Dogs of the Lord”. Nevertheless, things have changed lately: modernity has brought upon urbanisation, namely the transformation of the village without dogs in a city roaming with dogs. And even if the numerical surplus of dogs is paradoxically creating the same impression of an anarchic community, without any dogs, we must admit that the former reality has been elevated now to a new superior level. Our dogs are, as of the 1st of January 2007, European dogs. They have different “immunities” than they had in Eminescu’s time. Soon, the phrase “bad dog” will be prohibited as being discriminatory. A “dog’s life” will need to become a dignified, decent life, with immovable rights, just like all the other God’s creatures. But nowhere as in Romania do dogs enjoy so may post-revolutionary liberties, and confidently benefit from the nobleness of a millennial history: here, on the shores of the Danube, we live “ab antiquo” with the mythology of the she-wolf, on whose breasts insatiably suckled our ancestors Romulus and Remus. The she-wolf descended from the Dacian flag and from the Latin pedestal and became a “community bitch”. And because Romulus and Remus are now grown up, she holds, not at her breasts, but in her teeth, a sub-prefect or a Japanese diplomat. She is democratic and multicultural. Grivei[1], Tatters and Bubico[2] are slowly coming out of the idyllic languor of culture and of the domestic environment, in order to represent “the street” and to be elected for a uninominal seat in the Parliament. It’s night. I am writing these lines, not without the tiniest historical palpitation, and all of a sudden, from the Government building (which I am proud to be a neighbour of) I can hear the nervous barking of the neighbourhood dogs. They are my dogs. Our dogs. In no other capital of the united Europe can you experience such an intimate communion with the past and future reunited. I am listening and in the darkness I can hear the message, both immemorial and eschatological, of our national destiny.Dilema veche August 28-September 3, 2008Translated by Anca Dumitriu
[1] A traditionally Romanian name for dogs.[2] Names of famous or infamous dogs in Romanian literature.

by Andrei Pleşu