Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Commuting canines

When you have to take care of yourself in the urban jungle, a dose of instinct, ingenuity, and teamwork is mighty helpful.

blending in on the train
photo credit: OddityCentral
A motley crew of hundreds of stray dogs live in the suburbs of Moscow but commute into the city on the subway to scavenge and beg for food scraps in the more fruitful (ha ha) downtown districts.

This odd daily migration was the dogs' speedy (and highly adaptive!) response to the demolition of old Soviet warehouses within the city where they'd been sleeping. The dog population keeps growing, so the extra commuting time seems to be a worthwhile investment in their biological fitness.

Dr. Carin Bonder at Biologist with a Twist called the dog commuting phenomenon "amazing, interesting and worrying all at the same time".

Amazing: the dogs have learned which trains to take and how long they need to spend on the train, and they apparently work together to make sure they get off at the right stop.

warm, quiet train cars welcome at the end of a long day
photo credit: English-Russia
Nevertheless, we can all empathize that after a long day of scavenging and begging, some dogs fall asleep and get off at the wrong stop... in other words, they blend right in!

Interesting: in fact, they apparently choose the quietest carriages at the front and back of the train (no mobile phones?).

Worrying: the increased number of stray animals causes suffering for them, for many native critters like birds, mice, and lizards (true, it is mainly cats that kill billions of birds and other animals each year), and for people (all you runners out there who have faced aggressive loose dogs, raise your hands!).

On a more upbeat note, it seems like this group of sharp-witted dogs relies on their cunning and personality, rather than their claws and teeth, to make the best use of their highly urbanized human surroundings.

cuteness will get you everywhere - at least in Moscow!
photo credit: The Voice of Russia

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