I knew that moving to Ukraine would mean a lot of adjustments, like not being able to meet friends at the bar at a moment's notice. But I didn't expect it would mean sharing my home with a dog. That is, if you can apply the word dog to the tiny creature sitting at my feet as I write.
It has the shape of a dog. But it doesn't do anything that dogs normally do, like bark, slobber or shed. It doesn't jump into my face when I come home. It's so small it couldn't even jump to my knees. In fact, I'm not sure it can jump at all.
Which brings me to another point. If a robber breaks in, how is this creature going to protect us? Nobody will be afraid of a dog that's smaller than a cat. If it had a ferocious bark, maybe it could frighten intruders through noise alone. But the only sound I've ever heard from it was a quiet whimper emitted when it couldn't jump down from the bed. At best, a robber might laugh himself to death.
And what about the healthy walks I might have expected to take every day? With those tiny legs, which are about the same size as a Barbie's, it couldn't possibly keep up with a human being. Whenever I take it outside it starts to tremble. I don't know if it's afraid of the great outdoors or if it doesn't have enough body fat to protect itself from Kiev's chilly September air. Jogging with the dog is not going to happen unless I'm carrying it.
But for all his shortcomings, the dog (I guess it's OK to call him a dog) is having a positive effect in my home. The kids don't fight as much, since they don't want to alarm him with their shouting. They speak more Russian (my wife told them that's the only language the puppy understands). But best of all, his sweetness has lifted my wife's spirits. She beams when he follows her and snuggles up. When we're out, she'll suddenly say, "I miss my dog." As soon as we get home, she calls him, and he comes running. I haven't seen her so happy in years.
For me, the biggest impact so far has been on my nighttime trips to the bathroom. I'm afraid of stepping on him, which could be fatal to either one of us, so I shuffle along the floor in the darkness. I didn't think I'd being doing that for another 40 years. The dog and I have yet to bond, but that's fine with me. He is a girly-dog, after all.