Having a dog in Dhaka isn’t easy. There are tons of stray street dogs, we can’t walk Athena in any of the nice well-maintained parks, guards yell at us if she takes care of business in front of their gate/wall, there aren’t many sidewalks (and there are lots of speeding cars), and the climate makes it a less-than-pleasant experience for everyone.
That said, I am really glad we have a dog here. Walking Athena is the best way to explore the neighborhood because people generally leave us alone. Without her, I would rarely go outside. I work from home, and there aren’t many errands to run since we don’t have a car yet, so it’s much more comfortable to just stay inside.
Plus I’d be miserable without her unconditional love and companionship.
There seem to be two different kinds of off-leash dogs running around the streets of Dhaka: stray dogs who live on the street, and guard dogs who sometimes roam around freely. There are mean and nice dogs in either category, and in our neighborhood they are generally left to do what they want (rather than being beaten or mistreated).
We’ve settled into a walking routine. In the evenings, when we are both home, I take the leash and Nate has his hands and legs free to scare away the mean street dogs. Some people walk their dogs and carry and big stick to scare the strays away, but we haven’t needed to do that yet. There are some nice stray and guard dogs that Athena has made friends with, and when she comes by, they come running out to greet her.
The dog interactions are a lot less complicated here than they are in the U.S.: if a street dog is barking at you, stay away, and if a street dog seems nice, you have a new friend. Because many of the street dogs have never been on a leash, their behavior is much more natural and less strained than that of dogs in the U.S. When street dogs greet Athena they come up from behind rather than running straight at her, which is definitely what she prefers, and they are quick to submit to her.
Apparently yesterday morning, while Nate was puzzling out a billboard, a stray snuck up on them and by the time he noticed the dog, there was a lot of happy butt sniffing happening. Athena and the stray ran around and played together, until some other strays a block away start barking and Athena’s new friend scurried off.
I think Athena is happy here. Each walk is an adventure, whether it’s meeting a friend, human or canine, or encountering new things, like chickens in the street or hoppy bugs in the elevator. She’s made lots of doggie friends, including her new best friend, a reformed street dog named Reggie. Her quality of life will improve when we move into our permanent housing next week, which has a huge roof terrace with lots of grass. There’s even a faucet where we’ll be able to fill up her puppy pool! Apparently there’s also an undeveloped area about 20 minutes away where expats take their dogs to run around on the weekends. We’re excited to explore that once we have a car.
Most expats have their household staff walk their dogs, but we aren’t planning on doing that. Walking Athena is such a part of our daily routine, I’m not willing to give that up. I am glad that I savored those last walks in our neighborhood in Virginia, where Athena could run off-leash through the fields and I wasn’t sweating my ass off.
Life in Dhaka, and everything that that encompasses, is our new normal, and we are all slowly, but surely, getting used to it.