“A Portrait of a Dog as an Older Guy” by Katia Kapovich

When his owner died in 2000 and a new family
moved into their Moscow apartment,
he went to live with mongrels in the park.
In summer there was plenty of food, kids
often left behind sandwiches, hotdogs and other stuff.
He didn’t have a big appetite,
still missing his old guy.
He too was old, the ladies no longer excited him,
and he didn’t burn calories chasing them around.
Then winter came and the little folk abandoned the park.
The idea of eating from the trash occurred to him
but the minute he started rummaging in the
overturned garbage container, a voice
in his head said: “No, Rex!”
The remnants of a good upbringing lower
our natural survival skills.


I met him again in the early spring of 2001.
He looked terrific. Turning gray became him.
His dark shepherd eyes were perfectly bright,
like those of a puppy.
I asked him how he sustained himself
in this new free-market situation
when even the human species suffered from malnutrition.
In response he told me his story;
how at first he thought that life without his man
wasn’t worth it, how those
who petted him when he was a pet
then turned away from him, and how one night
he had a revelation.


His man came to him in his sleep,
tapped him on his skinny neck and said:
“Let’s go shopping!” So the next morning he took the subway
and went to the street market
where they used to go together every Sunday and where
vendors recognized him and fed him
to his heart’s content.
“Perhaps you should move closer to that area?”
I ventured.—”No, I’ll stay here,” he sighed,
“oldies shouldn’t change their topography. That’s
what my man said.”
Indeed, he sounded like one himself.


Katia Kapovich, “A Portrait of a Dog as an Older Guy” from Cossacks and Bandits. Copyright © 2007 by Katia Kapovich