What Became of the Dog That Killed Matit (and What It Means for Kalavan)

"I was always willing to be reasonable until I had to be unreasonable. Sometimes reasonable men must do unreasonable things."
Marvin Heemeyer

When your neighbors repeatedly refuse to solve the problems they bring into your life, sometimes you have to take extreme measures to solve them for them.

When my cat Matit (along with a rabbit) was killed by my neighbor's dog in October, I wrote on this blog (Primitive Culture Killed My Cat) that we had been able to reach an amicable solution whereby they would permanently remove that dog from Kalavan so that it would pose no threat to any other animals or children here and that no one would be forced to kill it in defense of their property. I even stated that I did not expect the owner to pay me for the loss of my animals and that I would not get the police involved so long as he did this.

Despite the owner clearly understanding the situation and agreeing to my terms, more than a month went by without him even so much as keeping the dog contained (as he agreed he would until it could be removed). It continued to stalk the perimeter of my fenced property almost every early morning before the sun came up, clearly looking for opportunities to enter.

Finally, he gave the dog to someone in the next village down, Barepat. Yet, shortly afterward, it walked back to Kalavan and restarted its old routine of returning to my property every morning. It clearly now saw an opportunity to try to make a meal out of my ducks, rabbits, and cats. During its most recent intrusion, the enormous dog broke my chainlink fence by jumping over it and managed to kill a black duck before I could chase it off.

I brought these matters to the owner's attention yet again and attempted to have a serious conversation about what the consequences would be for failing to keep their dog off my property. But it seemed that the family had adopted a different attitude about their dog. They were now saying that though they felt bad about their dog continuing to terrorize me, kill my animals, and cause property damage, there was nothing they could do to prevent it.

Yesterday, I posted this video on Facebook to demonstrate that I had finally taken the action that the dog's owner repeatedly failed to take.

The dog doesn't look too dangerous, does it?

That's precisely why I was unprepared to protect Matit from it. It deceived me by looking innocent. I did not know it was a threat. And I did not know its owners were either.

In the more than three months since Matit was killed by their dog, I have repeatedly sought public help and advice about what I could do to resolve the issue with my neighbor, including getting the police or Armenia's version of animal control involved. Hundreds of people read my blog post on this and my personal site about this. Not a single one contacted me to offer any meaningful advice about the institutions here or what my options were.

I posted pictures of the damage caused to my property by that dog. I put out an open call for journalists who want to report on this kind of issue and shared it across dozens of Armenian Facebook groups. My goal was to inventivize irresponsible neighbors to take accountability for the harm they were causing me and the risk they posed to all animals in Kalavan with their negligence. I got zero responses.

But imagine my shock at how quickly the Armenian public response changed once people were under the impression that I had taken action on my own to end the threat that dog posed to me. They suddenly became deeply invested in a problem they had previously ignored. All kinds of inane victim-blaming popped up in my feed to assign accountability to me for not doing a better job of protecting my animals from my neighbor's repeatedly violent and intruding dog.

Countless bleeding-heart internet humanitarians now came out of the woodwork to scold me for not resolving the problem some other way, such as building a stronger and taller fence that could withstand the force of a 60-kilo Armenian Gampr. I guess the fact that my fence is likely the most robust in the village is irrelevant to them. To me, this comes off a bit like telling rape victims that they shouldn't have been dressed a certain way and it was their fault for not doing a better job protecting themselves.

Then they wondered why I didn't just ask the owners to keep the dog inside or tied up. Gee, why didn't I think of that? If only I had bothered to explicitly state that that was the first thing I did after Matit was killed and that the owners repeatedly failed to do as they promised.

They said I should have asked my other neighbors to get involved and help facilitate a solution. I guess they just can't imagine that every neighbor here ignored my complaints and requests for intervention except for one, the man who works on my house, who helped me communicate with the offenders about the issue. I am eternally grateful for his help here.

Now, instead of sympathy regarding the lost nights of sleep and trauma imposed on my from the loss of my cat, I suddenly had a virtual lynch mob coming after me for defending my property and family against a known threat when all diplomatic attempts had failed. Some called me a sadistic freak who was obviously eager to torture and take revenge on some poor cute doggy who couldn't know it had done anything wrong.

Where were all these people all the time I had been telling them about the threat that violent dog posed? Why weren't my neighbors labeled "sadistic" for continuing to allow their dog to terrorize me and make snacks out of my pets and livestock? Was it something about my face or the fact that I am a "guest" in their country? Do different rules of conduct apply to me? That just sounds like racism and xenophobia with a veneer of political correctness on top. Ironically, I showed more patience and composure for the dog I witnessed kill the creature I loved most in the world than these virtual strangers did toward me for trying to prevent the same thing from happening again.

What Finally Solved the Killer Dog Problem

The ongoing suffering I faced was not sufficient motivation for its owner to solve the problem. They did not care that my quality of life was significantly harmed by it still being here. They did not even seem fazed by my explicit threats to kill their dog out of self-defense if I caught it on my property attempting to harm my animals again, just as any of my gun-toting neighbors likely would to protect their homes and livelihoods. They just viewed all these circumstances as unfortunate but unavoidable realities. In their mind, it is not their responsibility or in their power to do anything to change the situation. They approached it as psychological infants without any power to affect the outcome. It was clear to me now that I had made the mistake of assigning too much agency to empty shells of people with virtually zero internal locus of control.

In the end, all it took to motivate the dog owner to do the responsible thing was to demand payment from him for every life it had taken and every instance of physical damage it had caused. 10,000 dram ($20) for a rabbit. 6,000 dram ($12) for a duck. And whatever price they felt was appropriate for the loss of a cat that, to me, was the equivalent of losing a child. That's all I asked, in addition to insinuating that keeping that dog would only grow more expensive for them as it inevitably would go on to kill more things and incur more debt for them.

It took demanding only thirty-two fucking dollars from them to end my torment. Suddenly, they had a personal motivation to get shit done. Money was energy they could understand and feel immediate pain from losing.

I presented them only one alternative to paying me: They could give the dog to me immediately, and I would forgive the debt. I would bring the dog to a shelter in Yerevan, and this problem would be solved forever. And we would never have to talk about this again.

Suddenly, these completely stubborn and unreasonable people were open to my ideas about how to solve the problem, likely only because I offered to do the dirty work of physically relocating it a few hours away in my own car. Amazingly, it turned out they already knew someone near Sevan who would be willing to take the dog. I just had to bring it to them. I'll leave it up to you, dear reader, to infer why they never attempted this readily available solution themselves at any point in the three months of tribulation prior.

Together, the owner, another neighbor, and I put the enormous dog in the back of my car. I drove him to Sevan, where I transferred him into the back of the car of its new owner.

The last thing I said to the new owner was to be careful because the dog he was receiving had killed my cat and other small animals. I wanted him to be prepared for the danger it posed. I did this because I am a responsible person who cares about the effects of his actions, and I was sure the old owner hadn't bothered to mention these trivial details. The new owner seemed confused why I was bothering to tell him this, and he promptly drove off with his new dog.

Later that day, I came home to find Matit's son, Dexter, with a bloody nose injury that he hadn't had when I left. It was probably due to just a random encounter with another cat that reacted aggressively and swatted him in the face too hard. But I also have to consider that he might have been deliberately attacked by some other dog in the village while I was gone, which means that he is not safe here, just as his mother was not. This is the peace of mind that those people and their dangerous dog have taken from me. Because of them, I do not know if I will ever truly feel safe again in the place I have been building my home for three years.

My Goal in Communicating All This

It's incredibly sad to me how little attention or recourse this story got from the Armenian public until they thought I had hurt the dog that hurt me so badly. I wish I could trust this culture's standards of value and basic human respect among neighbors. Already, I have insane people stalking me, gathering data on me and threatening to report me to the police for a crime that was never committed.

I want these unacceptable events to be noteworthy. I want the people who live near me and have the power to harm me with their negligence to be worried. I want them to be as uncomfortable as they have made me by forcing me to know that there are potentially still more dangerous predators casually lurking outside my home at any moment. That they can just rip something out of my life that I have taken care of for years and bonded with. I want all of Armenia to hold them accountable for their negligence.

If Matit's legacy ends up being to put the fear of God and accountability into the hearts of men who have grown accustomed to only thinking about themselves and ignoring the effects of their actions, then she will have accomplished more with her death than most people ever do.

I walk away from this nightmare profoundly disappointed with the lack of action from Armenians who supposedly care about justice and animal welfare… the same people who were so eager to attack me for being willing to take desperate actions to protect myself and the ones I care about from an unrelenting threat.

It is every individual's duty to stop any threat posed to him and his family by any means necessary. Self-defense, even when dealing with cute doggies, is always morally justified. I did not kill that dog, but there are many situations in which I would have if his actions made it necessary. I would have taken no joy in doing so, but I also would have felt no guilt - only immense frustration and sadness that its irresponsible owner would have forced such a situation upon me by not taking care of the problem themselves through peaceful and proactive means.

I'm sure that almost all rural Armenian villagers would agree with me on this issue. One has to wonder how many violent dogs just "go missing" without anyone ever being aware that there is a problem with them because people less outspoken than me opt to just take care of the problem in secret through the quickest and dirtiest means available.

When faced with one of the most traumatic experiences of my life and the loss of the creature I loved most in this world, I still maintained the composure to take the high road. I was tested, and I passed. I still chose to treat my neighbor with basic respect and human decency, despite the pain he had caused me. I still gave him every opportunity to solve the problem himself and make things right with me and the village.

I can only have this presence of mind because I am a man who has already endured so much suffering that operating according to my deepest values in the midst of it is practically standard procedure for me. As well, I knew that creating systemic change in Kalavan through psychological and social accountability was the only real, lasting solution to the problem.

The dog and the incidental threat it posed are gone from my life. But I do not know how long I will have to wait until I feel safe in Kalavan village again. I just want to feel like I have a home and a family again.

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