Armchair Adventures: The Wild Dogs of Bucharest

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Monumental Triumphal Arch in Bucharest

By Evelyn Kelly, PhD 

In 1995, we made the final stop in our Eastern European tour in Bucharest, the capital of Romania. This city was once considered the “Paris of the East,” with triumphal arch (“Arcul de Triump”) and interesting past.  

Our hotel was the historic Athenee Palace, which was a center of espionage during World Wars I and II. Spies had small orifices in the ceiling and floors that enabled them to hear what was transpiring on the other floors. In the lobby, a person can whisper at one end of the room and be heard on the other. 

There was another effect of the amazing acoustics. We had just jumped in bed when we heard the most mournful howling, yipping, yelping, crying, and growling. We were hearing a true dog fight, and it sounded like we were in the midst of it. Growls and cries continued all night long. 

 Next morning, our guide told us to watch for the Roma people and not to feed the dogs. We were thinking of those poor dogs. He explained that beginning about 1965, the Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu forced people to move from their homes into communist apartment blocks. They had to abandon their dogs, and the legislature passed laws forbidding euthanasia. The street dogs multiplied and formed packs; what we heard last night was a fight between rival dog gangs. 

In 2015, we scheduled a trip to Transylvania. That meant staying in Athenee Palace hotel in Bucharest for two nights. This time, there were no dog fights. What was the difference? 

People loved their animals, but dogs were becoming very aggressive; many citizens and tourists were attacked. In 2013, a pack of dogs mauled and killed a four-year-old boy while he was playing in the park. The attack caused a public outcry, and laws were quickly passed to adopt, sterilize, or humanely care for the once-abandoned dogs. 

We were happy to see so few dogs on the street. As animal lovers, it made us appreciate the work of our concerned humane society. And Bucharest now has become a safe place where tourists can go and appreciate this charming and historic city.