20 May 2015

Radioactive dogs of Chernobyl

I've visited the Chernobyl zone three times now, and each time there are apparently stray dogs roaming around.  Most of them look reasonably healthy, so one has to assume someone is feeding them.  As you may know I have a soft spot for dogs, more so after the passing of Skip very recently.

Some are very timid, and you can't get close to them.

I've seen them in all parts of the zone, from Chernobyl town, 10 km away from the power station, to the building site, just a hundred metres or so away from the reactor that went boom.

I'd have loved to have taken one of the pups we found home on the most recent trip home with me.

NB.  One of these is not a dog!

18 May 2015

Meeting a Chernobyl resettler

It was my third trip to the Chernobyl zone, but the first time meeting one of the re-settlers to the zone.

Rosalia is 87 years old, and she lives alone in Zalissya village a few miles outside of the town of Chernobyl, which is about 6 miles from the power station.  She walks into town for provisions, rarely accepting a ride.

The house (more of a wooden shack) has no running water, gas, or electricity.  She tends to her land (a very large garden) growing vegetables all by herself.  Even while we were looking around she kept digging away.

I'm told she used to be a teacher of Ukrainian language and literature.  She returned to her village after the accident despite the officials trying to get her to accept an apartment somewhere outside of the area of contamination.

I asked our guide Helen, if we should give her a "tip" for her hospitality.  "No, she wouldn't accept it" was the reply.

Rosalia, you have our respect.

For those who might be interested in the photography side of things, I used a slightly unusual lens with my Olympus EM1 body.  It was a Fujian 35mm manual focus lens with a microfour thirds mount, that I picked up on eBay for £20.

As you can see, optically it's a bit rough around the edges, but it has a rather pleasing sharp spot in the middle that I think works rather well in this image.

08 May 2015

RIP Skip

When the diagnosis of cancer was made, we didn't know if we'd have a few months, weeks or days left with Skip. My guess was a few weeks, but it turned out to be only a few days.

We took him to the vet on the Wednesday, he collapsed on the scales, unable to get up. Although he was okay a few minutes later, it was during a discussion with the vet that there was only one option, the only question was when. We'd gone to the vet that day as a routine thing, and not to make that kind of decision, and despite what I share on Facebook at times, I am a rather private person, and I couldn't stand the thought of walking through the shop crying my eyes out, and then driving back home to an empty house. So we opted for a home visit, which we figured would be best for all concerned.

In a way the timing was a relief. Just a few days later and I'd be away in Ukraine for 5 days, and I despite the pain, I really wanted to be there at the end.

I spent his last couple of hours laying with him on the floor. He was peaceful and relaxed. Although he didn't want any food that morning, he did still insist on being taken for a walk, and even got up to greet the vet as they arrived.

He was up 3 times in the night with diarrhoea, and he'd lost so much muscle mass on his newly operated on leg that he was struggling to walk, so we knew we'd made the right decision. Two whole months of non-stop diarrhoea was just too much.

Ruth, our vet was as kind and gentle as you'd expect. She explained the process, put a line in, and injected the overdose of general anaesthetic.

Within just a couple of seconds he was gone.

So quick.

So peacefully.

Holding him as he went was probably the single hardest thing I've ever had to do.

I had to leave the room at that point as it was just too much for me. I never saw him again, hiding myself under my hat as they took him away.

We've asked for his ashes to be returned. Mum wants to plant a tree or something for him in the garden. I kinda like that idea.

In some cruel twist of irony, it's exactly 4 years and 4 days since Dad died.

Skip had been in our family for a week shy of 12 years. During that time he bought much happiness and laughter into our home. Despite a rather trying first few months, where he tried to destroy the house, he was an awesome dog.

I'm going to miss his help opening parcels, he always enjoyed ripping apart a cardboard box. I'm going to miss him joining in when a dog barks on the telly. I'm going to miss him pissing over his legs (stupid bloody dog!). I won't miss him barking at nothing though, oh who am I kidding, of course I will.

Bloody dog.

[These are the first and final photos I have of him.]