Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is known for his dogged determination — and his love for dogs. Hence, the Japanese government reportedly made Putin a recent gift-offer of an Akita dog, apparently as a charming companion for Putin’s current pooch, Yume, also gifted by Japan in 2012. But the offer was reportedly turned down by Russia, leaving Japanese officials bewildered over what could then be presented to Putin by Shinzo Abe at an upcoming summit. Gifting global figures a furry friend has been established diplomatic practice. In 1953, Vietnam’s iconic leader Ho Chi Minh presented China’s Chairman Mao two elephants while in 1990, Indonesia’s President Suharto gifted American President George Bush a hissing Komodo dragon reptile, weighing 100 kgs-plus (promptly re-gifted to the Cincinnati Zoo).
Pandas, koalas, birds and bears have all been part of diplomacy’s baggage. But it is dogs, not jumbos or jackasses, that apparently gladden Putin’s heart. The Siberian strongman in 2012 even enthusiastically gifted Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez a Russian canine called “Stalin’s dog”, bred to guard prisoners. So, for those wondering why the dog-loving Putin refused yet another dumb chum, perhaps Putin finds his hands full right now. He’s also the proud owner of an enormous Bulgarian Shepherd called Buffy, gifted by Bulgaria in 2010. The trio are often featured in glossy snaps where Putin presents his warm, cuddly side, rolling in the Russian snows with his doggies.
Or, it could be that Putin isn’t over Konnie, his beloved Labrador who passed away in 2014 — but not before making its mark on international diplomacy. Putin had Konnie, the size of a small horse, enter a room where he was in negotiations with dog-phobic Angela Merkel. Visibly stiffening, the German chancellor struggled to keep calm as Konnie circled about. Later, Putin claimed he didn’t know Merkel was terrified of dogs. “I apologised,” Putin told media. Diplomacy, while polished and suave, can swiftly turn into a dog-eat-dog world, where opponents could be left wondering just who let the dogs out.
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