Altai aka Altay (Russia)
Picking up a dog at the airport was a new experience for us. Our five-hour drive to Dulles Airport was uneventful and we arrived ahead of schedule. Our excitement slowly turned to concern with numerous delays at the cargo terminal. Altay’s paperwork became available with less than 15 minutes left on the clock before the customs office closed, so we raced to customs within the nick of time. Back at the cargo terminal we were faced with more delays, finally after more than two hours waiting, the animals were brought to the front of the warehouse. I could no longer wait and went to see him in his crate. He was laying down motionless with big sad eyes. It was obvious that all these animals had gone through a traumatic experience. A forklift picked up his crate and placed it on the loading ramp. He remained motionless. My wife, Mary, started to sweet talk him and the gentle giant came to life. I ran to get some tools to open the crate and a primal howl resonated throughout the parking lot. I got the crate opened and he emerged. What a colossus! We had seen the pictures but without scale there was no way of comprehending his immense size (32+” and 116 lbs.).
By that time, he had been in the crate for well over 14 hours and the crate was still clean! Luckily there was a patch of grass across the loading ramp and he could do his business without further delay. He calmed down instantly and was happy to jump in the van. We drove to a small park and gave him a few minutes of relaxation, some water and food as he was famished. We made several more stops on the road, each time feeding him a small amount of food and giving him only a small amount of water to avoid bloat.
Once home, we needed to introduce Altay to our pack. An important step which we had to speed up under less than ideal conditions. A nearby church parking lot provided the needed neutral ground. Everybody was exhausted but we walked in large ovals for about 25 minutes, giving them the opportunity to walk together without really meeting, it worked and all calmed down after a few laps, curiosity dissipated and we walked home together.
We had prepared a large crate for him, the same crate that we have used for all our Borzoi, but Altay is so big that he did not fit and I could not close the door behind him. So we set up his shipping crate in the garage for the night.
The day was overwhelming for him, we saw some behavior early on that we wanted to address immediately with training. So his first day here was spent on training. He is a fast learner and it is best to train immediately so he understands what is expected, allowed, and not allowed. You could see the stress melt away from his face as he was getting comfortable. That evening he had fully accepted the pack and his jovial character started to show. Day two was another major leap, the day started with playing, running with a ball, tug of war, and racing around the field (see photos). He has taken a real liking to Mary and wants to please. He comes, sits, and shakes on command.
The great surprise was Finland (Finn, 2018), our little timid rescue. He has taken on the role of referee and makes sure that play between Danya and Altay remains friendly. He may only be 65 lbs but he is twice as fast and not shy to correct the big giant.
This is only the end of day two, but we could not have hoped for a better outcome. He is a wonderful, happy dog and will soon get his Siberian coat trimmed for spring weather.
Thanks to NBRF for making Altay’s rescue possible. Your determination and assistance have been truly amazing! Please consider donating, Borzoi do not have many rescue options and this organization is so vital to the breed.
Thank you again for all your work and dedication!
My name is Altai and I am a world traveler. I was named after the Altai Mountains as I used to live nearby in the historic city of Barnaul in Siberia. One day I got lost and roamed the streets before finding shelter in a factory. A group of people rescued me and I lived outdoors for a while in minus 40 degrees below zero weather. Some nice people in Moscow learned about me and arranged for me to travel on the Trans-Siberian Railway to Moscow where I was cared for before making my big trip to America. I arrived here 10 days ago after traveling more than 7,300 miles! I met my new human mom and dad at the airport, I was quite stressed and disoriented. Once I got to my new house, I met new friends, which are now my pack members. These guys are quite small and I tried to become their pack leader, but I was quickly told that this was not an option. It was a “take it or leave it” proposition and I took the job as junior pack member. My pack members are Finland also a rescue, and Danya, who does something called agility, a game I do not understand yet.
I tried to get my bearings the first couple of days. WOW! Americans eat a lot! I am getting three home-cooked meals each day! I was quite stunned about this the first days, I love the slow cooked meals my mom makes me.
The wildlife here is different but also the same, the deer are larger and the squirrels have less fur. I hate those squirrels and lose my temper when I see them. I have been working on my temper with my dad and am told that I am making good progress. Since I arrived I have learned to sit, shake, lay, and my recall performance mostly depends on my mood at this point. I am getting daily lessons and am getting good grades. Those lessons can be mentally exhausting and I like to take naps in between them.
My biggest challenge is food and stealing food. I really wanted a piece of chicken that was on the counter and challenged my dad about it. I growled and showed him my teeth, but this guy saw right through my poker face. He kept repeating “sit” and “lay” and I finally did lay down. It was embarrassing, I made sure he knew afterwards how sorry I was. I also tried to steal a bag with a loaf of bread but my head got stuck in the bag and that freaked me out. I am being told that a life of crime does not pay, but I have these urges when I see food. My parents think it is because I was hungry in Siberia. My dad makes me sit patiently next to him when he prepares our food. I am the junior so I eat last, it is supposed to teach me patience.
Every day we go on walks and I have learned the “halt” command, I stop and am not allowed to pull. I am doing much better walking on a loose leash now and have fewer impulses when I see those pesky squirrels.
There are two toy boxes I share with my pack. I go nuts with the toys! My favorite is playing tug of war with dad. I sound and act fierce, but it is all play.
Everybody here says that I am huge and strong but I love being massaged. We do a lot of bonding exercises, which are very relaxing. My parents think I was misunderstood in my past because of my size and power. I am a Borzoi and I am quite sensitive after all. I understand that I will be meeting a groomer soon as my Siberian coat is useless here. It is even hotter here than a summer day on Lake Baikal.
From “North Carolina” with Love.
It is hard to believe that it already has been 18 days since we picked up Altai at the airport, and what a transformation it has been!
The pack has formed an amazing bond with Altai, they are truly best friends as can be seen in the photos. The biggest surprise remains Finland (Finn, 2018 rescue) who was always reserved but loves to play now. He is half the size of Altai but twice as fast and runs circles around him, which he dearly enjoys.
All the little issues have quickly dissipated, Altai has learned to be patient with food, no more challenges and no more attempts at taking food that does not belong to him. There is still no peace treaty with the squirrels but tempers are more muted and walks are quite civilized now. His ability to “halt” and stop without pulling is remarkable, it is a true time-out.
He loves affection and, like all Borzoi, is very sensitive. He loves to lean on us, and loves to be hugged. He has learned to trust us and has learned that there is no physical correction or abuse in this house. I can tell that there was in his past, sometimes he flinches when I make a sudden or unexpected move, and he does not like to be touched by human feet. His face is very easy to read, and it is obvious when he gets worried or stressed. We quickly redirect him when we see signs of stress.
His days are filled with walks in the neighborhood, play in the field, play in my office, naps, training sessions, and meals… all this activity, especially the running has made him lose a couple of pounds. He looks quite trim.
He is a big baby, so much that we concluded that his behavior is not just that from a dog that was deprived of puppy hood. He is not five years old, Katya in Russia thought he was more likely three years old. We concluded that he may be even a few months younger. He has a mature nose, but I am confident that it will continue to mature as he reaches adulthood. His energy level, high drive for toys and play, and his overall behavior is stereotypical of a puppy or young adult. All his physical attributes (teeth, toes, etc.) also indicate a young dog. He loves baby-talk and quickly started responding to the nickname “Tai-Tai”.
We have never had a vocal Borzoi: whining, chanting, barking, howling… and what a diverse repertoire! As I am writing this, he is doing one of his many howls to get attention from me or Danya who is sleeping six feet from him (no, it is not social distancing). He has a deep voice and even his play sounds fierce. It is obvious that he was misunderstood in the past and that his power, voice, and size lead to him being abandoned.
He is a typical example of a dog that gives back what you invest in him. The kinder and gentler we are, the softer and more trusting he gets. We see happiness on his face every day and that is such a rewarding sight.
Thank you again to NBRF for all your work and for getting us Finland and Altai!
Anthony (Borzoi Dad)