As part of my book club in Boston, we read Margaret Atwood’s book, Oryx and Crake, a dystopian imagining of the near future in which everything goes off the rails for humanity. Fun, huh? It was interesting enough as it had the type of propulsive plot you’d expect from Atwood, though I felt it was a bit heavy-handed. (Here’s an interesting site discussing the book in more detail for those who are interested.)
The part about the book that I most enjoyed, or found the most disturbing, or both, was Atwood’s description of numerous bio-engineered, genetically modified animals that existed in the world of her novel. There was the chicken that scientists developed to have basically no head (or brain), but numerous breasts, all the better to harvest chicken cutlets. There was the oversized pig — created by splicing their genetic code with human stem cells, and enabling it to grow extra organs for human transplantation purposes — called a pigoon.
The scariest of all had to be the wolvog — the heart and instincts of an angry, hungry wolf and the sweet appearance of a domesticated pet dog.
What was so scary about wolvogs in the book was that they looked like cute puppies and they used their charm to come close to people. Once near, the wolvogs viciously and mercilessly attacked.
I am reminded of wolvogs whenever I walk around in Dushanbe in the evening. The Tajik street dogs come out after the sun sets, and although they do not bother humans, they seem menacing as they travel in packs along darkened streets. Sometimes you can see these streets dogs growl, bark, and fight with each other. And in the night, especially walking home after an evening out at the Irish Pub, there’s something unnerving about a mangy Tajik street dog staring you down under a black sky.
So, whenever I see these dogs, who look like our pets at home (and who clean up nice like Pika above, who is a rescued Tajik street dog), but exhibit the behavior of wolves running in primeval forests, I think of Atwood’s morality tale and shudder a bit inside.