Lately I have been taking my pet Chihuahua, named Chi Chi, on regular nightly walks in central Yerevan just before 7:00 pm. Our route starts at the corner of Vartanantz and Hanrabedutyan Streets. We walk towards Tumanyan Street, where we take a left and trot by the Chinese food restaurants and lovers stroll hand-in-hand. Then we round the corner of Nalbandyan Street, heading towards Sakharov Square, where we turn onto Vartanatz and then go home. It takes us about 10 minutes to walk the distance, and although it’s not rigorous exercise for me, my puppy can easily get tuckered out. Once in a while we bump into another small dog, like a Yorkshire Terrier (my dog is scared of others) or a sneaky feral cat – you never know what revenge they’ll reveal on a canine their size or even smaller.
The reactions we get are various, but they are mostly cordial. Most of the comments are along the lines of “What a lovely, tiny dog,” “Hey, dude, check out that puppy!” or “Is that a dog or rat?” Some guys loitering on the sidewalk on the corner for something to happen just stare as we walk by. Fruit and flower vendors don’t know what to make of us at all. But no matter the nature of the comment, Chi Chi walks tall.
I’ll be honest and say that I was not always very enthusiastic to walk Chi Chi along Yerevan’s streets. Not because of what may happen if a stray dog comes our way, but how other pedestrians may approach her. There’s plenty of dog owners flaunting their trophy Pit-bulls or Rottweilers out there, and one snap from them could be detrimental to little Chi Chi. A couple of times we were approached by someone looking for a mate for dog breeding purposes. Another time, a toddler who was running about unsupervised on the wide corner of Nalbandyan and Tumanyan Streets was trying to chase Chi Chi scaring the both of us as I tried to reel her in and pick her up for protection. But so far, we haven’t had any problems from anyone. People who are unimpressed with my feline mini-dog pose no threat at all. So far, we’re safe, although I won’t let my guard down since you never can tell.
But while we take our daily stroll I notice the differences in people’s characters, their approach to other living beings, and gage their personalities in a split second, simply based on their reactions to Chi Chi. I have been able to determine kindness, indifference, mild interest and sincere affection. Although Armenian society is by and large mono-ethnic, I haven’t seen such a range of emotional states so prevalently displayed in public anywhere else I have visited. If I were to walk Chi Chi in Boston (where I am from), I’m certain that very few people would take notice, other than dog lovers. Here, it’s rare to notice someone who can’t take their eyes off of her as we walk by, even people who have already seen her countless times. She provokes interest, commentary and reaction in people.
Now, I’m thinking that Chi Chi should run for public office to politically motivate citizens once again. She might become a contender in the next presidential elections given the disgruntled commentary that’s often voiced, you never know.
Our walks lead me to believe, with a conviction stronger than ever, that if Armenians find the motivation that they so desperate seek to stand and make a difference – whatever that change may turn out to inevitably be – it can certainly happen. With the right stimulus at the appropriate moment, the concerns of many can be properly addressed in their favor. Armenia seems to go through periods of rage against the establishment, then dormancy; there isn’t a consistent, proactive struggle on a impressive, thought provoking level. I think many are growing weary of monthly or bimonthly “demonstrations” where all attendees hear are diatribes based on a list of general complaints.
When will citizens become activated again? Signs have already emerged in the form of small protests by a group of young, brave environmental protectionists. They single handedly put a halt on mining excavation operations in the Teghut Forest with their brazen demonstrations, and unless I am wrong that hold still stands.
What’s next? Well, perhaps more people should get Chi Chis of their own, and take action to make their lives as well as those of their families easier in an environment overrun by thugs. Optimism, hope and sincerity are the keys.
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