Note From the Field – Meeting the Dogs

p1120315Mongolia is stranger and more beautiful than my wildest dreams. It is stretching my definition of myself as a traveler and as a human. Yeah, I know, we’re really jumping right in here.

I’m on my first trip into the countryside! Baaggi and I left UB early in the morning so as we moved farther and farther away, the mountains along the road were lit up by the sun rising behind us. It’s startling how fast the land transitions out of the city, to flecked with small dilapidated buildings, to emptiness abbreviated by the infrequent wanderer or herd or birdlife.

We passed a man on the side of the road, looking for a ride. We stopped for him and he came up to us – I could have just as easily been looking at a National Geographic cover than out the truck window.

He wore a traditional hat and deel, his face was stoney and his eyes moved slowly over the both of us. Baagii has been my guide, teacher, and interpreter so far. My medium to Mongolia (I would be quite literally lost without him. It is humbling to be able to say literally two words in the local language).He talked to the man and we made room for him in the back seat. They talked in Mongolian for twenty minutes while I tried to pick out their phrases, and then we left him – he faded back into the epic snowy, formidable landscape. We carried on.


Baagii and I stop to take some pictures of birds.




Bird sightings so far: the Upland Buzzard, the Black Vulture, Saker Falcon (!).


Saker Falcon feeding on a power line post.


Uppland Buzzard in flight.

I have now met all of our beautiful Bankhar in the breeding program.

Baagii showed me to ropes of staying in a ger, how the coal stove works, and introduced me to all of the dogs. They were really friendly except for Huder, who isn’t my biggest fan. Orsilla is looking very pregnant, we’re hoping she will give birth soon. I’m excited to get working on developing some new data collection sheets for us to organize more information on the dogs.

Red Scarf looking not terribly thrilled.

And so arriving here at our property in the countryside was my introduction to the dogs, and my first experience with the herders effected by a lack of mitigation tools to prevent livestock loss. Mygaa, our caretaker told us that our neighbors lost 70 sheep to wolves last night. This struggle between wildlife and humans trying to continue their traditional existence is real, and the reason we are here. Later on, the neighbor stopped by with one of his sheep that had been dispersed by the wolves. It wasn’t dead yet, but severely injured; its partially detached tail was dangling from its hind quarters. All before now this problem and this project had been real to me only on paper. I had written grants for the project, edited a few parts of the site, spread the word for our indiegogo the word for our indiegogo campaign, and perfected my elevator speech about our work to dozens of patient friends and family. And now here it was right in front of me. A kennel full of breedable dogs to create a population of wolf/human ambassadors. A fatally wounded sheep, a herder losing a valuable resource. The big picture was suddenly very close and very personal. Maybe that is the feeling that Mongolia provokes most; that big picture becoming the view. That National Geographic article has become the guy in my backseat, and the smell of blood on a suffering animal. The bright glossy photograph is my front door.

This post is adapted from a post originally published at



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