When Russia was devastated by floods during the summer, a dog named Druzhok swam back to his evacuated home and sat in the cold water, keeping guard and refusing to leave.
The Andreev family’s home was one of thousands in the Amur region of eastern Russia to be inundated with water when flooding washed out an area as large as Texas and California combined back in late summer.
“We did not have time to save any belongings,” said Yelena, Druzhok’s owner. “The flood started like the war at 4 am. My husband Vladimir came and said: ‘It’s time to go. We took Druzhok and went off. We drove to the hill and just stood there: where to go next? To whom? Where to live?
“In the end, we went to stay with our relatives. But they have an apartment on the fifth floor and Druzhok is not a small dog. Plus he is used to living outside. So we had to leave him and our truck next to our not yet flooded neighbors. Every day we came to see and feed him and everything was normal. People looked after him. ‘He guards the truck, does not let strangers to come close, and sleeps underneath it’, they told us.
“On the third day we came in the morning but Druzhok was not there. We rushed to look for him, then took a boat and sailed to our flooded house. We heard him barking there. Then we saw some rescuers sailing toward us. ‘Is it your dog?’ they asked. ‘He won’t allow us into the house and refuses to let us take him to safety.’”
Yelena believed that four-year-old Druzhok swam back at night, perhaps believing that the rest of his family – Yelena’s son, daughter and granddaughter – came home and needed protection.
“And it is deep here. He could not run, he had to swim. The dog stood on the top step of the porch in the cold water all night.
“We sailed into the yard and saw him. He was standing there and trembling, but wouldn’t move away from his place,” Yelena said. “But when he saw us he was so happy. We took him into the boat and he rushed to lick us. We all were so happy.”
They made sure Druzhok, which means “little friend,” was not left alone after his disappearance.
“It is simply unbearable to think that he is here alone. The water is rising. If he goes back to the house, he might not be able to stand on the porch or will not have enough strength to swim back. Our friends had an empty aviary, and we asked to put our dog there, and they invited us to come and live with them.”
The Andreevs love Druzhok, and have had him since he was a puppy.
“He’s a very smart boy. Nobody taught him, he grew up clever by himself. He understands everything. He senses my husband or daughter from a 10km distance and starts barking, telling me to heat the soup. But if he wants to run around, no chain will stop him. He will tear it and run away. And when he’s had enough he comes and shows his neck as if saying ‘leash me, I’m ready.’”
All photos by Yelena Andreev.