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How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog): Visionary Scientists and a Siberian Tale of Jump-Started Evolution by Lee Alan Dugatkin & Lyudmila Trut

How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog): Visionary Scientists and a Siberian Tale of Jump-Started Evolution by Lee Alan Dugatkin & Lyudmila Trut

Author:Lee Alan Dugatkin & Lyudmila Trut [Dugatkin, Lee Alan]
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9780226444215
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Published: 2017-03-23T04:00:00+00:00


BACK WHEN DMITRI HAD FIRST EXPLAINED HIS plan for domesticating foxes to Lyudmila, she had thought about the moving words of the fox character in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s classic story, The Little Prince. “You are forever responsible for what you tame,” the fox tells the prince. She felt that responsibility intensely, as did Dmitri and her assistants, and to some extent all those at the Institute. This, in part, was why they had hired some night watchmen to keep an eye on the farm and its precious inhabitants. With that sense of responsibility had also come love. Living in the house with Pushinka and her pups, Lyudmila and her assistants had truly come to love their companions, every bit as much as dog and cat owners love their pets. There was no point, Lyudmila knew in her heart, in denying that. The powerful love they were feeling was also important in illuminating how the bond between people and animals had become so strong.

Inevitably, that love also carries with it great sorrow and loss.

On the morning of October 28, 1977, as Lyudmila and Tamara approached the experimental house, they didn’t see the foxes peering out the windows, and as they got near the front door, they didn’t hear them yammering with excitement. This was very odd; the foxes always greeted them. They anxiously opened the door. No foxes came running to jump all over them. As they walked into the house, they realized it was empty. Then they noticed blood marks all over the room, on the floors and the walls. Horrified, they realized that some thugs had broken into the house in the night and killed the foxes for their furs.

Lyudmila and Tamara were in shock. After a few moments of stunned silence, they burst out crying. Then, suddenly, they heard some whimpering, and to their great joy, little Proshka, the most timid of Pushinka’s grandsons, came scampering into the room. “When Proshka heard our voices,” Lyudmila remembers, “he came out of his hiding and didn’t leave our side.” The quietest of all the foxes, the one who was such a loner, had been clever and lucky enough to survive.

Proshka required special attention for some time in order to return to his normal self, and then continued living happily in the experimental house. More foxes were brought to the house, and before long, they had pups, including one who was named Pushinka II. And the foxes continued to live in the house for several more years, with no further incidents. Lyudmila, though, spent less time there. She had other work and it was simply too painful.

How the murders could have happened remains a mystery to this day. The house was surrounded by a high fence, and the doors of the house, which were locked, had not been tampered with. The two night watchmen who patrolled the fox farm reported nothing unusual. The police were called in. They were tight-lipped about their investigation—this was the Soviet Union in 1977—but they talked with Lyudmila and Dmitri and they questioned the workers.



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