Russian President Vladimir Putin, a dog lover, was presented Wednesday with a puppy as a belated birthday gift from the leader of Turkmenistan.
Television coverage showed a delighted Putin, who celebrated his 65th birthday on October 7, holding and kissing the dog, named Verny, or “Faithful” in Russian, during a meeting in Sochi, Russia.
The alabai, a top Turkmen-bred variety of the Central Asian shepherd dog, joins the Kremlin’s growing kennel.
Foreign leaders from Japan and Bulgaria have also gifted Putin puppies, but the President’s most beloved dog was a black Labrador named Koni, a present from Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
“As far as bad moods go,” Putin said once, “of course I have them like any other person, but in those cases I try to consult with my dog Koni – she gives me good advice.”
Koni was famous for terrifying German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a meeting in 2007. Photos of the meeting showed Merkel, who was once attacked by a dog, looking apprehensive as Koni approached.
Putin told a magazine many years later: “When I found out that she doesn’t like dogs, of course I apologized.” Some of the German press corps thought it had been a deliberate ploy to intimidate Merkel.
Last year, Putin introduced another of his dogs, a large Akita called Yume, to Japanese journalists at the Kremlin. They smiled warily as Yume’s barking reverberated around the hall, before Putin calmed her with some treats.
“You were right to take caution,” Putin said reassuringly to the journalists. “Yume is a no-nonsense dog.”
Yume, which means Dream, had been a gift from Japan in thanks for Russian help after the 2011 earthquake.
In 2013, Putin was photographed rolling in the snow with Yume and a Karakachin dog called Buffy that he was given by the Bulgarian President.
Karakachins are large Bulgarian sheep dogs that look like Saint Bernards.
The Russian leader’s dogs are all big, reflecting his tough-guy image. Former US President George W. Bush recalls Putin ridiculing the Bushes’ dog Barney, a little Scottish Terrier.
Bush recalled Putin saying: “You call that a dog?”
A year later, he went to visit Putin at his dacha outside Moscow. As Bush recounted in his memoir, “Decision Point,” “A big black Labrador [Koni] came charging across the lawn. With a twinkle in his eye, Vladimir said, ‘Bigger, stronger, faster than Barney.’ ”
Bush wrote that he’d told the story to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who replied: “You’re lucky he only showed you his dog.”