Russian President Vladimir
Putin, a dog lover, received a top breed puppy as a belated
birthday gift on Wednesday from Turkmenistan’s president who is
keen to recover lost Russian markets for Turkmen gas.

“We have a common friend – this is the world’s unique alabai
dog. And today I brought this little alabai with me,” President
Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov said before talks with Putin, pulling
the pup out from a portable cage and holding it up by the scruff
of its neck.

Putin, who marked his 65th birthday on Oct. 7, took the
puppy, called Verny which means “faithful” in Russian, and
kissed it in its forehead.

The alabai is a home-bred Turkmen variety of the Central
Asian shepherd dog. Along with the handmade carpets and the
ancient Akhal Teke breed of race horses, it is officially listed
as part of Turkmenistan’s national heritage.

Plush and cuddly when they are young, alabai dogs grow into
fierce shepherd dogs, fearless in warding off wolves but also in
dealing with human strangers.

Berdymukhamedov, a flamboyant former dentist whose interests
range from sport cars to noble horses, enjoys a personality cult
and autocratic powers in his desert nation which sits on the
world’s fourth-largest natural gas reserves.

The two men held talks at the Black Sea resort of Sochi, on
the sidelines of a summit of ex-Soviet states, with the Turkmen
side keen to see a possible resumption of natural gas exports to

Russia, once the main buyer of Turkmen gas, stopped buying
the fuel last year due to a price dispute. China, with its
growing appetite for energy, is now the main market for Turkmen

Some other foreign leaders including those of Japan and
Bulgaria have also given Putin puppies of rare breeds as gifts. – Reuters