Chernysh Runs Scout

Talnakh, Russia © Alexey Ralphs, Google Maps

Chernysh knows his man will walk today. He thumps his tail to say that he is glad, and that he will run scout.

The job of scout is hard one. He must watch the man. He must stay close. He must run ahead, and back. He must know the risk in every smell, he must ponderate each danger.

On this walk, he scents it. He presses nose to gritty snow and breathes. Overtop the late-night vodka piss, beneath the old man’s factory-walk: Stray Dog. A wolf-eye howler. This one comes with hungry teeth and bad intentions.

Chernysh growls quite low—then hellhound race down snow canyon, until the scent is lost to smelt and sulfur wind. He barks good riddance! He barks don’t come back!

He nudges up when good man pats his head. The good man never needs to know the danger—not while Chernysh keeps his watch.

149 words (if you don’t count how I cheated the hyphenation game!)

This has been an edition of What Pegman Saw. To read more stories inspired by the prompt, click here.

As the occasional host of What Pegman Saw, I selected this place some time ago, and saved it for the dead of winter. I refrained from doing any research on it until the post went live on Saturday. And that’s when I fell into a fascinating pit of research which I found difficult to dig out of. Such is the hazard of Pegman! I guess every now and then one is bound to get lost.

In Talnakh, I had the sense of countless untold stories, a feeling of stories waiting to happen. My dear hubby, J. Hardy, referred to it as a ‘living dystopia’ after watching this video, and I found that as apt as anything I could ever say about the place. I started and abandoned many stories before at last settling on this one, which begins (ironically) right back where I started.

When I stumbled upon this place it was solely because of one ambitious photographer by the name of Alexey Ralphs. Mr. Ralphs has contributed more than 1,000 photospheres and streetview scenes to Google Maps. In these photos, I saw an appreciation for the harsh beauty of it. I saw a world I will never see personally, both due to its remote location and the fact that this mining town is closed city. However, as I staggered down those streets and byways, in that drunken streetview lurch, I noticed something else: a little black dog.

The same dog appeared time and again—sometimes ahead of the camera, sometimes pensive and waiting, sometimes running, sometimes walking, sometimes nose to the ground. The dog’s pride was evident—even from five thousand miles away.

How many miles had they logged together, that man and his dog, chasing the sun as it slung  low on the horizon? It stayed with me. And so I wanted to thank them both—Alexey Ralphs and his little black dog—for capturing my imagination so completely this weekend.

By the way, I have no idea what that little dog’s name is, but I picked Chernyl since Google told me it was the Russian version of “Blackie”.

Anyway, thanks for reading. Wishing you all good things in the coming year.



  1. This is wonderful. You really show the nobility of the dog and capture the strange, despairing beauty of this mysterious closed city where upwards of 250,000 prisoners died. I was deeply moved by this as well.


    1. Rarely does a place capture my imagination so completely. I know you fell under its spell. Thanks for your kind words about my story.


  2. A faithful companion, keeping him safe in a harsh land.


    1. For sure! In a place like this, I suspect one needs others looking out for them. Thanks for reading 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Karen,

    It’s not often that I find a reason to applaud an anthropomorphic story but this is one of those times. Brava! You’ve captured the heart and soul of man’s best friend without being cute or trite. I love that you fell in a pit of research. I find myself there often. Great times those. 😉 Brilliant piece of writing.



    Liked by 1 person

    1. I, too, am not crazy about those kinds of stories! But I confess I could not stop thinking about that dog. Thanks for the high praise. So glad you liked it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I noticed the presence of the little black dog too, an ever present watch dog as his master records their world. I’m with Rochelle, often not a fan of anthropormorphised stories, but this was terrific – you captured a sinister, almost supernatural undercurrent that the dog can sense and his master is oblivious to, a whole world running under the one we see.
    Brilliant stuff Karen.
    Happy 2018!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words! So happy to hear it worked–that was definitely the effect I was going for. Happy New Year to you too!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My pleasure always Karen. Happy new year 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I love this story – feels like I’m there, I am the dog. Nice one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 🙂 What a lovely compliment! Thank you so much.


  6. peterkirsch

    Excellently told. And the dog’s perspective is so well captured. I know all too well how seriously they take their responsibilities; duties that run deeper and more-common than we will ever fully understand.

    Thanks for all the enlightenment on Norilsk. Absolutely tragic that they let it happen. Though in the face of tar sands discovery, lithium mining, pipeline access rights, threats to ANWR and shipping millions of tons of Wisconsin sand to the Dakotas for fracking…well, we’re not much better off over here.

    “…and wrote it all down as the progress of man.”
    – John Prine

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Terrific story, Karen. You seem to reach the heart of the dog’s perception of his role. I’m a ‘dotty cat lady’ myself, but I meet dog walkers every day in our local woods by the river. I’ve often wondered what the dogs are doing, dashing about seemingly at random – and you’ve told me! Chernyl is a true hero in my book!


  8. The hounding tone of this story made me smile. The way the dog communicates through smell and clipped English really engages this reader. Such honour here. Truly, man’s (and woman’s) best friend. No surprise dog backwards is…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The dog’s name is Bonya, just so you know >.>

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I always wondered! Thank you for letting me know. I loved touring your city thanks to your amazing panoramas.


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