It is absolutely impossible to ignore Prague’s dogs. There is a plethora of them. These are mainly small dogs who can be seen in parks and restaurants and around the streets. They are well groomed, pampered and obviously the joy of their owners’ lives.
Why do I mention this here in blog posts which are dedicated to research about Bohemia and to creating a setting for a literary work? The thing is, one can tell a lot about a place based on the conditions of animals and attitudes towards them.
In Guyana, for instance, where I lived for six months, street dogs abound, and they have to fend for themselves, often without consistent food. This is not to say that people there don’t have dogs they take care of very well, but there is a great number of dogs without homes who wander the streets. I had a favourite dog in Georgetown. Old Soldier, I called him. I encountered him almost every day in my neighbourhood. I called him Old Soldier because he was a veteran of the streets, and, though he had obviously been through a lot, he kept plugging along. His situation is different from the “street dogs” of Prague. That is, there really are no street dogs here from what I have seen, just those who busk along with their owners or who accompany owners who might be asking for some support.
I mention this all here because in order to set a work convincingly in this city, one has to account for the presence of canine loved ones. Their presence is so large that they are difficult to ignore. Perhaps most importantly, the well-loved and taken-care-of dogs signal wealth. This city has significant money. I considered, after having been here for three weeks, that I was in the vestige of both what has been a well-off city for a long while (Prague was the affluent capital of Bohemia in the fourteenth century) and an entire country that continues to be wealthy and privileged.
Upon talking to people, however, I keep learning that Prague is an anomaly of sorts. I am told that there are many towns and villages where finances and options for work are very limited and that there is a stark contrast between these places and Prague. Therefore, in addition to checking out ruins and medieval castles in areas of the Czech Republic outside of Prague, I will try to visit places that signal more of the Czech Republic in terms of contemporary realities.
Any metropolis with nearby surrounding areas signals a relationship between metropolis and outlying places. Therefore, in order to truly understand something of Prague, I need to understand its similarities to and differences from other areas in the country.