The View From My Window: Winter Ryoanji


Winter Ryoanji Steve Clemons TWN 500.jpg
I took this photo while flying from Dubai to San Francisco, and it reminded me of the rock gardens at Ryoanji in Kyoto.
Hope some of you enjoy it. Always interested in the great pics you take from your own windows.
— Steve Clemons


11 comments on “The View From My Window: Winter Ryoanji

  1. Scott says:

    Great article, I am an animal lover and the woman should have received jail time. One point though, there is a dispute if digs actually are just domesticated wolves. This has never been confirmed


  2. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Wow. These dogs are smarter than the average citizen of Los Angeles, who is loath to use public transportation even while being held hostage by his automobile.
    Fun article, Paul, thanks for posting it.


  3. Paul Norheim says:

    Ok, so the topic here is mountains, seen from a plane? Although I won`t deny that the
    subject is interesting, and could have provided several nice photos of snow covered
    mountains from Norway, I hope that Steve doesn’t mind if I provide an off topic link on
    this particular thread, with some quotes.
    The topic? Dogs.
    I stumbled upon a fascinating article about stray dogs in Moscow, with some nice pictures
    spicing the text, among them one of a dog “seeking warmth near Moscow’s Ministry of Foreign
    Affairs”. And if you ask me, the combination of “dogs” and “Moscow’s Ministry of Foreign
    Affairs” is as good as it gets – if you need an alibi to post something completely off
    topic at the Washington Note.
    Here is an excerpt:
    “Russians can go nutty when it comes to dogs. Consider the incident a few years ago that
    involved Yulia Romanova, a 22-year-old model. On a winter evening, Romanova was returning
    with her beloved Staffordshire terrier from a visit to a designer who specialises in
    kitting out canine Muscovites in the latest fashions. The terrier was sporting a new green
    camouflage jacket as he walked with his owner through the crowded Mendeleyevskaya metro
    station. There they encountered Malchik, a black stray who had made the station his home,
    guarding it against drunks and other dogs. Malchik barked at the pair, defending his
    territory. But instead of walking away, Romanova reached into her pink rucksack, pulled out
    a kitchen knife and, in front of rush-hour commuters, stabbed Malchik to death.
    Romanova was arrested, tried and underwent a year of psychiatric treatment. Typically for
    Russia, this horror story was countered by a wellspring of sympathy for Moscow’s strays. A
    bronze statue of Malchik, paid for by donations, now stands at the entrance of
    Mendeleyevskaya station. It has become a symbol for the 35,000 stray dogs that roam
    Russia’s capital – about 84 dogs per square mile. You see them everywhere. They lie around
    in the courtyards of apartment complexes, wander near markets and kiosks, and sleep inside
    metro stations and pedestrian passageways. You can hear them barking and howling at night.
    And the strays on Moscow’s streets do not look anything like the purebreds preferred by
    status-conscious Muscovites. They look like a breed apart.
    I moved to Moscow with my family last year and was startled to see so many stray dogs.
    Watching them over time, I realised that, despite some variation in colour – some were
    black, others yellowish white or russet – they all shared a certain look. They were medium-
    sized with thick fur, wedge-shaped heads and almond eyes. Their tails were long and their
    ears erect.
    They also acted differently. Every so often, you would see one waiting on a metro platform.
    When the train pulled up, the dog would step in, scramble up to lie on a seat or sit on the
    floor if the carriage was crowded, and then exit a few stops later. There is even a website
    dedicated to the metro stray ( on which passengers post photos and video
    clips taken with their mobile phones, documenting the savviest of the pack using the public
    transport system like any other Muscovite.
    Where did these animals come from? It’s a question Andrei Poyarkov, 56, a biologist
    specialising in wolves, has dedicated himself to answering. His research focuses on how
    different environments affect dogs’ behaviour and social organisation. About 30 years ago,
    he began studying Moscow’s stray dogs. Poyarkov contends that their appearance and
    behaviour have changed over the decades as they have continuously adapted to the changing
    face of Russia’s capital. Virtually all the city’s strays were born that way: dumping a pet
    dog on the streets of Moscow amounts to a near-certain death sentence. Poyarkov reckons
    fewer than 3 per cent survive.
    He first thought of observing the behaviour of stray dogs in 1979, and began with the ones
    that lived near his apartment and those he encountered on his way to work.
    (…)Population density, he says, determines how frequently the animals come into contact
    with each other, which in turn affects their behaviour, psychology, stress levels,
    physiology and relationship to their environment.
    “The second difference between stray dogs and wolves is that the dogs, on average, are much
    less aggressive and a good deal more tolerant of one another,” says Poyarkov. Wolves stay
    strictly within their own pack, even if they share a territory with another. A pack of
    dogs, however, can hold a dominant position over other packs and their leader will often
    “patrol” the other packs by moving in and out of them. His observations have led Poyarkov
    to conclude that this leader is not necessarily the strongest or most dominant dog, but the
    most intelligent – and is acknowledged as such. The pack depends on him for its survival.
    Moscow’s strays sit somewhere between house pets and wolves, says Poyarkov, but are in the
    early stages of the shift from the domesticated back towards the wild. That said, there
    seems little chance of reversing this process. It is virtually impossible to domesticate a
    stray: many cannot stand being confined indoors.
    “Genetically, wolves and dogs are almost identical,” says Poyarkov. “What has changed
    significantly [with domestication] is a range of hormonal and behavioural parameters,
    because of the brutal natural selection that eliminated many aggressive animals.” He
    recounts the work of Soviet biologist Dmitri Belyaev, exiled from Moscow in 1948 during the
    Stalin years for a commitment to classical genetics that ran counter to state scientific
    doctrine of the time.
    Under the guise of studying animal physiology, Belyaev set up a Russian silver fox research
    centre in Novosibirsk, setting out to test his theory that the most important selected
    characteristic for the domestication of dogs was a lack of aggression. He began to select
    foxes that showed the least fear of humans and bred them. After 10-15 years, the foxes he
    bred showed affection to their keepers, even licking them. They barked, had floppy ears and
    wagged their tails. They also developed spotted coats – a surprising development that was
    connected with a decrease in their levels of adrenaline, which shares a biochemical pathway
    with melanin and controls pigment production.
    “With stray dogs, we’re witnessing a move backwards,” explains Poyarkov. “That is, to a
    wilder and less domesticated state, to a more ‘natural’ state.” As if to prove his point,
    strays do not have spotted coats, they rarely wag their tails and are wary of humans,
    showing no signs of affection towards them.
    . . .
    The stray dogs of Moscow are mentioned for the first time in the reports of the journalist
    and writer Vladimir Gilyarovsky in the latter half of the 19th century. But Poyarkov says
    they have been there as long as the city itself. (…)
    The dogs divide into four types, he says, which are determined by their character, how they
    forage for food, their level of socialisation to people and the ecological niche they
    Those that remain most comfortable with people Poyarkov calls “guard dogs”. Their
    territories tend to be garages, warehouses, hospitals and other fenced-in institutions, and
    they develop ties to the security guards from whom they receive food and whom they regard
    as masters. I’ve seen them in my neighbourhood near the front gate to the Central Clinical
    Hospital for Civil Aviation. When I pass on the other side with my dog they cross the
    street towards us, barking loudly.
    “The second stage of becoming wild is where the dog is socialised to people in general, but
    not personally,” says Poyarkov. “These are the beggars and they are excellent
    psychologists.” He gives as an example a dog that appears to be dozing as throngs of people
    walk past, but who rears his head when an easy target comes into view: “The dog will come
    to a little old lady, start smiling and wagging his tail, and sure enough, he’ll get food.”
    These dogs not only smell who is carrying something tasty, but sense who will stop and feed
    The beggars live in relatively small packs and are subordinate to leaders. If a dog is
    intelligent but occupies a low rank and does not get enough to eat, he will separate from
    the pack frequently to look for food. If he sees other dogs begging, he will watch and
    The third group comprises dogs that are somewhat socialised to people, but whose social
    interaction is directed almost exclusively towards other strays. Their main strategy for
    acquiring food is gathering scraps from the streets and the many open rubbish bins. During
    the Soviet period, the pickings were slim, which limited their population (as did a
    government policy of catching and killing them). But as Russia began to prosper in the
    post-Soviet years, official efforts to cull them fell away and, at the same time, many more
    choice offerings appeared in the bins. The strays flourished.
    The last of Poyarkov’s groups are the wild dogs. “There are dogs living in the city that
    are not socialised to people. They know people, but view them as dangerous. Their range is
    extremely broad, and they are predators. They catch mice, rats and the occasional cat. They
    live in the city, but as a rule near industrial complexes, or in wooded parks. They are
    nocturnal and walk about when there are fewer people on the streets.”
    There is one special sub-group of strays that stands apart from the rest: Moscow’s metro
    dogs. “The metro dog appeared for the simple reason that it was permitted to enter,” says
    Andrei Neuronov, an author and specialist in animal behaviour and psychology, who has
    worked with Vladimir Putin’s black female Labrador retriever, Connie (“a very nice pup”).
    “This began in the late 1980s during perestroika,” he says. “When more food appeared,
    people began to live better and feed strays.” The dogs started by riding on overground
    trams and buses, where supervisors were becoming increasingly thin on the ground.
    Neuronov says there are some 500 strays that live in the metro stations, especially during
    the colder months, but only about 20 have learned how to ride the trains. This happened
    gradually, first as a way to broaden their territory. Later, it became a way of life. “Why
    should they go by foot if they can move around by public transport?” he asks.
    “They orient themselves in a number of ways,” Neuronov adds. “They figure out where they
    are by smell, by recognising the name of the station from the recorded announcer’s voice
    and by time intervals. If, for example, you come every Monday and feed a dog, that dog will
    know when it’s Monday and the hour to expect you, based on their sense of time intervals
    from their biological clocks.”
    Read more here:


  4. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Also if the plane goes down I am sure you will be yelling for God”
    To each their own. Me? I’m gonna be yellin’ for a parachute. After which, God willing; a refund.


  5. Scott says:

    The Heavens were made by God and all things on the earth. The smog we can thank humans for. Also if the plane goes down I am sure you will be yelling for God


  6. Outraged American says:

    I flew over the Himalayas, and rathe than think of a “God” I thought,
    “WTF about all that smog?”
    Do “God” and “Smog” rhyme? Maybe I can make them into a Haiku.
    The Canadian Rockies, IMO, were more beautiful than Tibet..


  7. Scott says:

    Every time I am in a plane at this height i remember that there is a GOD bigger than anything on Earth and in control


  8. Jackie says:

    Thank you, Mr. Clemons.


  9. Steve Clemons says:

    Jackie — I think that this pic shows a part of the Canadian Coast Mountains. Could be the Canadian Rockies — but was not totally sure…though I think probably the former.


  10. Jackie says:

    Impressive photo! What mountain range is it?


  11. josh says:

    That’s an incredible picture. I think the best scenery I’ve ever seen out of a plane window was traveling over the north pole from NYC to Beijing.. Altitude was a bit too high to catch a glimpse of Santa’s shack but I was pretty taken in by the landscape and especially the way the sky looks up there.


Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *