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Putin’s poodle reveals the president’s softer side

Russian President Vladimir Putin is known for bringing out in public his beloved dog Koni, a black Labrador retriever. In fact, he has even used his large dog to intimidate German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is reportedly scared of dogs due to a childhood biting incident. Putin has also revealed a macho “my dog is bigger than ...

Russian President Vladimir Putin is known for bringing out in public his beloved dog Koni, a black Labrador retriever. In fact, he has even used his large dog to intimidate German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is reportedly scared of dogs due to a childhood biting incident.

Putin has also revealed a macho “my dog is bigger than yours” mentality in ridiculing U.S. President George W. Bush’s Scottish terrier, Barney. When Bush once visited Putin’s summer home, Koni came running out, and Putin said to Bush, “Bigger, tougher, stronger, faster, meaner—than Barney.”

But Putin’s little secret is that he has a special place in his heart for the most unmacho of dogs, his poodle Tosya. Putin has tried to keep his fondness for Tosya hidden, ever since news of the poodle made some Russian men perceive him as a wimp. (Today, Tosya is conveniently described as belonging to Putin’s wife Lyudmila.) And the poodle is pampered. A 2005 interview with Tosya’s hairdresser revealed that the poodle’s fur is trimmed “in lion’s style” once or twice a month for 150 euros ($213 at today’s exchange rate) per trim.

Photos of Tosya have been extremely difficult to come by, but Scottish Terrier and Dog News, the authoritative source for news on Scotties and other canine-related matters, which has been following the story closely, recently announced that a photo has finally emerged. The photo, included here, shows Putin in the throes of affection with Tosya. So much for ridiculing Barney!

Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2016 and was an FP assistant editor from 2007 to 2009. @pjaroonFP
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