The words broke the eerie silence, startling birds into flight. It didn't take long to figure out the meaning behind the words being shouted at an elevated decibel as Erin and I strolled by. "Kjeni Kjeni Kjeni" was shouted by one youngster, then another, then another and before long a dozen plus children were out in the street following us as we tried to view our new surroundings. Newly arrived in Kosovo, our first dog walk produced a Piped-Piper result as the mob shadowed every move and most trailed us back to our sparse apartment. Peeking out the window curtains onto the street below, remnants of Erin's fan club were spotted loitering on the dusty crater-filled street, no doubt hoping for another look at the liver/white dog that appeared out of nowhere. "Kjeni"; Albanian for dog was heard constantly during my time living amongst the population and in retrospect the only word I remember from those memorable times.
It quickly became clear that while the youngsters enjoyed being near Erin, touching her was another issue and no one wanted to push their luck by making physical contact with the menacing beast. When I believed the trust of the children had been gained it was time to demonstrate the correct way to approach and pet a strange dog but most declined the offer despite my persistent urging. With her in a sitting position, one brave soul made a quick swipe along the back much to the delight of his friends while Erin smilingly looked up at me as to say "What's the matter with these silly kids?" Since the oldest boy survived the petting, an adorable girl leaned over to stroke the back of her head then forced the hand of a young boy onto the same spot and they both giggled while repeating the motion. These siblings would become loyal friends whom were often found outside waiting for us to go on a stroll or they would appear at the school grounds for leash-free romps.
The children of Urosevac bonded with Erin while some absolutely loved her and it was endearing to watch them interact albeit some never overcame their fear to touch her while others gained enough confidence to hug her neck, sneak a kiss or hold the leash on walks. For most children, Erin was the first dog to teach them that love can be found on four feet as the majority of local dogs were feral, roamed in huge packs, had vicious tendencies and occasionally attacked humans regardless of size. I'm extremely proud of the friendships formed between the youngsters with my girl, she certainly helped them overcome their anxiety while acts of affection became the daily norm, and it was a win-win situation for all involved. To express my thanks for befriending my fur-kid, cokes and candy were often purchased to be enjoyed as we meandered down the street and for the record; no one ever refused the goodies. Everywhere Erin went in life she touched hearts while making a positive impact upon the people around her and Kosovo was no exception, she was one amazing dog!!!