The dogs of Chernobyl appear to be happy fellows. At check-points, at the monuments, anywhere visitors gather, small Alsatians or grey and white mongrels trot around with tails in the air, sniffing at you, holding up a paw to shake your hand, posing for photographs and hoping for food.
These are descendants of domestic pets, abandoned during the forced evacuation of their owners in April 1986, who escaped the cull which followed.
Neither wild nor domestic, they sleep in the woods and spend their days with humans.
Thanks to a US non-profit (Clean Futures Fund), most dogs have been neutered and radio-tagged and have regular attention by vets.
The people who work in the exclusion zone form a tight knit community. They know each other, know the animals, wild or domestic, and look out for each other.
Since the accident, few people have moved away. They returned to the zone work as engineers on the New Safe Confinement, as science rangers in a nature wonderland, as tour guides. They know and love this place.
Fiona Erskine’s debut thriller “The Chemical Detective” is published by the Oneworld imprint, Point Blank Books in April 2019.