By Tess Malijenovsky
Meet Arushka: the sweet, world-traveled dog that’s new to town and responds to Polish, Albanian, a little Spanish and Urdu. Arushka, or “little bear cub” in Albanian, was a young puppy when she was found in a snow bank near an “instant cemetery” in Kosovo in 2001. Her mother was killed, as there was a war going on in the country at the time.
Bill Ballard was working as a Foreign Service Officer for the State Department in Kosovo when he was handed the tiny pup. Bill explained that in war territories, when the electricity goes out and food becomes sparse, pets are turned loose to the streets. About 50,000 dogs, he said, ran wild in the city where he was working. Raising a puppy in turbulent territory is no ordinary feat. Bill imported dog food from Germany and actually had a doctor who was looking for surgery practice spay Arushka while in Kosovo.
For most families working in American embassies and consulates, having a pet is out of the question because of the hassle of travel, but that didn’t stop Bill. Arushka came with him to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Lahore, Pakistan, and Bogotá, Columbia, throughout his career. Kids of the consulate families got a special kick out of playing with Arushka, the that became their Little League team mascot.
After Kosovo, Bill was relocated to Jeddah, but to bring Arushka to the Saudi Arabia he’d have to prove that she was purebred and either a guard dog, hunting dog or Seeing Eye dog. Bill listed Arushka as a Miniature German Shepherd, a “new breed,” and a guard dog. “I don’t know whether it was my diplomatic passport or the cash inside the passport but he only made a cursory examination and signed off on her,” Bill said.
Bill and Arushka lived in a nine-bedroom house all to themselves. She was not welcomed in the presence of the Saudis because dogs are unclean by Islamic standards and only allowed to work (not to touch); so Arushka stayed at home in her garden among the date trees with her own gardener.
In Pakistan, Arushka picked up Urdu from her private house keeper, which is the same way she picked up a little Spanish in Bogotá. But the multi-lingual dog doesn’t like responding to English, so Bill usually speaks to her in Polish or Albanian.
After 10 years of world travel, Arushka is happier than ever that she and Bill are officially retired in beautiful Beaufort where they spend all their time together. She especially likes her water bowl at Common Ground and taking walks with her best friend Bill by the waterfront.