Pavel's dog

NCAR project manager adopts stray in Chile

It was love at first sight. When Pavel Romashkin traveled to Chile this year for a field project, he met and fell for a street dog. In fact, Romashkin became so enamored with the stray pup that he decided to adopt her and bring her back to his home in Colorado. Romashkin shared this account of his first encounter with a dog named Chiflada with Staff News:

My job is to organize and lead research projects. I was in Punta Arenas, Chile, because we were flying the NSF/NCAR HIAPER Gulfstream V over Antarctica to support NASA’s  Operation IceBridge  to monitor the Antarctic ice cover.

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Pavel Romashkin and Chiflada in Puerto Natales, Chile (photo courtesy Pavel Romashkin.)

I met Chiflada on the shore of the fjord in Puerto Natales. My colleague Jhony Zavaleta (NASA project manager) and I had just spent a night in Natales on the way to Torres del Paine. We stopped on the shore to take some pictures of the beautiful waterfront, when this street dog walked past me, stopped, and looked up. I saw that she was very pretty and had smart eyes. I said to her, "You are a green-colored dog! Dogs aren't supposed to be green. Why are you a green dog?" I said this because she has some fur that is black, other fur that is slightly brown, and other that is a little yellow, all mixed, and it made her back look a little greenish in the morning sun.

This is when the dog looked at me, wagged her tail, walked up to me, and sat next to me. I patted her on the head and she handed me her paw. She tried to lick me, stood up, and made footprints on the leg of my jeans. I let her go, then walked along the beach, taking more pictures. She walked with me and sat down next to me every time I would stop. She simply looked at me and looked around, without leaving my side.

And then she realized that I was walking toward the car. She stopped, looking right at me, and her tail fell down, and the ears fell down, too. She so obviously knew that I would get into this car, and disappear, and never come back. She looked like she instantly lost all hope. She probably saw so many other people do the same before. As we drove away, I saw her looking at us leaving, and it broke my heart.

Even now that she is in my house, I see her in my mind standing there, abandoned, and it breaks my heart again.

We had a great visit in Torres del Paine, took a lot of great pictures, and saw the wonderful landscape of the mountains. The park is fantastic. Even though we are from Colorado and beautiful mountains are part of our daily life, Torres del Paine made a lasting impression. Call me crazy, but even throughout the day of wonderful scenery, I couldn't stop recalling that small green dog on the shore of the fjord, looking at my car leaving, as I watched her footprint on my jeans gradually wearing off.

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Chiflada exploring beautiful Colorado (photo courtesy Anna Vasilyeva.)

After the sightseeing, Romashkin and Zavaleta returned to Punta Arenas to prepare the Gulfstream V for its mission. Romashkin couldn’t stop thinking about the little green dog in Puerto Natales. Did he want to interject his way of life in the life of this free dog, that liked to run on the beach and chase birds, and had its own life?

He contacted his friend, pilot Ed Ringleman (RAF), who adopted a dog from the same area in 2011. Ringleman put him in touch with the animal shelter in Punta Arenas that had helped him bring his own dog back to the United States.

Once they wrapped up their work for the day, Romashkin and Zavaleta returned to Puerto Natales to look for the dog that had stolen his heart. Several emails and phone calls led them to the woman who cared for and fed the little dog that she called Chiflada ("crazy" in Spanish). The woman would not allow Romashkin to take the stray until he convinced her he would take good care of the dog.

Then Claudia made a quiet whistle, and I thought, there is no way any dog would ever hear it! But 30 seconds later, the green dog of Puerto Natales herself came flying like a rocket from behind a street corner, and ran directly to Claudia. She licked Claudia and jumped, and then she smelled me and jumped on me, and licked me too, tail spinning so hard that it looked like it may fall off!

I learned that Claudia called her “Chiflada” because she likes to run-run-run like crazy. I said that I will keep her name so that it reminds me of Puerto Natales, where she came from, and of her Chilean origin.

We discussed what needed to be done to make her able to go to the United States. Chiflada actually had been given her vaccinations and she was also sterilized thanks to the care and attention of various volunteers who took care of the street dogs.

Romashkin and Zavaleta drove back to Punta Arenas with Chiflada, and Romashkin moved from his hotel to a hostel. Although the dog was larger than usually allowed in the hostel, the owner took pity and permitted the two to stay because “we looked like we had nowhere else to go,” Romashkin said. 

Next, Romashkin obtained the necessary paperwork and began preparations to return with Chiflada to the United States. A trip to the groomer resulted in Chiflada looking like a “dog that a queen would not be ashamed to call her own.” Romashkin’s wife, Anna, told him from Colorado that if he had to delay his return to the United States to make sure he had all the documents for the dog, then he should do it without hesitation. Chiflada was worth it for her too.

Then there were three international flights and many hours at airports where Chiflada was acting as if she really was born in a queen's palace. She was quiet when needed, friendly all the time, and very peaceful. She made friends with children at the airports and licked the airline desk staff, and the transportation safety officers were impressed with her friendliness. She made such good impressions on everyone that all people wanted to help, and we had no problems at all getting home.

Back in Colorado, Romashkin notes that he is getting a lot more exercise now. Chiflada gets him up and moving when he feels lazy; she is irresistibly happy and full of energy. Although, he says, his feet hurt from so much walking. There is a lot of open space for Chiflada to run and play, where she is learning all of the new smells and having a great time. At home, she’s an excellent house pet who is popular with visitors.

In the house, she meets and greets everyone who comes to visit and is so smart and friendly that she instantly wins people's hearts over. She loves to play and likes to fall at your feet, roll over and wiggle on her back, and try to grab your hand with her mouth, and push with her nose. She always sneezes when she is on her back, and it makes us laugh. She is a fantastic, super-smart dog, and I am so lucky that nobody recognized it before me, and that the green dog of Natales became my best friend.

The only thing more valuable than the little gold heart of Chiflada is the amazing people I met in Patagonia who helped me take her to her new home. I feel privileged to say that I now have good friends in Punta Arenas and in Puerto Natales.




Rebecca Swisher, Internal Communications Specialist