The ‘butterfly effect’ is one of the most fascinating, unpredictable ways to trace actions and their consequences. Like the proverbial butterfly that flaps its wings and causes a hurricane, some truly bizarre stories have spiralled out of simple, mundane beginnings.
This was the case in Dzerzhinsk, Russia when unexplainable photos started cropping up on Russian social media site VK. Jokingly described as a “bug” or glitch in the world, the photos purport to show stray dogs whose coats are an unnatural shade of bright blue.
Speculation quickly arose as to what could have caused such an unusual phenomenon. Some compared the dogs to the radioactive wolves who roam Chernobyl’s exclusion zone, worrying that the pups could be suffering from (and putting others in danger of) some form of radiation poisoning. Several supernatural and pseudoscientific theories were spread. Dzerzhinsk, until recently, was a “closed city,” due to its secretive importance as part of Russia’s chemical weapons programs. Because of this, it has a poor reputation and has been assessed as one of the most polluted cities in the world. Authorities were slowly able to piece together what had actually happened, and while it wasn’t as dramatic as some of the jokes and theories online, it was still an amazing reminder of the butterfly effect in action.
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The most likely explanation, according to news reports from the area, all started in 2015, as struggling plexiglass manufacturer Orgsteklo went bankrupt and closed its doors. Their factories, which had previously produced a wide variety of chemical and material goods, gradually fell into disrepair. Time passed, and locals in the area began reporting sightings of the strange blue dogs, usually alone and often difficult to track down. It had all the makings of a perfect urban legend. The dogs, for their part, had likely stumbled upon a reserve of copper sulfate. How they came to be covered with the caustic chemical is unknown, but its bright blue color, along with its wide variety of uses in products like plexiglass and antifreeze, makes it a likely culprit.
Dog owners likely already know the dangers of antifreeze to their pets — while it may taste sweet, it is devastating to any animal’s kidneys when ingested. Similar concerns arose for the strays in Dzerzhinsk. If their coats were bright blue, was it possible that they’d eaten large amounts of the chemicals as well? Russian news site Ria Novosti, however, reported that “they have already been examined by veterinarians” who determined “the tests of all seven are normal.” Fortunately, aside from some irritation to their fur and unrelated issues due to their life on the streets, the strays were in healthy condition.
When the manufacturing facilities owned by Orgsteklo were boarded up, no one could have predicted the winding way it would hurt the local strays. But just as unexpected was the upside: two of the strays have already been adopted out to new homes, fueling hope that the dogs will be able to not only make a full recovery, but potentially end up in a better situation than they were in before. We may never know the full story behind the blue dogs that cropped up in a secretive Russian city, but we can at least appreciate the adoption of strays, and the timely reminder of how important it is to care for our cities and our environment — or confront unpredictable consequences.
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