In the wake of the catastrophic Chernobyl nuclear power plant meltdown in 1986, people rushed to evacuate, and many were forced to abandon their pet dogs. Now, like some kind of atomic-age fairy tale, the feral descendents of those deserted animals roam the ghost towns within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ), a patch of land 1,000 square miles around the destroyed plant where contamination is most severe.
These radioactive puppies have proliferated in the wilds of nuclear fallout, and are profiled in the above documentary "Puppies of Chernobyl" by filmmaker Drew Scanlon, who happens to also be the guy in the Blinking White Guy meme. In addition to gifting the world one of the most beloved reaction gifs of all time, Scanlon is producing a travel series called Cloth Map, which led him to meet some of Chernobyl's estimated 900 stray dogs.
They are part of a resurgence of animal populations at the site, which is almost entirely devoid of people, and the accordant ecological damage that normally comes with human inhabitants. Wolves made a major comeback in the CEZ over the past three decades, and boars, deer, and elk have thrived in the absence of settlements. It may be as long as 20,000 years before the area is safe for human habitation again, so this turf will remain largely undisturbed for the foreseeable future.
Because the fallout puppies could carry dangerous radioactive particles in their fur, visitors are warned not to touch them. This leads to some excruciating shots in the documentary, starring puppies who seem to really crave a friendly head-pat or belly-rub from the tourists.
If your heart strings are pulled, check out some of the fundraising efforts to provide medical care, humane population management, and comfort to Chernobyl's vibrant canine community.
Get six of our favorite Motherboard stories every day by signing up for our newsletter.
- nuclear fallout