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The Dog Girl
By CHIN SIEW MAY, Form 2 Cempaka

When you were a kid, did you ever fantasize about being raised by wolves? It's not an unusual dream, just be careful for what you wish for.

Her name is Oxana Malaya. She was born in Novaya Blagoveschenka, Ukraine in 1893. Unfortunately for her, her parents were severe alcoholics, who had one child too many. In other words, instead of raising Oxana themselves, they left it to the dogs; Oxana spent all her time since the age of three – eating, sleeping and playing – with dogs in a kennel behind her house. There, she learned to bark instead of talk, run on all fours and fight with the rest of the dogs for the occasional scrap of raw meat.

When Oxana's neighbours discovered her situation in 1991, she was undebatably much more dog than girl. She ate straight from her plate without proper utensils, the same way she lapped up her water. If she had an itch behind her ear, she would use her foot to scratch it. Amazingly, Oxana also seems to have had heightened senses of smell, sight, and hearing.

Oxana is one of about a 100 children in the world raised in the absence of humans. As a repercussion, she had no social talents to speak of. Yet now, at age 23, she has learned to eat with a fork, talk and socialize. The question is, will her canine past ever release its grip upon her?

In 2006, psychologist Lyn Fry investigated Oxana Malaya's case.
"I expected someone much less human", she was quoted as saying. "She speaks flatly as if it's an order; there is no cadence or music or rhythm to her speech, no inflection or tone. But she has a sense of humour. She likes being the centre of attention, making people laugh. When she walks, you notice her strange stomping gait and swinging shoulders, the intermittent squint and misshapen teeth. Like a dog with a bone, her first instinct is to hide anything she's given. She is only 1.52 metre tall (5 feet) but when she fools around with her friends, pushing and shoving, there is a palpable air of menace and brute strength. The oddest thing is how little attention she pays to her pet mongrel. She is more accustomed to humans, it seems."

Dr Fry was intrigued with Oxana's queer case and set out to assist her. "My parents completely forgot about me", Oxana told Dr Fry through an interpreter. "Mom had too many kids. We didn't have enough beds, so I slept with the dogs. Now when I am upset, I go off into the woods by myself and bark."

Theorizing that Oxana might be able to move on if she met her parents, Dr Fry and BBC television arrange a reuniting with Oxana's father.

When her father arrived at the farm Oxana works and lives at, he stood there for a long time, remaining silent.

Finally, Oxana said, "Hello."

"I have come", replied her father.

"I thank that you have come", replied Oxana. "I wanted you to see me milk the cows."

The meeting turned out to be extremely healing for the both of them, another stepping stone to the road of recovery for Oxana. Yet there is one trait she will always display; a trait shared by human and mongrel alike – "I am longing for affection and kindness. I like and respect my parents very much, no matter what kind of people they were."