Newsweek

Iraq’s Unlikely Love Affair With Cuddly Canines

For years, many Iraqis considered dogs to be unclean. Now, these fleabags are beloved—and not just for security.
Merchants display foreign dogs for sale at the al-Ghazel animal market in Baghdad, Iraq, on May 21, 2010. Iraq's fondness for canine companionship began during the chaotic years after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Wary of growing crime rates—and perhaps inspired by the American military's K-9 units, many shopkeepers invested in the biggest, most brutish-looking fleabags they could find.
Iraqi pups Source: Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty

It’s 9 o’clock on a chilly night in January, and the Adhamiyah animal market is teeming with visitors. There are the private zoo owners who’ve dropped by to size up the mangy lions and monkeys, and young couples sneaking furtive kisses in the shadows, ignoring the animals.

Yet here in Baghdad’s largest beast bazaar, it’s families and earnest-looking businessmen who outnumber the gawkers and flirts. And they have no interest in exotic flora and fauna. Darting among the cages, they eagerly scan mutt after mutt, dismissing each in turn. “Too small,” Mohammed Salama, a car salesman, says of the Jack Russell terriers. “Useless,” he

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