Not often does the world ever catch a glimpse of Vladimir Putin and his softer side, but on Wednesday he was given a belated birthday present from Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov during meetings in Sochi. As Berdymukhamedov picked the adorable ball of canine cuteness up by the scruff of the neck towards the flashing cameras, Putin, gently grabbed the little one, now named Verny and gave him soft cuddles and kisses.
The name Verny means “faithful” in Russian. The alabai breed is a home-bred Turkmen mix of the Central Asian shepherd dog. The breed is officially listed as part of Turkmenistan’s national heritage. The dogs were originally bred for shepherding, protection and guard duty.
Putin turned 65 on October 7.
“We have a common friend.” Berdymukhamedov stated according to Reuters. “This is the world’s unique alabai dog. And today I bought this little alabai with me.”
Despite the sternness of Putin’s appearance, it’s a well known fact that he has a love for animals. There have been numerous photos of Putin feeding elk, holding kittens and playing in the snow with his dogs. This is Putin’s third dog given to him as a gift. There’s Buffy, a Bulgarian shepherd from Bulgaria’s premier and Yume, an Akita from a Japanese official. Putin also has been given horses as well as a tiger for gifts in the past.