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MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday added yet another puppy to the litter of canine companions he's received as gifts.
This one is a Central Asian Shepherd or alabai dog bestowed by the president of the ex-Soviet nation of Turkmenistan, who is allegedly keen to see a possible resumption of natural gas exports to Russia.
Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov presented Putin with the puppy as a birthday gift. Putin, an avid dog lover, turned 65 over the weekend.
Putin cuddled Verny, which is Russian for "loyal," and kissed the pup on the head during a meeting in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.
The alabai is a home-bred Turkmen variety of the Central Asian shepherd dog. Along with the handmade carpets and the ancient Akhal Teke breed of race horses, it is officially listed as part of Turkmenistan's national heritage.
Plush and cuddly when they are young, alabai dogs grow into fierce shepherd dogs, fearless in warding off wolves but also in dealing with human strangers.
Putin previously received a Bulgarian shepherd named Buffy from Bulgaria's premier in 2010 and an Akita named Yume from a Japanese official in 2012.
Konnie, a black Labrador of Putin's who was famous for terrifying German Chancellor Angela Merkel, died a few years ago. Putin received Konnie as a gift from a Russian official in 1999.
The Russian leader also has been given horses and even a tiger as gifts.
It's not unheard of for international leaders to give animal gifts to each other, though not always with the best results.
In 2013, France's then-President Francois Hollande received a camel from authorities in Mali out of appreciation for his sending French troops to intervene against Islamist rebels. The recalcitrant animal made a lot of noise and didn't seem to like Hollande much, and he decided to leave it with a family to take care of. They may have misunderstood their mission — they slaughtered the animal and made it into stew.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was given a chicken for luck during a 2007 visit to Liberia. She posed briefly for awkward photos with the bird, then handed it off to an aide. It never made it back to Berlin, and ended up living at the German embassy in Liberia.
Then-Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov gave then-U.S. President George W. Bush a 2-month-old sheepdog named "Balkan of Gorannadraganov" in 2005. Valued at $430 at the time, "Balkan," as the black-and-white pup became known, was over the limit for gifts from foreign officials but clearly couldn't be stored in the National Archives like other valuable presents. In the end, the Bushes bought the dog from the U.S. Treasury as allowed by the rules. They considered keeping him at their ranch in Texas but feared he might not adapt well to the heat, so they re-gifted him to a friend with a farm in Maryland.