Story of Oxana Malaya, the Girl Raised by Dogs
You might’ve heard the story of Mowgli or Tarzan, who were separated from human habitats and grew up with wild animals in the jungle. While such folklore and literature are intriguing and exhilarating, they seem far from reality. But interestingly, there have been recorded incidents where animals took in and raised human children for real. Oxana Malaya is also one such feral child who spent her childhood with dogs. Oxana is from Ukraine, and her story truly leaves everyone contemplating how nurture prevails over nature.
Three-year-old Oxana Malaya lived with dogs for almost five years
Oxana Malaya was born on 4 November 1983 in Nova Blagoveshchensk, a village of Kherson Oblast in southern Ukraine. She was born a normal child and lived with her parents, Oleksandr Malyi and Valentyna Malaya. Sadly, her parents were alcoholics, and it was the result of their severe negligence that led Oxana to live with the dogs.
Her parents abandoned Oxana at three and never even tried to look for her. They didn’t even notice the toddler was missing when she was left alone in the cold. The search for warmth brought little Oxana to a farmyard kennel, where the dogs took in the younglings. It became her new home, and the dogs became her new family. She spent almost five years living with the pack.
Living with the dogs hindered her lingual and social growth.
Like any feral child, Oxana failed to develop essential social and language skills as she had little to no human contact and lived surrounded by dogs. She associated herself with the dogs and thought herself to be one of them. As a result, Oxana developed characteristics similar to those of dogs. Oxana used all four limbs for walking, running, and jumping. She would bark like dogs, eat like dogs, and even clean herself like a dog. She lacked many basic human skills, and her physical behavior was similar to that of a dog.
Local authorities rescued her.
The local authorities rescued Oxana Malaya in 1991 after receiving a call from the neighbors stating a little girl was living in the woods. When they discovered Malaya, she was living alone with a pack of dogs. What’s even surprising is that when the officers were trying to rescue Malaya, the dogs instinctively attacked them. They had to lure the dogs away with food to take Malaya with them.
Many thought that the girl was just acting up. However, the way Malaya used to shake her neck and head to get free of water droplets was exactly like that of a dog. Moreover, her barking sounds impeccably resembled that of real dogs, which gives a good sense of to what extent she developed dog-like characteristics. Living with dogs had changed her behavior and physical and mental tendencies so much that even years after the rescue, at 23, she would still hide things, just like a dog hides food. She would still walk on all fours occasionally, bark alone, and prefer the company of dogs over humans.
Oxana Malaya’s after-rescue life…
The local police authorities took Malaya into custody and shifted her to an orphanage in Barabol right after rescuing her. She would spend more time in the facility with the dogs than with other children. The transition of being brought away from the dogs to the orphanage was very sudden and traumatic for the child. She would try smuggling dogs into dormitories. She was also reported imitating dog behaviors to escape traumatic mental experiences.
The child psychologist Lyn Fry got a chance to meet Oxana for a documentary. Fry was told that Oxana was hard to cope with and that she would often drift away from normal human behavior. Contradicting, Fry found Oxana’s overall development and intelligence to be surprisingly good for a feral kid. She discovered that Oxana could draw like a five-to-six-year-old child. She was also capable of comprehending prepositions and could recognize herself in the mirror.
Oxana had to undergo years of cognitive behavioral therapies and education during her whole teenage and early youth to counter the social, behavioral, and educational skills she lacked. The ultimate goal of which was to help her recover from the socio-emotional trauma. She spent the majority of her teenage years at the orphanage learning to walk upright, eat with her hands, and converse like normal human beings.
Experts say that Malaya became capable of learning to talk in a few years because she had some level of human interaction before abandonment, which was still present in her consciousness. Feral children show mental tendencies similar to that of mentally retarded or autistic people. But Malaya proved every speculation wrong as she learned to read and write at the orphanage. She also learned to count, but she could not add the numbers.
Oxana eventually subdued her dog-like instincts by the age of 23 and successfully learned fluent and intelligent speaking skills as well. However, she still lacks cognizance and seems intellectually impaired for her age.
She doesn’t want to be called “Dog Girl.”
Oxana has appeared in so many interviews since she was discovered to be living with the dogs. She has also been part of documentaries created by British Channel 4, NTV (Russian TV Channel), and the Portuguese SIC channel. Her most recent appearance was on Ukrainian national TV in 2013, where she was interviewed about her life with the dogs and her journey by far.
When the interviewer asked if she remembers her childhood and living with the dogs, she said she doesn’t remember her childhood, but she remembers playing with the dogs. She also remembers the orphanage where the authorities transferred her. They gave Oxana dogs to pet, but she did not find them to be like her friends (dogs from the pack she used to live with). Oxana feels offended when someone calls her “Dog Girl.” She wants people to treat her like a normal person.
Oxana’s brothers and stepmother also attended the interview. Oxana told the interviewer that she enjoyed their company. However, she did not want to live with his brothers and stepmother, but she wanted them to call and meet her more often.
It was also revealed in the interview that Oxana had a Russian boyfriend. Sadly, the boy could not take it when Oxana told him how she could imitate a dog and broke up with her. Oxana’s biggest dream in life is to find her biological mother.
Where is Oxana Malaya now?
Oxana Malaya was reunited with her father in 2003 while filming a documentary. She was very happy knowing that she was not an orphan anymore. Oxana greeted her father and half-sister and revealed that she remembered playing with her father. Oxana even asked her sister how she was and thanked her when she got a parcel from her. The compassion and courtesy depict Oxana’s tremendous growth as a feral child.
Unfortunately, things did not work out the way they should have, and Oxana ended up parting ways with her father. Oxana Malaya is now almost 34 years old and lives at a neuropsychiatric boarding school near Odessa, a home for mentally disabled individuals. She helps them run the place by looking after farm animals and milking cows. She also receives a monthly pension from the Ukrainian government.
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