We're looking at you Japan, and you, Bulgaria
There are two things everyone knows about Putin. Number one: he likes hacking foreign elections. Number two: he likes riding horses chestbare.
Actually expanding on point two, Putin does not seem to like only horses but all sorts of animals. So far he has been photographed enjoying the company of goats, chicks, dogs, tigers, leopards, polar bears, deers, koalas, cranes and walruses.
He has personally taken an interest in a number of Russia's animal preservation projects and Hillary Clinton alleges she once gained acess to Putin's "inner sanctum" -- whe she warmed her way into his heart by invoking their shared love for the tiger:
“I said, ‘You know, Mr. Prime Minister, we actually have some things in common.
"We both want to protect wildlife, and I know how committed you are to protecting the tiger.
“I mean, all of a sudden, he sat up straight and his eyes got big and he goes, ‘You care about the tiger? I said, ‘I care about the tiger, I care about the elephant, I care about the rhinoceros, I care about the whale.'”
So yes Putin appears to love animals, what about it?
Well the thing about it is that foreign governments appear to have picked this up and are not loathe to try and exploit it for their gain.
-- Come on, be serious, exploiting his love for animals? How could they possibly do that? And *who* would do such a thing??
Well consider this. On his visit to Bulgaria in 2010 he was gifted a puppy of the Karakachan dog by the then Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borisov. Putin already had a dog -- a labrador bitch he had owned since 1999 -- but still accepted the Bulgarian gift.
Actually in 2003 Putin publicly gave away the liter his labrador had produced indicating that at least at that time he was not looking to add more dogs. Also Putin claimed the Bulgarians' gift was completely unexpected and came as a surprise to him, yet he still took on a 10-20 year responsibility for a pup that would grow into a giant mountain dog.
Next in 2012 he was gifted another dog puppy on a visit to Japan, but this time at least his hosts did not ambush him. The Japanese announced their intended gift shortly before the actual visit and Putin agreed to accept it -- the third dog he would now own.
This month days before the talks Putin would hold with Japanese Prime Minister Abe the Japanese announced their intention to gift him another dog. The third time a foreign government wanted to gift him a puppy and the second time for the Japanese.
This time Putin declined the proposed gift.
Putin-Abe meetings have been happening quite regularly for the past few years for a very simple reason. Abe harbours a quite unrealistic hope that Russia may be willing to hand over the Southern Kuril islands which the Soviet Union took over in 1945.
So were the Japanese trying to warm their way into the heart of the Russian president by "exploiting" his well-known "weakness"? Maybe not but why else offer a man a yet another dog?
In any case Putin declined to take it, either because he did no want another long-term responsibility for another high maintenence animal, or else because he does not want to give up the Southern Kurils.
What Putin did do however is call up a press event and introduced Japanese reporters to the dog he was gifted by Japan in 2012. Before she died in 2014 Putin's calm labrador was often at his side at press conferences and receptions for foreign dignitaries. The much younger and livelier dogs he had received from Bulgaria and Japan however, are rarely present.
That this time Putin brought along his Japanese dog -- and played with it for cameras -- was no coincidence. It was the entire point. It was Putin's message to Tokyo which went something like this:
Please for the love of god can everyone just stop bombarding me with puppies? Look I already have all the dogs I can handle right now. Look this one here you gave it to me in 2012 and it is a great dog. I like it and we get on famously and I'm grateful. But I don't need yet more of the toothed, action-packed monsters right now when I'm the president of the largest country in the world and have plenty on my plate as it is. Also, really I know where the pet store is. When I want my next dog I can just get one there.
Also you're not getting the Kurils for a dog! What's wrong with your PM anyway??
Albeit to be fair to the Japanese the practice of gifting Putin animals was actually begun by Russians (who else).
His labrador was a gift from the then Emergency Minister Shoigu whom he would eventually promote to Defense Minister. Meanwhile in 2003 the long-term serving mayor of Moscow Yuri Luzkov gifted Putin a goat. Luzkov was later sacked during the Medvedev interregnum.