What Happened To Putin's Famous Black Labrador Retriever, Koni?

From Vladimir Lenin's love of cats to Adolf Hitler's German shepherds, among world leaders, even the hardest of hearts have occasionally been softened by a pair of puppy-dog eyes. Pets can make a steely authoritarian personality seem a little bit more appealing, and for many people, Vladimir Putin's black labrador retriever Koni — sometimes stylized as Konni and also known as Connie Paulgrave — has easily been the best thing about his presidency.

Koni was no normal pet — she was actually bred as a search and rescue dog at a special center in Russia. She seems to have been a firm favorite of the Russian leader and was frequently spotted tailing President Putin. Rumor has it the president used the dog to soothe his bad moods in place of the therapist some would argue he sorely needs.

Although Putin has actually had many dogs, Koni achieved mega-stardom back in 2007 when Putin brought her along to a press conference, seemingly with the sole aim to scare then-Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is frightened of dogs. Putin later denied that he had intentionally used the pet to intimidate the chancellor, who was shaken by a dog attack in 1995.

[Featured image by Kremlin.ru via Wikimedia Commons | Cropped and scaled | CC BY 3.0]

Koni's celebrity and death

Aside from scaring world leaders, faithful pet Koni wound up in the news several other times before her death, and she remains the most famous of Vladimir Putin's dogs. In 2008, Reuters reported that Putin used a special GPS collar made for the dog to test Russia's high-tech satellite tracking system GLONASS. A year later, in 2009, Koni made the news again, when the willful pup ate all the catered food intended for a United Russia party meeting (via The Independent). Finally, according to The New York Times, Koni caused a stir in the U.S. after Putin bragged about his dog to George W. Bush. He remarked that Koni was "Bigger, stronger, faster — than Barney [Bush's dog]" — a comment Bush believed told him a lot about the macho Russian.

According to Russia Life magazine, Koni was such a celebrity in Russia that there was an official press release to announce her demise in 2014 at 15 years of age. Gone but not forgotten, Koni has also been immortalized in a book, first published back in 2005. The work is entitled "Connie's Stories," a children's book featuring a black labrador and the presidential helicopter on the front cover. Although the book is not political in nature, the short 60-page volume has a picture of Putin and his pooch on the last page.

[Featured image by Kremlin.ru via Wikimedia Commons | Cropped and scaled | CC BY 3.0]


Today, Vladimir Putin actually still has many other dogs, although most of them have remained largely out of the public eye. In fact, Putin's love of dogs is so well-known that world leaders keep giving him new ones.

Three years after the death of Koni, the president of Turkmenistan gave the Russian leader a new puppy as a replacement in 2017. The tiny alabai puppy is a heritage breed in Turkmenistan and was intended as a 65th birthday gift. More recently in 2019, the Serbian president, Aleksandar Vučić, also gave Putin a new dog, a flurry Šarplaninac puppy. The canine was handed over amid dramatic fanfare and scenes of praise for the Russian leader.

Koni was also survived by two other dogs: Yume, the Japanese Akita that was gifted in 2012 to Putin for helping Japan recover from the 2011 tsunami-earthquake disaster, and a puppy named Buffy, a gift from Bulgarian President Boyko Borisov that was handed over in 2010.

[Featured image by Kremlin.ru via Wikimedia Commons | Cropped and scaled | CC BY 3.0]