Story Time

Oxana Malaya: The Story of the Girl Raised by Dogs

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Oxana Malaya’s story is a pretty clear indicator that nurture plays a bigger role than nature. At merely 3 years old, her alcoholic parents neglected her and left her outside one night. Instinctively, she crawled to the closest thing that could provide her with warmth and shelter, the dog kennel.

Her parents hardly noticed that she was missing. She lived in the dog kennel, eating what scraps they had left.


Though she must have seen humans at a distance, and seems occasionally to have entered her old family house like a stray, they were no longer her species: all meaningful life was contained in the kennel.

Slowly, Oxana began to become one of the pack and less like a human, and it wasn’t until 5 years later that a neighbor notified the police that a little girl was being raised by dogs.

By the time she was rescued, she had lost all ability to speak, and was running on all fours, like a dog. Once a child misses the chance to learn how to speak by age 5, it becomes nearly impossible for them to grow up with the abilities of human language.

Oxana Malaya is now almost 34 years old and lives in a home for the mentally disabled. She tends to the farm animals but, surprisingly, doesn’t spend much time with her own pet dog. Her tone is flat and emotionless and there is no rhythm when she speaks.

Oxana was able to learn to talk again because she had some childish speech before she was abandoned. At an orphanage school, they taught her to walk upright, to eat with her hands and, crucially, to communicate like a human being.

Experts who had the chance to visit and see her Ukraine say she has the mental capacity of a 6 year old and a low tolerance for boredom. Although, she can follow directions well and loves to be the center of attention. When given anything, her first instinct is to hide it, just like a dog with a bone.