“The Heart of a Dog”, Chapter V – Weekly Reads

Dear friends!

Have you ever read a medical record of a patient? It is not always a pleasant reading, but it is often very informative. In Chapter V, you can find detailed information about the medical procedures that turn a dog named Sharik into Mr. Sharikov, and more! Enjoy reading!

Chapter V

From the Diary of Dr. Bormental

A thin exercise book such as children use to learn to write, all in the hand of Bormental. On the first two pages the writing is neat, well spaced and clear but after that it becomes bold and scrawling and there are many blots.

22 December 1924, Monday. Case Notes.

The laboratory dog is about 2 years old. Male. Breed — mongrel. Name — Sharik. Coat sparse, bushy, greyish brown, darker in some places. Tail — brownish cream. On the right flank are traces of a totally healed burn. Diet before being taken in by the Professor — poor; after a week — extremely well-nourished. Weight 8 kilograms (exclamation mark). Heart, lungs, stomach, temperature…

23 December. At 8.30 in the evening a pioneering operation performed according to the method of Professor Preobrazhensky, the first of its kind in Europe: under chloroform Sharik’s scrotum was removed and replaced by human testes with seminal vesicles and vasa, taken from a man aged 28, who had died 4 hours and 4 minutes before the operation, and preserved in sterilised isotonic saline according to Professor Preobrazhensky’s method.

Immediately after this, the brain-appendage, the hypophysis was removed after trepanation of the top of the skull and replaced by the human equivalent from the same man.

8 cubes of chloroform were introduced, 1 camphor injection, 2 injections of adrenaline to the heart.

The aim of the operation: the mounting of an experiment by Preobrazhensky ofa combined transplant of the hypophysis and the testes to explore the acceptability of hypophysis transplant and its potential for the rejuvenation of the human organism.

The operation was performed by Prof. P. P. Preobrazhensky assisted by Dr. I.A.Bormental.

During the night after the operation: repeated, dangerous weakening of the pulse. Expectation of fatal outcome. Massive doses of camphor according to the Preobrazhensky method.

24 December. Some improvement in the morning. Respiratory rate twice above normal. Temperature 42. Camphor subcutaneous. Caffeine injection.

25 December. Relapse. Pulse scarcely perceptible, extremities grow cold, unreacting pupils. Adrenaline to the heart, camphor according to the Preobrazhensky method, intravenous injection of saline.

26 December. Some improvement. Pulse 180, respiratory rate 92, temperature 41. Camphor, entral feeding by suppository.

27 December. Pulse 152, respiratory rate 50, temperature 39.8, pupils react. Subcutaneous camphor.

28 December. Significant improvement. At midday a sudden bout of heavy perspiration. Temperature 37°. The operational wounds are as they were. Changed dressing. Appetite returns. Fluids by mouth.

29 December. Sudden heavy moult of hair from the forehead and sides of the trunk. Called in for consultation: Professor Vasily Vasilievich Bundarev who heads the Chair of the Department of Skin Diseases and the Director of the Model Moscow Veterinary Institute. Both declare that there is no record of such a case in specialist literature. No diagnosis was agreed. Temperature — normal.

(Note in pencil) In the evening came the first bark (8.15 p. m.) Noteworthy is the sharp change in timbre and lowering of tone. The bark, instead of “woo-uff-woo-uff ‘ on the syllables “woo” and “uff, is in expression faintly reminiscent of a groan.

30 December. The moult is taking on the character of total loss of hair. Unexpected result of weight-check; weight is now 30 kg owing to growth (lengthening) of bones. The dog is lying prone as before.

31 December. Enormous appetite. (A blot appears in the exercise book. After the blot is a hasty scrawl.) At 12 minutes past 12 the dog clearly barked “A-b-yr”.

(At this point there is a blank space in the exercise book after which there appears a mistake clearly made in a state of agitation.)

1 December (crossed out and corrected), 1 January 1925. Photographed this morning. Distinctly barks “Abyr”, repeating the word loudly and, it would seem, joyously. At 3 o’clock this afternoon (in large letters) it laughed, sending the maid Zina into a dead faint. This evening pronounced 8 times running the word “Abyralg”, “Abyr”. (In slanting writing in pencil): The Professor has decoded the word “Abyr-valg”, it means “Glavryba”. Something monstr…

2nd January. Photographed smiling by magnesium flash. Got out of bed and stood confidently for half an hour on his hind legs. Almost my height.

(A loose leaf inserted into the exercise book.)

Russian science has narrowly escaped an irreparable loss. Case notes on the illness of Professor P. P. Preobrazhensky. At lhr 13 mins. — Professor Preobrazhensky went off in a deep faint. As he fell he bumped his head on the leg of a chair. Tinctura of valerian. In the presence of myself and Zina, the dog (if he can be called a dog, of course) swore at Professor Preobrazhensky, using obscene four-letter words.

(A break in the notes.)

6 January (in a mixture of pencil and violet ink). Today, after his tail fell off, he quite clearly pronounced the word “pub”. The phonograph is working. God knows what is going on. I am at a loss. The Professor has cancelled reception. Beginning from 5 o’clock, from the consulting room, where that creature is pacing up and down, you can hear a stream of vulgar oaths and the words “a couple more”.

7 January. He can say a great many words: “Cabby”; “There’s no seats”; “Evening paper”; “The best present for children” and all the swearwords in the Russian lexicon. His appearance is strange. Hair remains on the head only, on the chin and the chest. Otherwise he is bald with flaccid skin. His sexual organs are those of an adolescent male. His skull has become considerably more capacious. The forehead is slanting and low. I really am going mad. Philip Philipovich still feels unwell. Most of the observations are made by me (phonograph, photographs).

Rumours are spreading about the town. The consequences are incalculable. In the afternoon today all our alley was choc-a-bloc with old women and idlers of various kinds. The curious are still hanging around under the windows. A startling piece appeared in the morning paper: “The rumours concerning a man from Mars in Obukhov Alley are quite unfounded. They have been put about by traders from the Sukharevka Market, who will be strictly punished.” What man from Mars, damn it? This is becoming a nightmare.

Still better in the Evening Post which reported that a child had been born able to play the violin. On the same page there is an illustration: a violin and my photograph, subtitled Professor Preobrazhensky’ had performed a Caesarean operation on the mother. It is indescribable … he now says a new word: “Militiaman”.  It appears that Darya Petrovna was in love with me and pinched the photograph from Philip Philipovich’s album. After we had chased out the reporters one of them slipped into the kitchen, etc…

The chaos during reception hours! There were 82 calls today. The telephone is disconnected. Childless women have gone crazed and keep coming… The entire house committee called with Shvonder at their head: what for they don’t know themselves.

8 January. Late this evening the diagnosis was made. Philip Philipovich, like a true scholar,, admitted his mistake: the transplant of the hypophysis gives not rejuvenation but total humanisation (underlined three times). This in no way detracts from the amazing, staggering nature of his discovery.

For the first time today Sharik took a stroll about the flat. Laughed in the corridor at the sight of the electric lamp. Then, accompanied by Philip Philipovich and myself, he proceeded to the study. He stands firmly on his hind paws (crossed out) legs and looks like a small, ill-formed man. In the study he laughed. His smile is unpleasant and appears artificial. Then he scratched the back of his head, looked round and I noted a new, quite distinctly pronounced word: “Bourgeois”. He swore. His cursing is methodical, non-stop, and, it would appear, quite devoid of meaning. There is something almost phonographic about it; as though the creature had heard swearwords somewhere earlier on and had automatically, subconsciously recorded them in his mind and was now belching them up in wads. But as to that, I’m not a psychiatrist, damn it.

The cursing has a surprisingly depressing effect on Philip Philipovich. There are moments when he seems to lose the cool detachment of the scientist observing new phenomena and, as it were, loses patience. So, during the cursing he suddenly nervously yelled out: “Stop!”  This had no effect whatsoever. After a walk about the study Sharik was brought back by our combined efforts to the consulting room.

After this Philip Philipovich and I held a consultation. I have to admit here that now, for the first time, I saw that assured and strikingly brilliant man at a loss. Humming to himself, as is his habit, he asked: “And what are we to do now?” and answered his own question literally as follows: “Moskvoshveya… From Seville up to Granada. Moskvoshveya, dear Doctor.” I understood nothing. He explained: “I am asking you, Ivan Arnoldovich, to go to the Moscow Clothes Shop and to buy him underclothes, trousers and a jacket.”

9 January. From this morning his vocabulary has been increasing at the rate of one new word every five minutes (on average), and by whole new phrases. It is as though, having been deep frozen in his consciousness, they are now thawing out and emerging. Once out, the new word remains in use. Since yesterday evening the phonograph has recorded: “Don’t shove”, “Scoundrel”, “Get off that tram step”, “I’ll teach you”, “The recognition of America”, “Primus”.

10 January. Today for the first time he was dressed. He accepted the vest willingly, even laughing merrily. The underpants he rejected, expressing protest with hoarse cries of “Stand in line, you sons of bitches, stand in line!” We succeeded in putting the clothes on. The socks are too big for him.

(At this point there are some schematic drawings, apparently showing stages of the gradual transformation of a dog’s paw into a human foot.)

The back half of the skeleton of the arch (planta) grows longer. The toes become elongated. Claws. Repeated systematic training in the use of the lavatory. The servants are quite crushed. But one should note the creature’s quick understanding. Things are going better.

11 January. Has become completely resigned to the trousers. Today pronounced the long, merry sentence: “You there, Mister, with the swell pin-stripe. Spare a bit of baccy for me pipe?” The hair on his head is light and silky — easy to take for human hair. But traces of dark brown strands remain on the very top. Today the last fluff from the ears went. Colossal appetite. Enjoys salt herring. At 5 o’clock in the afternoon an important event took place; for the first time the words pronounced by the creature were not unrelated to surrounding objects, but were a reaction to them. To be precise, when the Professor ordered him not to throw the left-overs on the floor he unexpectedly replied: “Get off my back, you wimp.”

Philip Philipovich was astonished, then recovered and said: “If you permit yourself ever again to swear at me or the doctor, you’ll be in trouble.”

I photographed Sharik at that moment. I am ready to go bail he understood what the Professor said. A gloomy shadow fell on his face. He glowered from beneath his brows with considerable irritation but fell silent.

Hoorah, he understands!

12 January. Puts his hands in his trouser pockets. We are teaching him not to swear. Whistled the popular tune Oho, the apple-oil! Can sustain a conversation. I cannot restrain myself from venturing a few hypotheses: to hell with rejuvenation for the moment. This other thing is infinitely more important: Professor Preobrazhensky’s amazing experiment has opened up one of the secrets of the human brain. From now on the mysterious function of the hypophysis, or brain-appendage, has become clear. It predetermines the human image. We may say that the hormones it contains are the most important in the whole organism — image-defining hormones. A whole new sphere of science is being opened up. Homunculus has been created without the help of so much as Faust’s retort! The surgeon’s scalpel has called into being a new human entity. Professor Preobrazhensky, you are a creator. (Blot.)

But I wander from my theme… So, he can maintain a conversation. What I suggest happened is this: the hypophysis, having been accepted by the organism after the operation, opened up the speech-centres in the dog’s brain, and words came flooding out in a rush. In my opinion, we are dealing with a revived and developing, not with a newly-created brain. Oh, what a divine confirmation of the theory of evolution! Oh, great chain of life from a stray dog to Mendeleyev the chemist! (4) Another hypothesis: Sharik’s brain, during his period as a dog, collected a mass of information. All the words with which he first began to operate are street words, he had heard them and they had been conserved in his mind. Now as I walk along the street I look with secret horror upon every dog I meet. God knows what is stored away in their brains.

Sharik knew how to read. To read (3 exclamation marks). It was I who guessed this. From “Glavryba”. He had read it backwards. And I even knew where to look for the solution to this riddle: in the interruption in a dog’s optic nerves.

What is going on in Moscow is inconceivable to the mind of man. Seven traders from the Sukharevka Market have already been arrested for spreading rumours about the end of the world to be brought upon us by the Bolsheviks. Darya Petrovna said so and even named the day: the 28 November 1925, on the day of the Holy Martyr Steven, the world will crash into a heavenly axis … some knaves are already giving lectures. We’ve created such chaos with this hypophysis that the flat is becoming uninhabitable. I have moved in to live here at Professor Preobrazhensky’s request and sleep in the reception room with Sharik. The consulting room now serves as a reception room. Shvonder was quite right. The house committee is delighted at our discomfort. There is not one single whole pane of glass left in the cupboards because at first he would jump at them. It was all we could do to teach him not to.

Something odd is happening to Philip. When I told him of my hypotheses and of my hope of turning Sharik into a highly developed psychic individual, he laughed ironically and replied: “You think so?” His tone was dire. Could I be mistaken? The old boy is on to something. While I write up this case-history he pores over the story of the man from whom we took the hypophysis.

(A loose leaf inserted in the exercise book.)

Klim Grigoryevich Chugunkin, 25 years old, single. Non-Party member, sympathiser. Brought before the court 3 times and found not guilty the first time for lack of proof; the second time saved by his social origins; the third given a suspended sentence of 15 years forced labour. Thefts. Profession — playing the balalaika in pubs. Small, ill-made. Enlarged liver (alcohol). Cause of death — struck in the heart by a knife in a pub “The Stop Signal” at the Preobrazhensky Gate.

The old man is totally absorbed in the case of Klim Chugunkin. He muttered something about not having had the wit to examine Chugunkin’s whole body in the pathology laboratory. What it is all about I do not understand. Is it not all the same whose hypophysis?

17 January. Have not made any entries for several days: went down with flu. In the course of this time the image has taken on final form.

(a) the body has become completely human

(b) weight is about 108 lbs

(c) height — short

(d) head — small

(e) has begun to smoke

(f) eats human food

(g) can dress himself

(h) can converse smoothly

There’s the hypophysis for you! (Blot.)

With this I end this case history. Before us is a new organism; it must be observed from the beginning.

Supplement: stenograms of speech; phonograph recordings; photographs.

Signed by Professor Preobrazhensky’s assistant Doctor Bormental.


4.”…Mendeleyev the chemist!” D. I. Mendeleyev (1834-1907), Russian chemist and progressive public figure. Mendeleyev discovered the periodic law of chemical elements, one of the basic laws of natural science.

Source: The Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov Translated by Avril Pyman Mikhail Bulgakov 1925 English translation copyright Raduga Publishers Moscow 1990