Turkey’s Stray Dogs

In May of 2013, a series of violent protests began in Istanbul Turkey and spread through the rest of the country for the majority of that year.  My wife, Jennifer, and I had just spent much of March of that same year traveling through the Western part of Turkey not realizing what was about to occur. We visited Istanbul, Gallipoli, Troy, Ephesus, Kusadasi, Antalya, Cappadocia, Konya, and Ankara (Turkey’s capital). I could write several blogs based on places and events of that trip. I could blog about the cordial and welcoming Turks that we encountered. The delicious local foods that we enjoyed would be another subject. We stood in the theatre where the Apostle Paul spoke. We traveled by bus adjacent to the Silk Road, the ancient trade route linking China to the West. We walked the battlegrounds of the Trojan War at Troy.

But, being a dog owner, I wanted to share with you the special relationship between the Turkish people and the population of stray dogs (and cats) and how they are treated there. I noticed during our trip that there were a noticeable number of homeless dogs…everywhere. Many Turks are quite comfortable with, and even enjoy, having the free-roaming dogs around.
Free-roaming dogs have been documented in Istanbul for several hundred years at least, perhaps longer.  Today, dogs are found most anywhere – even in this patio area of a local restaurant. They are fed by families and business owners daily. Tin bowls for food and water can even be seen along the highways.

There is even a company in Turkey called Pugedon that has created a somewhat unusual but effective way to kill two birds with one stone – their vending machine in Istanbul takes bottles deposited for recycling and dispenses food for the city’s stray dogs.

Our guide told us that there are very few animal shelters throughout Turkey. The strategy instead is a trap-spay/neuter-vaccinate/treat and release program.  Free-roaming dogs are picked up off the streets and taken to local shelters where they are spayed or neutered, vaccinated for rabies and other diseases, treated for minor illnesses, ear-tagged for identification, and then released back to the neighborhood where they were trapped. You can see one of the tagged street dogs in the photograph below.

The most popular dog in Turkey is the Kangal. It is a breed of large livestock guardian dog originating from the Sivas province of Turkey. While the Kangal is often referred to as a sheep dog, it is not a herding dog, but rather a flock guardian that lives with the flock of sheep to actively fend off predators of all sizes. Typically used as protection against wolves, bears, and jackals in its native Turkey. The Kangals we encountered were very social except for the one protecting her pups.

This little guy was living in a market in Cappadocia. He had obviously sustained an injury and was limping. But all the store owners at the market treated him like their very own. I really wanted to bring him home.

During the harsh winter months, Turkish Malls will open their doors to stray dogs. The following photo is from a local newspaper.

If you ever have the chance to visit Turkey during safer times, don’t forget to take some treats with you. These homeless dogs and cats are very friendly and will often approach you for a treat or just a tummy rub.

I hope you enjoy the photos Jennifer took on our trip!

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Grading Coins 101

I have been collecting coins for over 30 years. I have hosted hundreds of coin shows for various networks and I have worked with some of the most respected numismatists in the business. The question I get all the time is “Should I have my coins graded?

Before I answer these questions, let me provide you with a brief description of graded coins. Coins that are submitted to a professional grading service are inspected and assigned a grade. They are also certified authentic and are placed in a protective holder called a “slab.” Other information besides the grade may be placed on the holder such as the denomination, precious metal content, and sometimes the provenance or the source where the coins were discovered.

The reasons to consider grading or collecting graded certified coins are:

To establish a Coin’s Grade

Location is to real estate as the condition is to the value of the coin. The grade will establish this condition. For example, uncirculated coins will grade from MS60 to MS70. An MS70 will be more valuable than the same coin graded as an MS63. When you are ready to sell or upgrade your coin, it’s important to know its value so you get the most for it. The condition will always be an issue when buying or selling a collectible coin. Having the coin professionally certified and graded by a reputable company will eliminate any argument over its condition.

 To establish authenticity

1893S Morgan Silver Dollar
Here is an 1893S Morgan Silver Dollar that has been improperly cleaned.

Professional coin graders will reject any coin they believe isn’t authentic or altered. If a coin has been altered in any way such as cleaning, polishing, or modifying the design, it would be unfit to authenticate. You want to be assured your coin is the real thing.

To establish identity

Value of $1775 based on NCG Price Guide

 

It is the coin grader’s responsibility to identify any critical devices on the coin that may affect its value. A mint mark is one such device. A 1909 SVDB cent is worth much more than a 1909 VDB cent of the same grade (the “S” denotes the San Francisco Mint,“VDB” are the initials of the designer Victor David Brenner). Design changes may identify different “types” or “varieties.” A good example of this is the $1 gold coin that was originally minted in 1849. When Lady Liberty’s design was changed in 1854, it became a Type II.

Value of $25 based on NGC Price Guide

To protect your coins

Any damage to your coin may mean a loss of value. Damage could be caused by fingerprints, dropping your coin on a hard surface, or even environmental exposure. A slab is an airtight holder and protects your coin from these damages.

Credibility and Consistency

As mentioned, the grade of a coin is an important factor in establishing its value. You will want to choose a professional grading company that is reliable and consistent. The reputation of a grading service may also be a consideration when buying or selling a coin. They must follow strict grading guidelines of the ANA (American Numismatic Association). The four most popular grading services are:

NGC (Numismatic Guaranty Corporation)

PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Service)

ANACS (American Numismatic Association Certification Service)

ICG (Independent Coin Graders)

I hope this was helpful for those who collect coins or want to begin a collection. I will admit when I first started collecting coins, it was in the hopes of someday selling my inventory to raise a nice profit. The larger my collection grows, the more my original intent has changed. I can’t imagine selling many of my coins now, they have become treasured possessions.

Wally likes coins, too!
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Scratch one more off my bucket list . . .

Ever since I was a child, I’ve wanted to travel the Amazon River.  On September 1, 2016, I was able to scratch that off my bucket list.  My wife, Jennifer, and I spent a week exploring the Amazon and some of its tributaries on an Amazon River Boat called the Delfin I.  It was and will be one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

sc-blog-4-1First a little background history. The mouth of the Amazon River was discovered in 1500, when a Spanish expedition led by Vincente Pinzon sailed up it to a point 50 miles (80km) from the sea.  Forty years later, another Spanish expedition, of 50 men under the command of Francisco de Orellana, achieved an epic journey from the distant Andes by way of the Napo River and the Amazon mainstream to the Atlantic.  By the 19th century, naturalists finally began to learn the secrets of the rivers and the surrounding rain forest.  Between 1848 and 1859, the British naturalist Henry Bates collected thousands of insect species entirely new to entomology.  Now, the Amazon is thought to have 2.5 million species of insects, 1,300 bird species3,000 types of fish430 mammals and a whopping 2.5 million different insects.  The botanist Richard Spruce gathered some 7000 new plant specimens.  Now, the Amazon is estimated to have 40,000 plant species, 16,000 tree species and 390 billion individual trees.  The Amazon River is by far the world’s largest river by volume.  It has over 1,100 tributaries, 17 of which are longer than 1000 miles. We were only able to explore a few of these.

sc-blog-4-2We flew into Lima, Peru then onto Iquitos, a bustling city completely surrounded by jungle.  There are no roads leading in or out of Iquitos.  You can only enter or leave on foot or by boat or plane.  The primary mode of transportation is a motor carriages or “Tuk Tuk”.

After a brief tour of the city, it was onto Nauta, the riverboat port.  Once we embarked, we met our guide and our fellow passengers, two couples from Lima, Peru.  We didn’t waste any time and immediately boarded a skiff (motorboat) to search for pink dolphins.  Even though our guide made no promise we would be able to see any pink dolphins that day, we spotted dozens just during that 2 hour excursion.

sc-blog-4-3The next day consisted of a jungle hike where we observed several forms of wildlife.  We got close to a sloth that really seemed to be posing for our cameras.  Our jungle guide discovered a Tarantula and brought it close for us to view (I hate spiders).  We also got close and personal to a boa constrictor, a small poisonous frog, and a monkey (see photos below).  Even though it was 90+ degrees with high humidity, we all had to wear long pants and sleeves due to the huge population of mosquitoes.  Thank goodness I brought along my Para’Kito mosquito repellent wrist band.

sc-blog-4-4sc-blog-4-5sc-blog-4-6sc-blog-4-7The scariest and most unforgettable excursion of our journey was the jungle canopy walk.  It is a series of several tree platforms around 35 meters (115 feet) high connected by swing bridges giving you a unique perception of the wildlife and vegetation seldom observed from the ground.  For someone who is afraid of heights (me), this was quite a frightening but awesome feat.  Had it not been for Jennifer encouraging me from behind, I would have never conquered that fear.

sc-blog-4-8I can now actually tell my grandchildren (not) that I swam in the Amazon, I fed a Manatee, I kayaked in the Amazon, and fished for Piranha in the Amazon.  Fishing for Piranha is an art that I will never master.  Normally, a fish will hook itself while going for bait.  A Piranha is smarter that.  As they bite into the bait (not hook) you have to pull them quickly into the boat.  Well, we fed a lot of Piranha that day but didn’t catch any.  What we did hook was Amazonian Catfish.  I was so proud that I caught one. Jennifer caught five!

sc-blog-4-9On our final day we visited a local village and spent time with some of its 150 inhabitants.  I will never forget that day.  We all brought the children some toys and school supplies which they desperately needed.  Jen and I purchased some beautiful straw items they handcraft which provide their village with income.  I tried to converse with one of the village leaders with the little Spanish I know.  He just smiled.  Many of the jungle people are very happy and live to be over 100 years old.  When asked the reason for their longevity . . . ”no stress”.

sc-blog-4-10The Amazon is more than just the World’s largest river, it is the life force of the surrounding rainforest which is one of the one of the world’s greatest natural resources.  Because its vegetation continuously recycles carbon dioxide into oxygen, it has been described as the “Lungs of our Planet”.   About 20% of earth’s oxygen is produced by the Amazon rainforest.  If you ever have the opportunity to visit this area, it will be one of the most extraordinary experiences of your life.

sc-blog-4-11

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My Other Job

I’ve been a host for shopping networks for 33 years.  Periodically, I would take some time away from this business and take on other jobs.  One of my favorite positions was that of a Port Lecturer on various cruise ships.  Life on a cruise ship is definitely an exciting one!  You get to travel the world, eat all the food you want for free, meet a lot of fascinating people and have someone else make your bed and clean your room.  Oh, and I got paid for it!

Skip blog 2Me and the ship’s photographer Sean while on Holland America’s Westerdam

The job of Port Lecturer is similar to that of a show host. I would present live shopping talks to thousands of passengers and provide information about the various ports of call.  During our port visits (while the rest of the crew got free time), I’d walk through town and visit all the ‘recommended’ stores.  The store owners loved the port lecturers (most of the time) because we were responsible for advising our passengers where they should shop.  In return, we’d receive some nice rewards and gifts from the vendors.  My favorite was a pair of clean Columbian Emerald earrings that I gave to my wife.  My favorite ports were St. Thomas, San Juan, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas, and Key West.

If you do like to shop while on a cruise, I suggest that you only shop at the stores the Port Lecturer recommends.  These shops have been vetted by the cruise lines and are the ones that will guarantee your purchases.

Another responsibility of the Port Lecturer was to be a source of information about the ship upon which you were sailing.  Simple questions like “Where’s the Lido Deck?” or “What time does the casino open?” are common.  However, I enjoyed the questions that I didn’t know exactly how to answer.  The following are a few of the actual questions I’ve been asked by a passenger:

“Does the crew sleep on board?”

“What time is the midnight buffet?”

“Does this elevator take me to the front of the ship?”

“Does the ship generate its own electricity?”

“What do you do with the ice carvings after they melt?”

As we were pulling into Nassau, Bahamas, someone asked me if they would need to get a taxi to see the space ships.

And my favorite (I swear this was actually asked of me) . . . ”Can you do something about the rain?”

One day, I was taking a stroll on deck near one of the swimming pools.  It was very turbulent that day, with some high seas, so very few passengers were on deck.  I noticed an elderly women staring into the pool with a very inquisitive look.  Being the conscientious crew member that I was, I approached and asked if I could be of help.  She looked up at me and then back down at the water in the pool. She looked back up at me and asked, “Where does the swimming pool water come from?” I explained to her that, two decks below, there is a large pump that simply draws water directly from the ocean into the pool. She said, “Well, that explains it.” “Explains what?” I asked.  She then said, “No wonder it’s so rough!”

Happy Sailing!

Skip blog 2 pic 2Private Island Party for our passengers

 

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Wally says “Happy Summer!”

If you’re a dog owner like us, summer is the best time of the year here in Minnesota. We love taking our ‘boys’ on walks around the lake, playing ‘catch’ and ‘tug-o-war’ in the back yard, and going for long rides in the car. Being outside is fun but there are a few simple precautions that we take that help protect our dogs and keep them cool in the heat.

Wally blog

Stay Hydrated. Bring extra water for your dog on any long walk. Drinking water is one of the ways dogs cool themselves. If they’re playing outside, make sure their water bowl is full.

Stay off Hot Pavement. Summer heat warms pavements just like a frying pan and, if the pavement gets too hot, it can burn your dog’s paws. You can check by pressing the back of your hand against the asphalt or concrete to see if it will be comfortable for your dog to walk on. If it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws!  Avoid these surfaces during the hot part of the day or consider putting protective booties (good luck with that) on your dog’s paws as added protection. Wally just walks on the grass as much as possible

Prevent sunburn. My bulldog Wally is mostly white, and white dogs tend to get sunburned more easily. Additionally, the tips of ears, bridge of the nose, around the eyes and abdomen are all sensitive areas on a dog’s skin. So, if you plan to be out in hot sun for a while, get your dog a sun protector or sunscreen made for dogs and, whenever possible, rest in the shade.

Keep up on ticks and fleas protection. Being outdoors is great, but wooded areas and long grasses are home for ticks and fleas.

Let’s go swimming! We keep a pool filled just in case one of my dogs wants to take a dip and cool off.

Wally blog pool

And of course…never, ever leave your pet in the car on a hot day.

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