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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Who Rescued Who?

When moving to Minnesota almost 9 years ago now, I knew I was moving to a whole new part of the country with no family here.  After settling into my new place, I felt like something was missing.  Although we had lost our beloved family puppy years before when my daughter went to college, I never thought I would own another dog.  Well, sure enough – as the story goes – I would have to think again about being dogless!

Allison blog 2 1L

One day in January, a snowstorm was brewing and I needed to beat the storm and gather supplies.  I thought I should head out to a big box store to stock up.  In my new city – in my new car and with my new GPS – I got lost, very lost and ended up about 40 minutes from home.  Turns out, they don’t always know where you’re going!  On the route to get home, I pulled up to a light and looked to my left to see the animal shelter.  What the heck? Right? It was snowing; I was going nowhere fast in the snow – so in I went.  Just to ‘look’ at the cute puppies!

Allison blog 2 1RIt was love at first sight.  Riley was a 4 year old mixed breed (of many things) but looked like golden + lab mix to me.  She sat in the back of her kennel, scared, skinny and looked tired.  As I read her ‘card’, she had been ‘dropped’ off at the night window with no information.

I asked to see her and, as they brought her out of the kennel, I knew she would never return.  She came home that day.  She has been the best friend and companion since the day I brought her home.  She is a quiet, gentle soul who has always been there.  When my mom was sick this past year, she never left her side. She’ll go anywhere with you.  She’ll walk right beside you in the rain or in the hot sun – she is always there!

Allison blog 2 2L

Writing this blog has allowed me to remember that day so clearly.  I am blessed to have turned left instead of right.  I guess you never know which is the right way or what you will find, only that – if you get a chance – follow your heart. Riley has given more than she has ever asked, a million times over.

Thank you for blessing us with your love every day, little Riley.

Allison blog 2 2R

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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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