Some days I just feel like this guy… Wild dogs in Turkey

Ever since I laid eyes on this pooch I’ve wondered what it must be like to be such a rogue character.

It was just a week ago when I heard, or read the line “You can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat animals.” I assume you could say the same thing about a country. Don’t expect me to get all PETA on your ass or anything. I just happen to really like dogs and I find the way Turkey deals with wild strays to be a much more humane response to the issue of feral animals. Simply treat them like members of the community.

The deal is pretty easy. As long as the animal is docile and doesn’t show aggression toward people or other animals, they are left alone to roam and sleep where ever their hearts desire. One by one, the healthiest among them are picked up by the dog catcher, taken in, sterilized, vaccinated, ear-tagged and then released back onto the street. Many of them end up flopping in town squares where the handouts are frequent and become part of the normal landscape of the city.

Others, like the one pictured above, go rogue and stick to a more rural territory, sometimes packing together with other dogs in the wild or just going it alone. I’ve seen packs of 20 dogs or more in the mountains, all interbreed and usually missing their ears… The ears falling victim to fights and disagreements or to a farmer’s pocket knife to keep them from getting bitten off in the first place.

Often times the dogs in the country serve a purpose – such as guarding flocks of sheep, goats and cows from wolves and other poachers. The mightiest of these beasts is the Turkish Kangal dog.

A lot of people in Turkey have a very big fear of dogs – and I suspect that these dogs have a lot to do with it, as many people were chased by one as a child. They are everywhere – and have always been very timid around humans in all of my observances. However I have seen a few get excited for one reason or another and begin barking and jumping around. It will clear a sidewalk like a Godzilla sighting, with people scattering everywhere. I’m sure the eyes are what scare most people. They are very intense at all times and look pretty much like the one pictured above whenever they are encountered.

Don’t let that be a bad rap on them though. They are very independent dogs with a mind all their own and if one of them has the mind to chew your ass off I’m sure it would. But for the most part they are ok in the city. Out in the country they should be avoided though, for they are far less socialized and will more than likely see you as an intruder if you happen to stroll too close to their territory which can be far and wide.

An added joy of the Kangal as well as other dogs in Turkey is listening to them howl and bark at absolutely everything at every single hour of the night, only to get quiet about an hour before the call to prayer at which point they all begin to howl and bark again. It is a daily element of existence here.

One of my favorite local pups is a heavy-set German Sheppard/Golden Retriever mix which I in short order named Fozzie, as in Fozzie Bear.

My buddy... Fozzie the seas-side dog.

Fozzie is a big boy – so big in fact that I’ve seen people walk into oncoming traffic just to walk around him. As looks can be a bit intimidating, I sat back on a bench and just watched his behavior around people and more-so, their behavior around him. After a while I began to notice that any time someone walked close to Fozzie that his tail thumped up and down on the side walk. After noticing this I realized that most of the exaggerated behavior I was seeing from people who walked past him was exactly that – exaggerated. Somehow Fozzie had gotten a bad rap just by being a big pooch.

After a while I figured I would make my move… and I walked up and knelt down next to him. He looked up at me, as did most of the crowd on the sidewalk – who all stopped and gazed at me as if I must be mad. Children stood in awe and amazement as they watched me hold out my hand to Fozzie.

He looked up at me for a second, flapped his tail a few times on the ground, put his head forward on his paw and closed his eyes as I began to scratch him on the head. He lay there, enjoying the scratch for a while. And I enjoyed making a new friend…




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