Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It's a Cat's/Dog's Life.... or Happy Birthday

     It's been a while since my last post.  Someone asked the other day for another... and I thought to myself, I've had so many ideas about what to write next, what to share... but the days slip by and work/social life takes over... is it time for the animals?  My days are busy, and often after work there are walks to take, and shopping to do and movies to watch with friends, and birthday parties to attend, but in the end we all go home more or less alone.  I feel particularly that way this evening.  It's just that season.  Yes.  It's a good time to write about the abandoned animals.

     Tonight I went to a birthday party at a local haunt.  It was a good gathering with flowers and chocolate, gifts and hugs and kisses and conversation that sometimes dove deep.   I went home early.  I checked my bank account to see if the rent had been deposited.  It hadn't.  That makes almost 17 days overdue.  I called my mom and my sister to just chat and to find some familiar land that was somehow safe and reassuring and loving.  My mother spoke to me for about 1 minute.  My sister, bless her, granted me a few more minutes.  They are both busy.  There is an errant sewer line under the house they must wrestle with.  Saved me some skype credits I suppose.

     I've been saying for a while that I wanted to post about the animals of my neighborhood.  In Istanbul, cats and dogs are cared for in an odd and curious manner.  But they are cared for.  Scraggly and mangy and feral and sometimes unruly, they rest on the sidewalk, sleep in empty lots, become default mosque guards, take up residence in parks, follow gypsies on their rounds, or saunter across a terrifying boulevards (oftentimes causing me to cover my eyes and pray I don't have to witness shredded animal flesh mingled with auto and rubber).  So far so good.

     Some of these feral animal are adopted.  Like this cat in Sultanahamet that took up a rather pampered residence in the bowl of a tourist shop.  This cat is well cared for.  It's fed and clean and loved, I would assume... else the shop owner would not allow it berth in this particular ceramic treasure.  Of course, the cat earns its' keep.  I had to wonder how many people wander into this shop because of the clever window display.  Nice work if you can get it.

     Not all felines are as fat and fortunate.  This scraggly lot hang out at the water front near where I live ... begging for sardine heads, and fish offal.  It can be a tough life.  Makes for a good picture though.

     I love cats.  I always have.  Even the one that clawed at my brow when I was only 4.  "Kitty"... this I cooed just before the 42 stitches in my forehead (or 24 depending on who's telling the story).  Some people here at our school take cats in.  Some people also end up with fleas taking over their apartments, or... like one unfortunate little girl I know.... contract cat scratch fever from a nasty claw that innocently batted at her finger.  Still... I like cats.  This guy (pictured to the left) intrigued me last week at the jewelry market.  I thought perhaps he was feral, given the crazy look in his eyes, but turned out he belonged to the woman selling earrings.   I bought a pair, just for the right to take a picture of her cat.  He was thoroughly unimpressed with my interest.  I guess that's one reason I like the species.  They don't care for pretense and they are aloof enough to be charming.

       I know some people hate them.  I get it.  I won't ever have another one.  They can be messy and expensive and they tend to go missing or get run over.  They cause trouble and they don't behave.  They break things and jump on the counter and... well they are just a different kind of animal.   My last cat was just so doggone cool though, that I don't feel the need to ever spoil my memory of what it was like to be loved by a cat by getting another one.
     This crew was hanging out near the Galata Tower.  Everyone here takes a piece of feeding and watering these abandoned animals.  Not all are loved, not all have a warm place to sleep at night, and it really is survival of the fittest on these streets of Istanbul for the animals that live here.... but cars will come to a screeching halt to avoid hitting one, and shopkeepers put out bowls of water and food and blankets.  At one high end grocery store in an upscale neighborhood down the road, their cat gets his own condo and food bowl.

This is David taking care of his "van" cat.  I  never heard of a van cat, and to tell you the truth, as I write, I am too tired to do the research, so I'll just pass along the story David told me...the cat belongs to a specific tribe of cat found ONLY IN TURKEY in a particular area of Turkey.  Their markings and eyes are highly specific and it is illegal to take them out of the country.   They evidently fetch a nice price when sold outside of the country, but David would never do this.  Instead he feeds and waters and talks to his cat and shoos off the much less valuable, but appropriately named stray... "Sylvester" who frequently comes to consume the food David lays out for his special friend.  Sylvester is NOT a van cat.  I kind of like the way he looks though.  Reminds me of someone I once knew.

  Dogs are cared for as well.  In some ways even more so.  Canines are an interesting anomaly here in this Muslim country.  They too survive on the streets, tagged and neutered they roam freely staking out their territory and living in thin peace with the inhabitants of the city.  I'll share the dog life next blog.  I already feel better for just spilling the cat tale out into the air (or maybe letting the cat out of the bag?).

Not every creature is necessarily wanted, but in Istanbul... every creature can find a place to belong. 

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