Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Ruff Life

     There is a park up the street, past the mosque and the bakery and the rows of apartment blocks.  It is a lovely spot, though the hike up there is a breath stealer.  It is laid out over a steep hill and spreads down the other side.  Stone sidewalks drop down and wind around to the bottom of the park where you can take some steep side streets and end up in trendy Kurucesme on the banks of the Bosphorous.  The view is stunning, and there are 2 little cafes that serve tea and coffee and food.  The place is usually full of families and couples.  It is also home to a number of street dogs who have staked out some rather trendy territory themselves.

     This picture is fuzzy because it was getting on towards dark and this guy was a ways away.  He lives under a little cliff where some of the park caretakers and the gypsies hang out.  They feed him scraps from the cafes and he is fairly beefy for a street dog.  You can tell they are street dogs because their ears are tagged with a government marker and they've been neutered.  No one owns them.  The Turks do not euthanize.    Being neutered does not necessarily mean the animals are non territorial.  Each has a definitive area of residency and they protect it rather vigorously if and when challenged.  If I were a dog going for a walk in Ullus Park, I would steer clear of this white creature.  The friend I was having tea with is afraid of him.  Lots of dog walkers who have their own canines on a leash, carry large sticks to fend off the hoards of street animals who don't care for domesticated interlopers. 

Here he is waiting for someone to come pet him and bring him a treat.  I wonder how he fares in winter.  As a matter of fact, I am curious to see how they all fare in winter.  It rained today and was a tad chilly.  I took a walk to the market and did not see a single dog.  Where do they go when it's rainy and cold?

You can see plastic containers of water everywhere around the city streets and in the neighborhoods.  People just put them out and keep them full.  You also will see piles of bones and scraps set out for the dogs.  I have never seen a dog here that is aggressive towards humans.  I am sure some people don't like the dog policy (the majority I am guessing are ex-pats) but as an animal lover I appreciate the kindness and consideration and tolerance that people have towards an animal that historically has been considered "dirty" by some religious standards.  I think Turks are very kind to animals in general.  Though we are coming up on Korban Bayram, which is lamb sacrificing time - and this is an active ritual here.  Done right however, the animal is slaughtered in a humane manner. 

I have seen many people stop to pet a street dog, or to talk to it sweetly.  They don't try and get the dog to come with them, they just pat and chat and then go on their way.  I could be accused here of being anthropomorphic by saying this, but I tell you the dogs here seem to speak with their eyes.  They are a curious lot. 

Last week while strolling around and waiting for a friend to take care of some phone business, I watched this man stop to talk to a dog that was hanging out in front of the store.  I've also seen old men in front of the mosque, tenderly feeding the dogs that sleep nearby.


I am not sure what this sign is about, but I know it has something to do with feeding the dogs.  It think it's kind of funny, it looks like the dog in the poster is eating a gosleme  (kind of a Turkish burrito).

We recently had a pet store open up here in Ortakoy.  I hate it.  Western influence creeping in on tiny well bred and very expensive cat feet.  There's something about a pet store in the middle of a street teeming with street animals and wild birds... it just doesn't seem right.  Maybe the dogs and cats will break in and steal all the food. 

I know this country has its problems.  Politics here, as politics everywhere are not clean and pure.  Power invites corruption into its bed, and the perfect society does not exist this side of time, but I like this culture and I like this people. I was absolutely stunned to see a horse drawn cart down near the main arterial road in our area.  WHERE DOES SOMEONE KEEP A HORSE AROUND HERE???  I don't know, but I've seen him twice now so I know he has to board somewhere nearby.  I'll find out sooner or later.  Oh, and this guy was feeding chickens in another waterside park.  Not unusual right, except that this is a public park and there's a makeshift chicken shack and it's in one of the busiest tourist areas in Beskitas. 

Ah life is full of surprises and mystery here in Istanbul.  I am so grateful for this particular aspect of the culture.  It is endearing and novel, and I hope, like many charming quirks here, that it never changes.  But all things change.  The world shrinks and men become madder by the day.  For now, I will be content with the present peace and my prayers for this people, their animals, and their traditions, will continue.

Peace to you - all men and beasts.


  1. I am learning so much from you and your blog! What a lovely way of life for the dogs.

    1. Thank you! It is a very civilized way to live I think, but I have learned since writing this piece, that there is legislation afoot here to round up all the large street dogs (they are all large) and euthanize the lot of them. Very sad... we will pray it does not pass.