Chewy in Croatian woods
This week, we are heading into Turkey. We'll be in Turkey and Greece for the next three months, visiting Istanbul, Cappadocia, Bodrum, and several of the Greek islands. In Istanbul, Chewy and Abby will cross into their third continent and twelfth country; Greece with be their thirteenth country.
These are places that Patrick and I have always wanted to visit. We've heard from so many people that Turkey is their favorite country in the world and that the Greek islands are sensational. I've been planning this segment for so long, excited and exuberant about these new places we're going to visit. But, now as the time draws near for us to head into Turkey, all I can think to myself is, "Are we insane?"
You see, Turkey is notorious for its awful treatment of dogs. Perhaps in part because the Q'uran considers dogs to be unclean animals, dogs are not often accepted as family pets. I've heard reports of dogs chained outdoors in the blazing sun for days on end. Apparently, wild dogs roam the streets in packs, occasionally terrorizing people, often being terrorized themselves. There were, at one count, over 100,000 stray dogs in Istanbul and the government conducted a mass killing, feeding the dogs meatballs laced with strychnine. More recently, they stuck many of the dogs into a truck and shipped them out to a nearby forest where they now roam, breed, and live in the wild, often being hunted by the other wild animals in that forest.
I've read message board posts of neighbors who have left poisoned meat or meat stuck with needles for stray dogs and their pets to eat, hoping that the dogs will die. Humane societies are few and far between, crowded and packed with sick dogs, and there is supposed to be very little knowledge about spaying and neutering.
Abby in the sun
And, we're going to this place. I'm a bit freaked out, to be honest. We're in Bulgaria right now staying in a lovely fenced house with the untamed Greek/Turkish hills directly across from us. Though this is a poor country, the dogs here are, for the most part, in good condition. There are a few skinny strays here but, then again, there are skinny strays in every country, unfortunately. We've barely put Chewy and Abby on a leash since we've come here because there are so few people and so much open space. Abby, especially, loves being here: she lays in the sun, basking in the warmth, barking at the sheep and donkeys being herded down the hill, and eager to explore the hills everyday during our walk.
I don't know how I'm going to handle Istanbul. We've been to a lot of countries where there are stray dogs --- India, Thailand, and South Africa, for example --- but I've never imagined the numbers that people tell me we're going to see in Istanbul. In Asia, though there are strays, families and the temples will leave food for those animals and people generally ignore the strays. I've never been to a place where people intentionally kill and harm stray dogs.
I don't know how Abby and Chewy are going to handle Istanbul, either. Our dogs are used to gentle treatment, strangers who want to pet them and talk to them, other friendly dogs who wag their tails at each other, and vast open spaces in which they can run and romp. We've been told to carry a stick with us when we take the dogs for walks so that we can threaten (but never harm) any strays who aggressively approach our dogs. We're never supposed to let them off-leash for fear that they may get into something harmful. We will have to be careful when taking them to parks and beaches to prevent them from being near other possibly freaked-out people.
I'm saying all this knowing that plenty of people have pet dogs in Istanbul. Anil and Renee have both traveled with their dogs through Turkey and didn't have any issues. Dog ownership is now becoming a passion of the wealthy who buy expensive pure-bred dogs from international breeders and the famed Turkish Kangal dog is protected by the government as part of Turkey's national heritage. We are staying in a wealthier residential area of Istanbul and Bodrum, areas with veterinarians, dog kennels, training facilities, and big pet stores. I know all of this.
But, still, I worry. I'm here, right now, thinking to myself, are we insane? Are we insane to go to a place known as being unfriendly to dogs? Are we insane to spend so much time there? Are we insane to even try these countries with Chewy and Abby in tow?
I don't know. But, I will let you know. As we go into these not-so-pet-friendly countries, I'm going to keep my eyes wide open and report back as honestly as I can. Maybe these places won't be as bad as they seem. Or, maybe they will be worse.
We'll only know when we try.