cats and dogs

Merhaba from Türkiye,

The prevalence of stray cats and dogs in the streets of Istanbul can be a bit disconcerting for someone used to such animals being on leashes or kept indoors. This is a huge city and the cats and dogs are ubiquitous.

These animals appear to be cared for by a great number of the populace, as opposed to individuals. They add something to the cityscape, including the inevitable brown obstacles for pedestrians.

makeshift kennels in public places

Not only are the animals free to roam, many of the locals go to the trouble – and expense – to provide for them, for both food and shelter. It’s not uncommon to see food and water deliberately left on the footpath or in a vacant lot. On top of that, some apartment buildings – including my temporary home here in Istanbul – allow pets in the building. The sign in the elevator asks pet owners to register their ‘pet passports with site management’. Perhaps this concept of allowing pets in apartments is another element in the oft-mentioned insidious influence of those decadent Europeans. (Half of Istanbul is in Europe and the other half is in Asia.)

In some cases, kennels are left in the open: an offer to the first potential occupant. On snowy days and nights, they must provide priceless haven from the elements. These are animals without owners. As Ilknur says, “We feed them. We love them. But we don’t take them home”.

I’ve even seen one woman – having driven quite some distance – feeding two guard dogs behind a fenced enclosure.

This care for the indigent animals is more than just a casual thought about thirsty dogs on hot days (and a lot different to the crass marketing tools in which a water bowl is placed strategically at a shop’s portal to entice shoppers in). What it actually represents in Türkiye is a surrogate care for a communal animal; a sentient being in need of succour and sustenance. In a nation where hospitality is an ethos, it doesn’t just extend to fellow humans.

institutionalised pet feeders ?

Interestingly, the dogs don’t seem to bite passersby, even those who show an element of fear. Their free reign seems to assure them that anyone of the humans could in fact be a provider of food, or a caress.

During the recent earthquake rescue effort, livestock and domesticated pets were afforded a high priority, too. If Gandhi was right about the greatness of a nation being reflected in its treatment of animals, Türkiye is deserving of a place quite high on that continuum . . . with one rider: Ilknur remarks that “not all Türks behave that way!”.

Güle güle from Türkiye

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