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August 16, 2012, Thursday

A family and their dog

Visitors to Turkey often comment on the number of stray cats and dogs in public. Tourists notice that many of the street animals are given food but are uncared for otherwise.

In our global world we are faced daily with poverty, inequality and other human crises. Rightly so, these should be high priority, but other needs such as animal care and environment should not be neglected.

I love going for walks with my three cocker spaniels. Each has been rescued from either a bad situation or their owners were leaving Turkey or moving house and could no longer keep their dogs. When we go out for walks -- even though it is not in the lovely English fields where their Cocker ancestors would flush birds either into nets or into the air for falcons to pursue and their owners to shoot -- my dogs still find plenty to sniff and enjoy on their urban outing.

I meet Turks every day on our walks who do not know about the different breeds. Spaniels are one of the oldest families of dogs developed to hunt in partnership with humans. Generally, Turks tend to see cute puppies in a pet shop window and decide to purchase a pet there. Many pet shops are more interested in a sale and do not tell the proud new owner any facts about owning a dog. The first few months of life with a puppy will make a huge impact on the quality of the many years you will share with your furry friend. It is not uncommon for the pet to be given up for adoption within two years as the new owners have not been instructed about what is involved in caring for a pet.

If you are considering purchasing a dog as a pet, there are many dogs waiting to be claimed and taken home with you, their new owner. You do not have to go to a pet shop to buy a dog; you can check with the local municipal dog pound. There is a large dog pound for the city of Istanbul, and many districts such as Kadıköy have their own as well. I imagine every city in Turkey has a pound. Since June 2004 in Turkey, a major effort to solve the problem of stray dogs in public places has been under way. The approach has been primarily the process of capturing stray dogs, neutering, immunizing and releasing them. Usually the stray dogs you see on the streets are fed by residents who live in the area.

Turkey is famous among worldwide dog lovers for its kangal breed. Many foreign visitors have never seen a kangal before coming to Turkey and comment on its size. Kangals have played a vital part in shepherding, particularly in the Sivas province of central Turkey. If you have had the opportunity to travel in Anatolia, you will know that the plain is a vast steppe, where settlements are isolated and shepherds have to travel miles to find sufficient grazing for the sheep. Lesley Tahtakılıç, author of “The Kangal Dog of Turkey,” writes: “The Kangal dog and his owner has long been a one man and his dog relationship. Long may it live!”

Sadly, dogs are not always loved. Acts of all sorts of cruelty against animals occur around the world.

Jeff Coltenback shares a passion and love for his often mislabeled and misunderstood breed of dog, the pit bull. Here is what Jeff says: “His only crime is his breed. … My wife, Diana and I then offered to adopt him and submitted adoption application along with 12 references. My wife and I had Memphis for one week, and fell madly in love with him. Memphis is truly a great dog who has a responsible, stable, experienced and loving forever home to go to -- ours.”

Jeff, hope you and Memphis are reunited soon.

“The dog who meets with a good master is the happier of the two.” -- Maeterlinck

Note: Charlotte McPherson is the author of “Culture Smart: Turkey” 2005. Please keep your questions and observations coming: I want to ensure this column is a help to you, Today’s Zaman’s readers. Email: [email protected]

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