I may have mentioned the street dogs a time or two. After gleaning a bit more information on the subject – and in all fairness to the dogs who I have, up to this point, painted as pretty scary and to be avoided – I feel obligated to touch on this topic yet again. Ad nauseam.
OK, to recap, there are a LOT of street dogs. On every corner and in between. The government here is aware of this and working to address the problem. They have instituted a “neuter and release” program, where they take the street dogs, spay / neuter them (as well as inoculate them) and release them back onto the streets. The obvious conclusion being that as the number of fertile dogs decreases, so will the population. In the meantime, the dogs survive on edible rubbish and handouts from people. Considering the Turkish culinary delights, life could be worse.
I won’t (yet) change my opinion about packs of street dogs. They are not a hospitable bunch based on our experiences thus far. I haven’t forgotten the multiple sets of teeth chasing Zoya and I up the stairs in Ulus Park; that was a cardiac stress test I am not eager to repeat anytime soon. However, individual streets dogs – the ones we run into as we are strolling down the boardwalk in Bebek, next to the Bosporus – actually seem, for the most part, maybe, (I need to qualify this as I am not sure we want to continue to re-visit this topic every other day) okay. This was confirmed by a fellow dog walker who told us that her dog always plays with the Bebek Park street dogs. Hmmm.
So, today, when my son and I had finished our skidding descent to Bebek, our Starbucks sloshing in hand…when we had navigated the teeming traffic of Porsches, BMWs, Jaguars, Ferarris, and other expensive cars that seem to abound here (Note: the trick to crossing the street here is to do it with attitude, acting like you own the street; crossing the street with the idea that you are akin to a bug that could easily be squashed by the car racing towards you, does not guarantee positive results.)…and when we came across a street dog making friendly overtures, we decided to keep an open mind.
Not that it mattered because despite Zoya’s brushes with inhospitable dogs, she had decided to give the dog the benefit of the doubt. Which means that she excitedly launched all of her 53 kilos at the bravely approaching stray. Which means that my skinny vanilla latte and I went sailing right after her. For about 20 minutes, Zoya – and when I say ‘Zoya’, I include myself – was leaping back and forth in play with the stray. Jump. Pounce. Roll. Run. Jump. Pounce. Roll. Run. Pedestrians were scattering – but with smiles on their faces – to avoid the 2 bouncing bodies. Well, maybe they were just trying to avoid the big black one. In any case, bystanders seemed to enjoy the entertainment. I can’t say the same for my leash arm.
During the lively commotion, one woman was brave enough to enter the play area, intrigued by Zoya’s breed. Turns out the woman was a vet. And spoke English (as many people do here). She asked about the breed, and I gave her the rundown on the Black Russian Terrier’s history. She then confirmed what I had heard so far about the street dogs, explaining the neuter and release program. She then explained the collars that are on many of the street dogs, including the one Zoya had befriended. Turns out collars don’t indicate ownership status for most dogs that one sees on the street (so they don’t belong to some free-spirited, fly-be-free type of owner). Instead, people buy collars for the dogs so that people will treat them nicer, the collars conveying a kind of stamp of approval on a dog. Probably a smart strategy. Worked on me.
So, in conclusion, it turns out that the street dogs are probably not so different from people: while there may be some duds in the bunch, most seem pretty okay.