Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Accepting what you can't change

Yesterday I got into a discussion on Facebook with friends who, like me, support the rescue of street dogs.  There were comments made about the way expats behave towards dogs.  For example, some of them decide they don't like living here after all, return to their home country, and just dump their pets on the streets to fend for themselves.  I know it happens, but the point I made was that they are in the minority.  They are the same people who wouldn't think twice about dumping a dog in their own country.

I have many expat friends in different areas who wouldn't dream of doing this.  They are the same people who have integrated well into the Turkish culture, and care about the plight of animals here.  They will rescue street dogs and care for them, but even if they don't they will go out and feed them on a regular basis.

One thing that constantly disturbs me is how people who come here for a holiday will feed cats and dogs during their stay, then of course when they return home, these animals are left confused and hungry.  I have said many times, and will repeat it again in the hope that the message gets across.  Please DO NOT feed dogs and cats individually if you can't take long term responsibility for them.  By all means if you have scraps of food leave them in a bag next to the rubbish bins, so that they can find the food for themselves.  Believe's not a health hazard because the food will only be there for a matter of minutes before it's found.

There is also a lot of criticism of Turks in the way that they treat animals.  There are sweeping generalisations about the cruelty they perpetrate.  One thing that has to be understood, is that the Turkish attitude towards cats and dogs is totally different to  that of Europeans and others.   They see cats and dogs as vermin.  They think they are dirty.  They generally don't think it's right to have dogs or cats in your home.   Those of us who are animal lovers, have to accept that not everyone feels the way that we do.   But the majority of Turks are not cruel to animals.  Of course there are those that are, but cruelty to animals exists in every country in the world, including those countries who keep dogs and cats as domestic pets and profess to be animal lovers.

There is a fear of dogs here amongst adults, and naturally this fear is instilled in their children.  In every area where Mr A and I have lived, we do what we can to educate the children about dogs.  We introduce them to our dogs, so that they can see there is nothing to be scared of.  In this way they can be taught to respect and be kind to all dogs.   We also put scraps by the bins and leave water out, and encourage our neighbours to do the same.  And they are quite happy to do so...they just need a little encouragement. 

In just three years in this village we have seen a marked difference in attitude.   People see how we treat our dogs and they are less fearful. 

Surviving winter is the most difficult time for the street animals.  People in our village now allow dogs to shelter in their outhouses, because they are no longer afraid of them.  And even if they will never accept them as domestic pets, they still feed them.  Mr A regularly goes to a butcher in Milas and returns with several huge bags of scraps and bones and distributes them around the village.  Others are beginning to do the same.  In my opinion education is always the way forward.

The problem is a huge one.  I have rescued and rehomed street dogs over the years, but I also accept that some dogs and cats just cannot be domesticated.  Believe me I've tried on several occasions, but they continue to run away...back to the life they know and don't seem to want to change.

Karen Lowrie Wren of T.A.G.(Turkish Animal Group) does a wonderful job in rescuing and re-homing street dogs, all with the help of donations, fundraising, sponsorship, and a great deal of her own money.  I will always support and publicise the work that she does, but it's just the tip of the iceberg.

Until the Turkish government accept that the only way to tackle this problem is for them to fund a mass neutering programme throughout the whole of the country, then the problem will only get worse.

In the meantime, most of us, expats and Turks alike, do what we can to make life for these animals a little easier. 

At the same time however, we have to realise  that this is a different country with a different culture, and at times we have to accept what we can't change.

If you are interested in the work that Karen does, and/or you want to help in any way,  you can visit her website HERE


  1. It's all a bit sad really. Neutering must be the way to go. Times as they are right now though, the government must concentrate on people not animals.

  2. Hej Linda!
    What is the name of the village
    you live in now?

  3. Kv: You are right of course. It's important to get the right balance. There are a lot of poor people in this country and they rightly need to be the priority.

    Pia: I am not happy to disclose the name of our village because the reason I don't use my real name when blogging means I can remain anonymous, except to those people I have come to know well over a period of time. I hope you understand that xxx

  4. One of the biggest difference I have noticed over the years in Bodrum is the attitude to animals. I lost two pet dogs to poison in the streets and fields. This time round I have seen many Turkish ladies going around the streets in Bodrum putting down dried food for cats and dogs.

  5. Bless you Ayak for being responsible in your care of cats and dogs. When I was much younger it was a shock to my nervous system to discover that not every culture felt the same way about animals as many people do in this (USA) and other countries do! You and Mr. A have done a remarkable thing showing your neighbors that animals can be cared for without letting them in the home. Again bless you and all those everywhere who care about the animals around them!

  6. You're right about education and neutering programmes making a difference.

    Since we first started coming to Costa Rica and now there are many fewer street dogs, thanks in part to the clinics offering cheap neutering - and if they can afford it, people will do it. It's just that hey can't afford big vets' bills.
    Cruelty as such was never a big problem, but ignorance was and local and national organisations are working through children to educate them as to the needs of animals.
    In the local town the steps of the butchers' shops always have dogs waiting patiently for the scraps they know will be coming and lots of shops have bowls of water and dried food for the street dogs.

  7. BtoB...Yes of course you will have noticed this change in attitude now you are back. It's rare for dogs to be poisoned these days....a dreadful way for an animal to die. Thankyou for also proving that I am right when I say that there are Turks who care about the plight of street animals.

    Fly: Yes ignorance is one of the biggest problems. There are programmes here in many towns that offer free neutering for street dogs. The problem here of course is that these dogs don't belong to anyone, so who is going to take responsibility for rounding them up to take to the vet? I certainly know a few expats who have done it, but it's not enough.

  8. I agree that neutering is the only way to contain the problem, but in straitened economic times it's just not going to happen, sadly. but it's good to know that you and others who think like you are starting to change attitudes where you live and that these feral animals are receiving some care.

  9. Theanne...thankyou xxx

    Perpetua. I think there are many people who do what they can, but who also recognise that we can't save them all.

  10. I've found you through Annie and Perpetua, and have really enjoyed reading your pieces. I also love the baby pictures !
    I've just started living part of the year in France, and have recently given away my cat..... to a good home, I hasten to add... as I felt I could no longer be totally responsible for him , living in 2 places.... so, in a way, I am hoping to find myself in a position to offer some care and attention to animals that decide they want to share my space in france and in England. What you have been able to do, by encouraging such a sensible approach with your neighbours, is wonderful. I am full of admiration, and look forward to following more of your adventures.

  11. Welcome Janice and thankyou for joining my list of followers. Unfortunately there are times when people know that they can't be as responsible for their pet as they know they should. Living in two countries would be difficult for a cat I suspect, and I'm glad to hear you have found a good home for your cat. I'm sure there must be animal welfare and rescue organisations in France who would probably appreciate your support during the times you spend there...maybe that's a good way to start?

  12. Yes I understand that.
    I was just curious :-)
    / Pia

  13. I'm glad you understand Pia. I hoped I hadn't offended you. One of the joys of being able to be relatively anonymous as far as real names and where you live is concerned, is that you don't feel so restricted and can write much more without worrying that someone might be reading who shouldn't...if you know what I mean?

  14. Oh goodness Ayak, stray dogs in Mediterranean countries - and obviously I'm including Turkey in this - what a problem! Amongst our group of friends all have adopted Spanish dogs as their own apart from us - we feel that our one English dog is enough. It's something that I've just had to accept, that not all of the world feels the same as the UK about animals.

  15. The Turkish people around us do not appear to fear dogs. We are one of the few homes here without a dog on the premises (we travel a lot - too much to be responsible pet owners). Though I did cause a bit of a sensation this morning when I snapped a photo of the bin cats!

  16. Jan. I often wonder if we British care too much about our pets. Other nations seem to think we do. When I first moved here I used to get very distressed about the street dogs. I guess I have become more hardened to it over the years, but I still can't turn a blind eye.

    omentide: I have to agree that when I lived in Selçuk I found it to be a more dog friendly town. I wonder why this is?

  17. I think this idea of Turks abusing animals is in fact much rarer than we think. Perhaps a lot of us have seen moments of unspeakable cruelty and that stays with us, but it's more the exception. I get the sense that besides seeing animals as dirty (which is justified, and well-founded since rabies wasn't as well-controlled in cities in the past as it is now), Turks also see them as serving a function, just a different function than we do. Stray cats and dogs are indispensable for vermin control, especially in the cities, and they do their job well and people know it. Maybe they wouldn't want the animal on their laps, but they wouldn't want them to be gone either.

    As for rabies control (and again, I'm thinking about cities here) the municipalities have done an astounding job. Rabies was a huge problem in recent memory, and now it's almost unheard of because the municipal vets deal with it. Perhaps they're pocketing the money that's supposed to go for spaying and neutering (who can blame them really-- the funding they're given isn't nearly enough to house the animals during the recovery time), but most municipal vets are very caring and do a good job. They even give free rabies shots and de-worming to any animal people bring in, even domestic animals (like my insane kittens, for example). Our municipal vet takes care of everything from farm animals to street animals, and I don't think she would hurt a flea. Unless it was harming an animal :) She obviously loves animals very much, and is respectful of people's feelings about them.

    So I get the feeling that under the surface, there's a lot more going on with animals than we realize-- it's just different than we're used to, with different goals and a different attitude towards the animals.

  18. Stranger...Thankyou. That was a brilliant comment. You have in fact said so much of what I wanted to say but you have a better way with words than I do. xxx

  19. Ayak...... you are doing a brilliant job and I do admire you.

    The animal that is most mistreated in Britain is the rabbit. They are often shut in tiny hutches without any toys or anything to occupy them (and they are intelligent creatures) and forgotten about.
    The problem is..... that this is Britains third most popular animal (after cats & dogs) so this makes it appalling to think of such suffering.
    If I had my youth and health I would help run a rabbit sanctuary as this little animal is definitely on my heart.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  20. Maggie I remember, when I we lived in England and the day we moved house. My children were quite young. They found a rabbit hutch in the garden and to my dismay and their distress there was a dead rabbit inside. I'll never forget can people be so heartless and neglectful. Your little rabbits have a wonderful life..they're lucky to have you xx

  21. I can see your point in feeding the animals when tourist come and then go home.

    My sister in law Muge lives in Izmir. But she has regular cats that come to the front of her building and meow and she feeds them catfood. She told us it is the same two or three that hang around.
    I've seen in cafe's real "fat" cats sleeping under tables and don't want any food when tourists throw to them...I think they haven't eaten too much of everything.

    Also I can see that it's true about them Turks being afraid of dogs. Once my husband's friend was visiting from Turkey and he grew up on a large farm. Well when my husband left the room and he saw we had a German Shepherd he slammed the door shut and yelled help........when my husband opened the door he was standing there armed with a chair. Holding it like he was a lion trainer in a circus.This was years ago and when I see him I think of that. My in laws are terrified also when they visit and see we have big dogs in the house....come to think of it they bolt into the house when they see the thousand's of squirrels we have here outside......

    take care........have a great day!

  22. That must have been quite an amusing sight Erica...your husband's friend. Not so amusing for him of course. We've had Turkish friends visit who are afraid of dogs, but it takes surprisingly little time to reassure them that they won't be attacked by our two.

  23. A response to "Anonymous":

    I have made it clear that I do not publish posts from people who haven't the courage to reveal their real names but hide behind "Anonymous" to come here and post inaccurate information about Karen Lowrie Wren. I don't need you to tell me to go to a certain expat forum and read the malicious gossip that is written about her there. I don't need you to tell me that I am misinformed because I do my own research and establish the true facts before posting. Firsthand knowledge..not gossip on forums between people who have nothing better to do with their lives.
    Take a tip from me. Step away from the anonymity of your computer screen..get out there and do something useful with your life.

  24. I love it when Turkish people are scared of very small dogs, like when 2 burly grown men squeal like little girls and cross the street because there's a poodle.

  25. Me too Stranger...hilarious isn't it :-))

  26. I live in Mersin, my wife is Turkish and we have adopted a cat. Some of our neighbours have pet cats and dogs and at a site close to us people make a point of feeding the street animals.

    I was there one evening and counted thirty cats.

    Can I ask anyone who is a UK citizen (you do not have to be living in the UK) to sign this e petition:


    Add bittering agents to antifreeze!
    Responsible department: Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

    Many cats, dogs and wild animals die a horrible slow death each year from antifreeze poisoning - deliberate or otherwise. Animals find the taste of antifreeze sweet and palatable and thus they will often ingest the substance if it is made available, especially by mixing it with food. The results are catastrophic and often fatal. A bittering agent introduced into commercially available antifreeze will greatly reduce the number of such poisonings. There is currently no UK legislation forcing manufacturers to routinely add a bitterant to antifreeze. The UK government should draft, vote upon and enact legislation preventing the sale of any antifreeze products without a bitterant additive.

  27. Hi Peter and welcome. I'm pleased to know that you also live in an area where people care about the strays.
    I didn't know that about anti-freeze. Thankyou for posting details x

  28. Oh I meant to add a link to a photo of our cat Kaplan:

    That is him helping at the office.

    And with one of my step sons:

  29. Peter. He's a gorgeous cat and very lucky that you found him. I love his name...very appropriate. he reminds me of the first cat I had here when we lived in Gumusluk, who sadly disappeared.


I love getting comments, but don't feel obliged...I'm just happy you're reading my blog.

Posts are moderated to avoid spam, so if you post under "Anonymous",leave your name at the end of your comment so that I know it's a "real" person!.

If you would like to help my rescue dogs and the strays (dogs and cats) of our village and local industrial estate, please email me for details at Thankyou x