Dogs of Istanbul

Those who are into such things probably know about the prolific number of sites dedicated to the cats of Istanbul, such as this one. I may do something about Istanbul’s cats at some point, but not right now. I find them overly feline, and besides, it’s hard to get them to act ridiculous, unlike dogs, who really have no problem getting into character. Thus a post on Istanbul’s dogs, or, more particularly, dogs in the Sariyer neighborhood.

The U.S. pretty much doesn’t have street dogs. They tend to get picked up either by a public animal control department or or some dog rescue NGO. In this they contrast with street humans.

In Istanbul, the public at large takes care of the street dogs, such as it is. Someone feeds them, although you can’t say they’re healthy-looking compared to American dogs. Some local agency gives them rabies vaccinations. No neutering, which I suspect is because of some Turkish sex hangup. But the government, for the most part, doesn’t seem to care about the dogs, probably because they don’t vote in large numbers. That could change with the upcoming election, which appears to be tight.

DogsOnStreetHere are some typical layabouts. It’s a warm day, and someone has fed them.

Sarah lives on a third-story walkup flat and leaves dog food on her doormat for the one dog who’s allowed into the building. Why it’s one particular dog and not another has never been made clear to me, but stuff like that happens all the time in Turkey.

The dogs are not at all vicious or mean. They tend to shy away from men, who seem to be the ones who kick the dogs. They seem to “own” territories of, maybe, a block, and will protect it to varying degrees when it suits them. In this, they imitate politicians.

The females get pregnant and have litters of, maybe, three. I don’t know where they nest. Sariyer still has patches of rainforest-like lots with thickets (it’s climate isn’t unlike Seattle’s or Portland’s, except it gets hotter in the summer). Life expectancy is probably seven or so. In this, they do not imitate politicians.

Happy Dog

They have names. This, for example, is Happy Dog, so named because he comes bounding up and acts thrilled to see you.

Old Dog

This is Old Dog, who appears to be impregnator-in-chief as best as anyone can tell.

The Professor

This is The Professor.


We don’t know this one’s name. She leaped off the porch and greeted us through the fence because, well, that’s what Golden Retrievers do. She’s also the only dog who wasn’t the least bit camera shy.

The first time we heard Muslim Call to Prayer was in 2004 in the Sultanhamet neighborhood, the one where nearly every Istanbul Famous Thing is–the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, and like that. We could see out over a large swath of the city from our hotel room, and when the Call happened, it seemed as though it had been synchronized in such a way that The Call moved like a wave from mosque to mosque across the city.

The dogs seem to be occasionally moved by The Call. Still jet lagged a few days ago, I was awake before dawn when The Call occurred. A cacophony of neighborhood dogs chimed in and howled right along with it, I guess to express their gratitude.

They’re also bilingual. That doesn’t explain anything, but it’s interesting.

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