I heard about Oscar, a stray dog living on the streets of Istanbul, from a friend of mine who lives there (Istanbul, not the streets). He didn’t have a name or an owner, so she called him Oscar.
One day when she was walking home from work, she was almost at her house when she saw Oscar on the other side of the street, looking for food in trash cans. Just then, a random person walked by and kicked him in the ribs. He was yelling at him to GO, to go some where else, and Oscar stepped back to bow down. He was scared and frozen. He didn’t run away, did nothing to defend himself. My friend ran over to the other side of the street and asked the guy what his problem was — and why he was kicking a poor, innocent dog. She was patting Oscar and talking to him to comfort him a little when the guy said: “Don’t touch him, he lives on the street. He might have fleas and other diseases. That’s disgusting.”
She told him that he was disgusting and it’s not the dog’s fault that he lives on the street. She asked him if he would kick humans who live on the street when they are looking for food. He said: Of course not.
Oscar had scars all over, she guessed his tail was broken and he was frightened to death when people raised their arms quickly or picked something up from the street to throw it after him. My friend, let’s call her Shirin, got Oscar a collar and a self-made tag. She tried to bring him home and make him sleep in their front yard, but Oscar would take off every night and come back the next day. She started to feed him and gave him a bath. She decided to make Oscar to her own dog. He was horrible on the leash but excellent without, so she gave up ttrying to walk him, and Oscar just followed her when he felt like it.
Oscar would show up every evening at the same time when the Muezzin was calling to the evening prayers from the top of the mosque. He would eat, sit around a little and walk away. I asked her if she knew where he slept and she said she never followed him. Oscar and Shirin became friends and Oscar was under her protection: no one was allowed to stone, kick or beat up the dog. Shirin’s parents own some of the houses in her area, so it was not that difficult to convince people to stop abusing Oscar. She threatened to tell her parents if they abused the dog, and warned them they would be kicked out if they did (even it wasn’t exactly like that:).
After 5 years Oscar stopped coming by in the evenings and Shirin looked for him over 3 months. She was worried about him but realized he wasn’t going to come back. People thought she was crazy to look after a stray dog; there so many, if she wanted one then why she didn’t just get another? They told her she’d be better off caring about starving people instead of a mere dog – people were laughing at her. Perhaps Oscar got hit by a car, died somewhere peacefully or ended up somewhere he was not supposed to be, maybe even against his will. She never found out what happend.
This was 2 years ago and my friend contacted me last week to tell me how happy she is that I got involved in animal welfare. She wants to make a change in Turkey and she is helping in local shelters and wants to start an organization to help stray dogs. She said that people are getting better with street dogs — at least they just let them exist. Her small group of 8 friends raises funds to support spay & neuter programs, feed cats and dogs and give medical care to the ones who needs it the most.
Why am I telling you all this?
Stray dogs are a significant part of daily life in İstanbul, most other cities in Turkey and all over the world. Loved and protected by a few, tolerated by many and hated by even more, tens of thousands of them roam the streets in a culture that isn’t exactly crazy about non-human city dwellers. This story is just an example and it’s not just happening in Turkey. Many dogs and cats live on the streets of this world, some more peacefully, others less. Some have good Samaritans like Oscar had, and some never trust humans because they’ve never experienced anything good from them. Animal rights activists in Turkey, weary of not being taken seriously by authorities at home, have taken their fight to the international platform where support for them is growing. Thanks to an Internet-based campaign against dog killings in Turkey, hundreds of people in İstanbul and in cities of at least nine other nations — including the United Kingdom, France, Canada, the US, Germany, the Netherlands, Mexico, Kenya and Australia — came together on Oct. 4, World Animal Day, in front of the Turkish diplomatic missions in their countries to convey their message against animal cruelty.
Stray dogs are starving, beaten up, chained up, used for inhumane games, abused and killed by humans, treated like trash. I don’t want to get to deep into the details; we all see the pictures every day. There is hope and a movement all over the world… and I want to urge and encourage everyone to be the voice of these dogs and cats. Many countries have just started to pay attention to the issue of having tons of street dogs, and goodhearted people and animal advocates team up to build communities to help these animals in need. Mostly it’s a cultural problem that many countries still do have; they lack the understanding of cats and dogs as companion animals who want to be with humans. It’s not their own fault that they ended up living and trying to survive on the street. In these countries, dogs only exist to do a job or to be used for something, and not to join the family and give joy.
Stray dogs are usually very open, like to be petted, and love to get affection. Who doesn’t? Who wants to be treated like trash, get rejected or abused? Nobody, right? So please stop abusing and treating your street dogs and cats inhumanely. They deserve better! Shirin was brave and stood up for a street dog, you can too.
This week we had the great pleasure of interviewing an organization located in Bucharest, we’ll post the interview within the next week. Tell us about street dogs you know, your experiences and how your country treats stray dogs and cats.