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Dogs looking for friends

IBAN NL62INGB0004011891 BIC / SWIFT-Code: INGBNL2A ING Bank-Amsterdam. ActieZwerfhonden Zonnemaire The Netherlands

Istanbul August 2007

As the loyal readers of this site will know some puppies were born in Atakoy in December 2006, against all agreements.


Because of the primitive conditions Atakoy is no place for puppies to survive and so ActieZwerfhonden has had the little ones transported to the shelter in the forest of SHKD, together with their mother, with the intention of bringing them to the Netherlands to be homed, when the time was right.
Now the puppies have become teenagers and quite ready for the trip to Holland and so I flew to Istanbul.


The following is a report of my trip which of course wasn’t only to pick up the dogs.

Up till now I usually went to Istanbul alone and stayed with animal welfare worker friends.
This time, however, my husband joined me and as we also wanted to be tourists for 2 days we had booked a hotel in SultanAhmet.

The plane landed on Wednesday at 17.00. Because we brought 25 kilos of bandages I had asked if we could be picked up by someone from SHKD. Ömer was already waiting for us and after a lot of searching, nobody seems to know the way in Istanbul, we arrived at our hotel. We took our things to our room and quickly changed into clothing that was better adjusted to the tropical temperatures.


Via Murat’s hospital for animals, where two very endearing stray kittens were cared for, we went to the home of one of the Turkish welfare workers for a chat.

Many of the people I talk to daily were present and we talked until the small hours.
And oh wonderful Istanbul…. Even when we drove home in the night there was a traffic jam.

We took advantage of the Sunday to visit the world famous sights in the old district of Istanbul; the Blue Mosque, the Aya Sofia museum and the Topkapi palace.

Every mosque has a separate part for women.


We tried not to think about stray animals for now, but the many dogs and cats could not be ignored.


Istanbul is a city of opposites; name it and they have it. Poor-rich, filthy-clean, old-new, beautiful-ugly.



It is a mystic city. People are polite and hospitable. And I have never seen so many shops and restaurants. Things are sold everywhere: from luxury shops to simple carts.

We started the Monday with a visit to the shelter in Atakoy. We thought we were prepared for everything…. But this appeared to be a misconception. The road to the shelter was blocked by lots of debris and part of the shelter had already been demolished.


The shelter has to make way for a water-purification plant and the workers have started dismantling the shelter before the deadlines expired. A ‘bite’ has been taken exactly from the middle part, as can be seen in the film. The shelter was not big to begin with, but now that only two thirds are left of it, it looks absolutely horrible. Just when we were beginning to get a grip on things it has to be demolished.
Apart from that we were told that Salih quit after a fight with the ladies….. the results were showing already.

In spite of everything the dogs looked well-fed and lively. The municipal workers have also performed a good deed…. They hit upon a well so that the dogs now have an unrestricted supply of water at their disposal, which was a gift in the absurdly hot temperatures of the past weeks.

A few months ago the access to the shelter has been fenced in by people from the airport(with permission of the municipality the shelter is on airport grounds). In order to enter the shelter and inspect the dogs’ health I had to climb a tilting pallet to cross a fence with a barbed wire obstruction, landing on the other side on a water-tank, using a bucket as foot-stool before finally reaching the ground safely. This part of the film will be reserved for viewing in private:)

To our astonishment we again saw about six not neutered bitches. They appeared to belong to an acquaintance of Cemille. He took them to Cemille and by way of payment is helping her take care of all the dogs.
Not a bad plan as such, were it not that we really do not want any puppies in Atakoy. Fortunately Murat, who had come with us, agreed to neuter the dogs next week.
It was difficult to be in Atakoy; the shelter is very basic but for the time being the only “home” for the dogs. What will happen to them now can only be guessed.

From Atakoy we went to the shelter in the forest.
Every time I visit this shelter it looks better.
With a new management of paid and non-paid workers it is really a good shelter and has given a new lease of life to SHKD.

The medicin cabinet. A lot of the medication can be recognized as donations from Holland:)


Our first visit of course was to mother Sandra and her puppies. They would come with us to Holland at the end of our visit.
The puppies have become teenagers and are over-enthusiastic about any human attention.


Fabio, one of the dogs of the project of friends had just been operated on to remove a lump in his abdomen. Fortunately the operation has been successful.
We have been busy filming and taking pictures to give our supporters a somewhat better idea of both shelters.

At the end of the afternoon we took some food to the animals in the forest of Eyup, together with one of the SHKD volunteers. As written before the municipal workers catch straydogs and dump them in the forest around the city


Over there the animals are doomed to die of hunger. Searching for food they come to the motorway, where most of the waste can be found, or they go to the houses in the country..


People that live in remote houses are informed about the stray dogs and the volunteers try to make arrangements with them about feeding and taking care of the dogs.

A number of animal welfare workers try to bring the animals food as often as possible.
It is estimated that about 3000 dogs are trying to survive in the forests around Istanbul.

After a tiring day we were back in the hotel at around 9.30 in the evening and after a bite to eat we had an early night.

On Tuesday we were meant to be tourists again.


Istanbul, a city of opposites.



You will never be able to cut yourself completely loose from the animals in Istanbul.
Everywhere you look you see stray cats and dogs. Sultanahmet, the old district with the big tourist sights has done everything (meaning they systematically poisoned them) to get rid of the stray dogs. Therefore you do not see that many dogs at the moment. The number of cats, however, is enormous (in other parts of Istanbul the proportions are different). As long as man leaves the animals be and they can find enough to eat and drink, these animals have a good life. There is enough to eat: for fear of bomb attacks all garbage bins in this area have been removed and the waste just lies on the streets. This waste is collected regularly and the streets are swept regularly, but by then the stray animals have eaten all they could.

If the people in Turkey would just accept the stray animals for another few years and if the government would execute a consistent neuter and release policy in that time, the population can be reduced without causing animal suffering.

The reaction of people to the stray animals varies a lot. Cats are usually accepted and even caressed. Dogs are mostly chased and kicked. People are genuinely afraid of the dogs and this is transferred from parents to children. When I tried to give a stray dog some water the standers-by really looked at me as if I had gone mad, but if you pet a cat nobody thinks anything of it.

On Wednesday we got up at 03.15. In order to bring back as many dogs as possible my husband and I took different flights back.
“Our” first plane left at 07.45. Murat was wearing a nice shirt and aftershave for his charm offensive with the desk employee that had to see to my husband taking three dogs in the plane in stead of the one dog we had permission for. We were determined to take mother Sandra and all four puppies back to Holland. Our relief was great when my husband and the three dogs were settled in the plane.

While I was waiting for my flight I had breakfast with EHDKD friends and after that we hung in a thistle to capture a kitten that we entrusted to the good care of Murat’s wife.

At Schiphol my husband was met by Jeanneke of Resanito. She took the dogs from him and my husband took the dismantled transport crates to Alexandra, a flight attendant that will take the crates back to Istanbul for us. After that the big wait began for him, till I would arrive.

The troups were mobilized again for negotiations to get the last two dogs on my flight and on their way to Holland. One of them went to a foster family and one Turkish beauty has come home with us as an addition to our own pack.
At 21.00 we arrived home tired, but satisfied.