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Dogs looking for friends

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

Raymond in the forest shelter 2010

Report Istanbul 22-24 January 2010

AZ has asked me to retrieve 2 dogs from the forest shelter. I’d love to do this, also because I have never been to the shelter and I would like to meet vet Murat, the strength behind the forest shelter. The room reserved for luggage we will use up for gifts for the kids of the volunteers Omer, Mehmet, Ali, Sati and Huseyin.

Friday January 22nd
Skykennels are secures, I have a backpack with basic needs and of course the gifts. Friends Petra and Sandra have been fun shopping. Twenty kilos of toys, drawing materials, footballs, jewelry, gloves, scarves and chocolate have been packed into a huge travel bag. On my way to Schiphol!
The flight to Istanbul is smooth. At 7.30 pm local time I am picked up by Murat’s driver. It’s cold and it’s raining cats and dogs. The drive to the hotel takes more than two hours due to bad weather and teh start of the holidays. So many people are on their way to family or their holiday destinations. A quick bite to eat and then to bed. Temperatures have dropped below zero now and it’s snowing. What will happen tomorrow…

Saturday January 23rd
When I open the curtains I see Istanbul like never before. All is covered in a white blanket, the wind is blowing through the narrow streets around the hotel and it’s minus 5 degrees. Because of the wind it feels more like minus 10 though. The winter has the city in it’s firm grip. The weather has not been this harsh in years. Omer and Murat pick me up by car and it continues to snow. Very carefully we maken our way to the forest shelter. We are greeted by the dogs as we approach. Everywhere we look we see wagging tails and hear loud barking, despite the freezing cold.
Everything is covered in a thick layer of snow, but I still see a well kept shelter: Clean spaces for the dogs, every dog its own house, food in the bowls, a heated building with a small kitchen for the volunteers, working toilets. The dogs looked well kept, are eager to socialize and receive their warm cuddles.



Fabio                                                                                          Jam

With Murat I look for the dogs that Petra, Sandra and Yolanda have adopted: Fabio, Jam, Bebito, Chance and Fidel. As far as I can see through this blizzard, the dogs seem well. Fabio and Jam sit together as brothers and little Dubby, Fabio’s buddy, is never far behind. The cold makes things difficult, but Fidel and Chance look strong and healthy. They trot through the snow. Bebito we couldn’t locate.


Murat en Chance                                          Fidel


Murat and the others get to work. The dogs need care and fifteen of them have to be gathered for transport to Germany through Bulgary on Sunday. Murat wants to gather them today at a volunteers house because it will be nearly impossible to take them from the shelter on Sunday due to the slippery roads and snowfall. First the snow chains are attached to the tires of the bus that will transport the dogs. Then the dog food and the dogs themselves are loaded into the bus. It’s cold and wet outside so the men enter the building every half hour for tea and to warm up.



When the men are together, I hand out the gifts that we got for their children. We enjoy a small party together and everyone gets something, Akin and Yildiray too, the two new people at the forest shelter.

Then the men get back to work and I have another look around the shelter. I see the dogs being cared for with so much love and I am certain that this is a good place. This shelter must continue and it deserves our lasting support.

At the end of the afternoon the bus leaves with the 15 dogs. First we make a trail for the bus to drive through and slipping and sliding the vehicle makes its way off the terrain. Murat, Omer and I follow by car. Omer is getting extra snow tires, Murat and I are grabbing a bite to eat. Murat and I talk about his plans and his approach, the Neutel and Release program and education in schools. Hi believes that change begins with the younger generation because they are still open to other points of vision. He takes a toothpick and breaks it with ease. Then he grabs a handful of toothpicks and fails to break them all together. His message: together we are strong! I salute this sympathetic animal friend.

We walk to the Hilton hotel where we meet Robert Smith. He is the backbone of the SHKD. Without him the forest shelter would not exist. Murat discusses the transport of the 15 dogs with him. It will be a difficult trip. The roads are snowy and not all borders are safe to cross for dogs. Robert and Murat must decide what the best route will be. When they finalize their plans we say goodbye. It was a short but special meeting.

Murat takes me back to the motel and calls Hank. He will fly with me tomorrow. He says that unexpectedly only one dog will come back with us to the Netherlands. It’s Bobby. Back at the hotel I say goodbye to Murat and I promise him that he and his aids will be able to count on our help always.

Sunday January 24th
In the morning I rob the breakfast buffet and armed with a plastic bag full of bread, cheese and sausage I head into the city. The weather is still awful. In the blizzards I look for cats and dogs that would like a nice treat. In the streets I see a few dogs with yellow tags in their ears. These are the animals that have been through the Neuter and Release program. They have been neutralized and released.

A quick view of the Blue Mosque and the Topkapi palace and then it’s time to head back to the Netherlands. At the airport it’s a busy scene. Luckily, Hank and Omer are already there, with Bobby safely tucked away in a spacious sky kennel. One more hug of Omer and we’re ready to go. We go through security checks with Bobby quite easily. We fly Corendon. Hank has arranged for everything to go smoothly with ‘his’ people.

At 01.30 we arrive at Schiphol. Sadly, Hank has to leave quickly. I wait and I wait. All luggage has been collected, the passengers and crew of my flight have long since left. But where is Bobby? Half an hour later I am very relieved to see Bobby coming up on the elevator. He looks good and freshened up. I get him past customs, his papers check out fine. Outside the adoptive family awaits Booby’s arrival anxiously. It’s a beautiful moment when Bobby is let out of his kennel and goes on his way to a new and safe place.

In the parking lot I pick up my car, which is hiding under a mountain of snow. At 03.00 I am back home in Scheveningen and I am an experience the richer. I have seen how loving and professional the strays are being treated in the forest shelter. How they love it there, how wonderful the people are that work there. I can recommend to anyone that is a visit to the forest shelter is worth your while. AZ work with Corendon to offer a wonderful city trip to Istanbul, including a visit to the forest shelter. Do it! You won’t regret it.