Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Istanbul Has Gone To The Dogs

One of the more shocking cultural differences between urban Istanbul and the U.S. is the rampant number of wild dogs and cats that roam the streets. In the States, we treat our woofs and meows as members of the family, but in Turkey, pets are more likely birds and fish—not other mammals.As a result, it's the norm to see cats... everywhere... and dogs—big dogs—often traveling in packs, sleeping on the streets, integrating with city life. In Istanbul, at least, there is an effort to control the population; dogs are scooped up, neutered or spayed (with an identifying tag in their ears), and then released back to their home turf. There's even "public housing"—open doghouses with water bowls, here and there. It's all quite humane.While the dogs are, for the most part, as friendly as they could be (our buddy below is sitting beside Ayhan), we saw women who were utterly terrified... as if they were mountain lions who would eat their young.As far as the cats go, I too was frightened. They are, after all, disciples of Satan... though this critter was actually chilling on a sofa inside a coffee bar. I don't think he sucked out my soul.