I try to avoid the city bus when possible, especially on the weekdays. It’s a popular mode of transportation for students of all ages because of the monthly cards the company issues making it exceedingly uncomfortable–nothing like being pressed up against a particularly unmotivated male student for twenty minutes…
But on occasion, I do ride the bus. A few days ago, I was lucky and I got a seat (!!!!), I patted myself on the back as student after student poured onto the bus. With the vehicle beyond capacity, we lumbered through Degrminalti, the student village. I relaxed looking out the window, enjoying the ride and the newly emerged spring sunlight when I saw a pair of dogs come bounding down a side street… and into the main road… right in front of our bus.
There was a collective ghasp followed by a lurch as the driver hit the breaks.
But, with a bus bursting at the seams with passengers, there wasn’t much to be done.
I heard about the feral dog and cat problems in Turkey, the way I heard about the coal pollution, the trash collection problems and the obsession with tea. Over time, I discovered that each of these really are as crazy as originally presented,
During orientation we spent no less than a half hour discussing with an RN from the Embassy about how to react to a dog bite. Should we get a rabies shot? Should we not? Do Turkish hospitals stock rabies shots? Should we call in the Marines?
At the time I thought this attention excessive. I mean, really, how bad could the situation be? Plus, given the way Turks drive, I figured city officials probably refrained from euthanizing the feral dogs and cats because the nation’s drivers had more or less solved that problem for them.
(Horrifying I know, I know.)
As it turns out, Darwin could have used the feral populations here as a case study in survival of the fittest. Cats camp out in trash containers and outside fish restaurants. They’re agile and freaking terrifying. I saw one a few days ago that would have made a Maine coon cat soil itself. The thing could have eaten a toddler. In fact, it probably subsists on them.
The dogs are smart. They travel in packs of four or five, they’re playful but you wouldn’t want to get one fired up. They’ve learned to wait at crosswalks for the lights to change. They sit patiently, four or five of them, watching the little red man, waiting for him to turn green and mimic walking. In the student village they run up and play with students who stand smoking in packs on the corner. They beg for attention, and usually get it. Some lucky ones are adopted by local vendors who feed them scraps from the kitchen and rub their bellies when business is slow.
When talking about Turkey to Turks, they’re often curious to hear what I find strangest about Turkey. I usually start with the coal pollution, but typically second is this strange abundance of cats and dogs. I have tried to explain the concept of government sanctioned spay/neutering but they seem unfazed by our bizarre American solutions, because really, are the cats and dogs actually a problem?
This got me thinking, in the nearly eight months I’ve been here, this is actually the first time I have been witness to a dead cat or dog.
So, props to Darwin, the man was on to something.