Out of Turkey: An end to pet hates sees a dog's life improve

ISTANBUL - Perhaps it was when I discovered the Scottie dog was no longer behind bars in a cage in the Istanbul Zoo that I realised something fundamental had changed in the Turkish attitude towards pets.

The zoo-keeper agreed. 'He died. We didn't replace him,' he said. 'There's not much call to see the little dogs in the zoo any more. They are all over the place now.'

It's true. All over Turkey there are proud new dog owners. Pouting models at Istanbul airport have poodles. Gruff, bearded intellectuals have great shaggy animals. And Dalmatians are in oversupply. This is an extraordinary change of heart, a cultural watershed for a people who have happily lived for centuries, if not millennia, with man's best friend locked firmly out of the house, charged with keeping the wolf from the sheepshed door.

Turkey's indigenous wolf-hunting Anatolian shepherd dog, the splendid Kangal, has stamina, loyalty and intelligence. But so far there are far more clubs of Kangal owners in Germany and the United States than in Turkey.

Hints of change have been in the air for a year or two. Take pet food, for instance. When our daughter adopted a kitten in 1989 from the only place then available - the street - we had to make pilgrimages to distant markets in the hope of arriving on the day the imported supplies of Kit-e-Kat hit the shelves.

Now, not only do we have supermarkets where before there was none, we could bulk-buy tins by the packing case from a new hypermarket. There are whole shops devoted to selling pet food, equipment and the animals themselves.

According to Elcin Unen, chief supplier of Pedigree Chum and Mars bars to Turkey, imports have gone through the kennel roof. Whereas 150 tons of pet food arrived in 1990, 265 tons were bought in 1991 and probably more than 400 tons in 1992.

To care for the beasts, the few old- fashioned corner vets have been overtaken. In one of the smartest parts of Istanbul has risen a purpose- built, five-storey, purple-plastic-and- grey-granite building that houses 'Animalia', the last word in veterinary clinics. Three months old, it boasts a beauty parlour, a fully computerised appointments system and three operating theatres.

'People do come and say, what are you doing, in Turkey we don't have places like this for humans,' said Ilhan Gokgol, 32, the owner and chief doctor. 'But I have dreamed of creating this place for five years. I shouldn't think there's a place like this anywhere else in Europe.'

Not everybody is out for profit. Some animal-lovers have fitted out buses as free-of-charge mobile veterinary hospitals.

Whatever happened to a people whose Muslim religion teaches that people who touch a dog should wash their hands seven times and in whose tradition 'angels cannot enter the house of a dog owner'?

Two youngsters at Animalia said if they found the boxer puppy they were looking for, it would make them the first people in their family to own a dog. 'I live alone and just want a dog for company. My mother definitely would not approve,' said the young girl, leafing through an impromptu handwritten directory of cats, dogs and a stray tiger needing new homes or mates.

The list will doubtless one day grow into a Turkish kennel club. But not everyone loves dogs so much, it seems. A clipboard next to the list was collecting signatures to protest at a government decision to fine anybody walking a dog after midnight the equivalent of pounds 50. It is hard to know where people do exercise their dogs. There are virtually no gardens or parks in Istanbul. Luckily for the dogs, the fashion for ownership started among the space- owning elite. But as Turks get richer, the fashion is filtering down.

'We get a lot of people bringing them (puppies) back after three days. Of course we can't take them back,' said a lad in the Istanbul bazaar, selling cocker spaniel, dachshund and assorted puppies from a crate just in from the Ukraine.

'I've been in pets nine years, dogs three years, it's really changed,' he added. 'Where we used to sell 50, we sell 500, and we are much more careful about age and health.' But some things in the pet business are the same the world over. 'Mainly I reckon it's because people see their neighbours buying them. Then their children want them too.'

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments