These four-legged wanderers rome the streets of Istanbul and can be spotted everywhere – sleeping on street corners, in parks, business doorways or even outside your front stoop.

It’s said there are 150,000+ stray dogs and cats living on the streets in Istanbul. Not sure how accurate that number is, but wouldn’t be surprised if it was true either – there’s a lot! Currently stray dogs are picked up by the municipality and are neutered and vaccinated and then returned to the streets with ear tags, hence their ‘earring’.

 

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MARK TWAIN ON ISTANBUL’S STREET DOGS
In Mark Twain’s ‘The Innocents Abroad’ published in 1869, he writes much about the street dogs he saw and encountered when visiting Constantinople.

The dogs sleep in the streets, all over the city. From one end of the street to the other, I suppose they will average about eight or ten to a block.

Once a Sultan proposed to kill off all the dogs here, and did begin the work—but the populace raised such a howl of horror about it that the massacre was stayed. After a while, he proposed to remove them all to an island in the Sea of Marmora. No objection was offered, and a ship-load or so was taken away. But when it came to be known that somehow or other the dogs never got to the island, but always fell overboard in the night and perished, another howl was raised and the transportation scheme was dropped. So the dogs remain in peaceable possession of the streets.

 

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For the most part they’re self-sufficient and untroubled. Typically either sleeping or wandering, I even see them crossing the street with pedestrians, knowing to stop at red and to go when the light turns green. Unlike cats, they won’t beg for food, but they won’t mind a pat on the head from time to time.

I’ve heard mixed reviews about the dogs, but from my experience, especially living in Kadiköy, the residents and business owners don’t mind them. You’ll see neighbors feeding them daily and bowls of water left on the street for them to drink. I’ve even seen the butcher leaving bones on the side of the building for the dogs to pick up and enjoy.

 

LOCAL’S REACTIONS TOWARDS DOGS
One day, we’re sitting outside at a restaurant and happen to see a dog walk in and out of a lingerie shop. The waiter quickly turns and says hello to Portakal, the dog’s name translates to orange like the fruit. The waiter starts to tell us that the dog was in dire need of a surgery, so all the businesses on that street chipped in to pay for it.

Twice now I’ve even seen dogs inside a bar – the first time the dog strolled in and jumped on the couch and went straight to sleep, another time I saw one walk in and curl up in a ball in between two tables. No one seemed phased or did anything about it. I’ve also seen a dog blocking two turnstiles at the ferry port, and people just continued on their way using other turnstiles. And if that doesn’t show you what Turks are like, I’ve also seen taxi drivers and the Kadikoy-Moda Tram patiently stop for them to cross the road. Even though their not allowed inside their homes, they’re very loved and treated well.