This article was written for Fethiye Times by Sian Midgley.

Turkey is well known for its street animals. They are quite literally everywhere.

And thanks to more and more laws coming in to force to protect them, plus the numerous animal charities and the millions of Turkish and foreign animal lovers living here, many of them lead a glorious life.

Obviously not every animal is this fortunate – some street animals can’t cope with street life; they’ve not learnt how to look after themselves, they may be too timid to take food from strangers, or they may have been mistreated, suffered an unfortunate accident or fallen ill and haven’t received treatment because they hide away from those who can help.

There’s also issues of dogs packing together and making people feel threatened, or chasing bikes down the road…everyone knows this and, in most cases, it is dealt with in a proper manner by the authorities.

But in these challenging times I want to talk about the happy endings, the street animals who are living the dream, the ones who choose freedom over a warm bed and cuddles from those pesky humans.

Familiar Faces

Probably some of the most well known of these are the street dogs Bella, Martin, Koffee and new boy Bobby who are a regular sight on the Fethiye promenade. The general consensus is that Martin and Bella have been in this specific part of Fethiye for six or seven years. Koffee, who sports an old man’s beard, two to three, maybe even four, years. And young Bobby turned up about a year ago. All have come from other different local areas so putting an age on them is difficult although one dedicated animal lover thinks Bella may be in double fingers, with Martin close behind.

It’s Not As Bad As You Think

Many holidaymakers may see these guys and automatically make the assumption that they must be sad, cold, hungry and desperate for affection and in need of a loving home. But if you had a regular source of food, places you can sleep in bad weather, and hundreds of two and four legged friends to say hello to every single day would you give it up just to sleep on a sofa? Would you give up having the freedom to do what you want, when you want, with whom you want just so you could eat out of the same bowl day in day out?

Well Koffee wouldn’t for one – a couple of local dog lovers had her neutered and opened their home to her but she wasn’t having any of it and escaped back to her life of freedom on the streets.

Animal Lovers And Their Furry Friends

You can go up to any animal lover here and they will probably tell you about a street animal they look after. For example, Patch was born under a dumped sofa and still lives in the same area with her little gang. Kind locals got her and all her friends neutered and tagged and every morning she waits outside the apartment of her favourite humans for her breakfast.

Then you have Beppie, who also went by various other names including Elif, Rollover and Rita. She lived a happy life on the streets until she went blind, at which point she finally caved in and let local animal loving Dutch couple, Santi & Ingrid, take her in. They think she was around fifteen or sixteen when she passed away shortly after.

They have now repeated the process with another aging street dog, Ramses, who had to be taken care of after he was shot. Although he has taken over Beppie’s cushion he still loves to roam around his old stomping ground on a regular basis.

Even I’ve had the pleasure of being the chosen one for a while…the dashingly handsome Garfield decided to move in with me for a few months over the winter of 2019. Then as soon as the weather warmed up he was off.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

So, the moral of the story is that unless you see a dog, or cat, suffering or being put in a dangerous situation, the best thing is to just leave them be. Go and say hello, give them a cuddle, maybe a treat, or make a donation to one of the animal charities so that they can continue to medically treat the less fortunate ones, neuter, and supply food all year round, especially through the tough winter months when there aren’t holidaymakers or restaurants overflowing with leftovers.

Of course, if you and a street dog or cat fall hopelessly in love with each other then by all means open your door and your heart to them but please don’t spend time worrying about every single animal you see because I can guarantee that many of them wouldn’t change their lives for all the soft toys in the world.

If you want to know more about Turkey and its street animals, there is a lovely documentary available on YouTube called Kedi which follows the lives of seven street cats in Istanbul.

Or if you are more of a dog person, indulge yourself with watching a film called Stray

And next time you see Koffee or one of her crew, say hi from me.

Thank you to Angela Sowten for sharing her photographs with us.