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My vacation included cleaning sleepy eyes, offering affection, and sausage bits to stray and pet dogs in Turkey

Going on vacation should be fun. When you have a dog, if you cannot take them with you, leaving them behind can be tough emotionally. It's also not fun if your separation is distressing for both of you. When you love a dog like I do, and your furry best friend is aging rapidly, you choose to stay with them every chance you can rather than leave them, even for an hour. You can question my relationship with her and call the depth of my attachment unhealthy, but I can look back now and say with confidence that I squeezed every ounce out of our limited time together.

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Up, Up, and Away!

It has been over six months that we've been missing our beautiful dog but at last we've left these four walls far behind us and went somewhere together. My husband and I did something once unthinkable. We got on a plane and went on a three week exploration of Turkey. I still can't believe it.

My focus on Cleo was that absolute and myopic. I'm grateful that my sister-in-law told me about this trip and really encouraged us to go once she realized what a hard time we'd been having for the last couple of years. Choosing to stay at home with my best girl was easy for me but hard to explain to non-dog lovers.

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I saw all your dog photos on Facebook and Instagram!

Now that I am home, the first question I'm getting is, "So, will you get another dog now? I saw all your dog photos on Facebook and Instagram!" Yes, I did share some of my moments with dogs on social media. I'll tell you why and it's not because I'm anxious to have another dog. It's because I LOVE DOGS. I love all of them, and I was reminded of this absolute feeling in every town, ancient ruin or rest area we stopped at. I didn't just love Cleo with all my heart.

The dogs across Turkey reminded me why they (dogs) are the ones I love. They demonstrated how smart all dogs are, and don't need to understand English to understand when someone loves them. They validated everything that I've been trying to do through Grouchy Puppy and Life & Dog for over five years.

I felt their positive influence throughout my vacation. At times I was overwhelmed by their desire to engage because it felt like being asked to hang out with the cool kid. The best gift I would offer in return for their vulnerability was to tell the dogs quietly, in a soothing tone, that there were people like me out there who loved them. The more trusting ones were happy to receive some soft petting too. I cleaned eye goobers out of all who got close enough. Maternal affection knows no boundaries.

Be Brave.  

Taking a step back, I'd say the dogs of my childhood were the starting point in my canine education, and that life with Cleo is the midpoint.The experiences I had observing the pet and stray dogs in Turkey inspires me to continue advocating for dogs. I saw people ignore dogs, keep them at arms length, or fearfully avoid them on the street. I also witnessed playful moments between man and dog. The connection is there, but the awareness of the power of the human-animal bond is missing.

This trip illustrated that wherever you live, whether in San Francisco or Istanbul, dogs can make you a better human if you let them. Across Turkey I saw how most people hadn't made that connection with a companion animal, especially a dog. Whole communities didn't understand how dogs could occupy a larger role than garbage collector. 

I've never before experienced first-hand the amount of distance people in Turkey showed dogs. The idea of a dog being a member of the family couldn't have been more remote. I had to repeatedly tell myself that I was a guest, that this is a Muslim country with different views towards pet animals, and that observing or asking questions is my best reaction. How would you handle it? What would you do if you were in a similar situation in another country? 


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