During a vacation last year across Turkey, I had the chance to see stray dogs for the first time. They displayed their own unique way of hanging out, and engaging with people. The spaniel in this photo was an intact male who seemed to enjoy checking out various groups of tourists exploring the ancient Anatolian ruins of Perge.
Compared to other groups of foreigners, I think he was encouraged by our body language to get very close. I certainly welcomed him, even petting him for a few minutes. He decided on his own to lie in the shade with us, and listen to our guide talk about the baths for about ten minutes.
After returning to San Francisco, I realized that I had witnessed what it must have been like for dogs thousands of years ago. These stray dogs displayed a desire to be near people, even if the people showed little desire to have them close by.
This spaniel wasn't unusual, the stray dogs at the many UNESCO sites we visited sensed that we were people who responded positively to their overtures. Neither side was threatening. How they chose to engage varied. Some came in close for physical affection, while others were content at lying near us in a relaxed and trusting manner.
As a dog lover, watching how other tourists and visitors responded to the roaming dogs, one can appreciate why these dogs had to be cautious around people. I saw some tourists and locals reacting badly to a dog's presence near their shop or just walking down the street.
It was obvious the dogs were trying to survive in a place where they weren't always abused, just mostly ignored or tolerated.
I did not see pet dogs, but at a rural cultural and educational center, there was a puppy and an older deaf Beagle being cared for as part of their property. They lived outside in dog houses, or freely wandered the property. They were definitely members of the group who ran the premises, interacting freely with them. They were not chained up.
Experiencing dogs who belong to a place rather than a person was a first for me. Having that experience set inside ancient communities made it easier to image the evolution of dogs over thousands of years.
How (and when) dogs become members of our family definitely depends on culture and country.
This trip showed me firsthand that dogs are incredibly adaptable creatures! But from my perspective, once you've experienced the joy and companionship of a dog, anything less is unacceptable.
- Sharon Castellanos
Have you experienced dogs who belong more to a place than a person?