Dogs were never part of the master plan. For a start, when we arrived in Turkey just over a year ago, two cats travelled with us and they had made their utter disdain for all things canine abundantly clear.
However, that was before our landlord unexpectedly ambushed our daughter with a puppy while Bec and I were out shopping one day, (https://theparsleysabroad.wordpress.com/2014/07/23/puppy-love) and before another bundle of blonde fur decided to camp on our doorstep until we lost the will to stop her moving in last Christmas Eve.
We’ve done our best with them since then. They’ve had all their shots, they’ve made their dining requirements clear (only chicken with dog biscuits and gravy will do), they get walked every day and they have bossed the cats out of their favourite sleeping spots which they now inhabit in typical untidy heaps. To be honest, we thought we were doing okay …
Then in April I met the owner of the summer season accommodation and restaurant on the northern boundary of our garden while I was walking them one day.
“Are these your dogs?” he asked with the kind of smile which usually precedes some complimentary comment about how cute they are.
“Yes,” I replied as they gambolled about his legs trying to chew his shoelaces. “Sorry; they’re still just puppies really.”
“Yes, we love your dogs – but you will have to stop them barking,” he said, suddenly fixing me with a deadpan stare.
“I’m sorry – they do get a bit excited when they meet someone new….”
“No. I mean you must stop them barking all the time. I have a business next door to your house and they disturb my guests all the time. I pay my taxes. We are going to have to agree what you do about them.”
To be frank, the sudden accusation that I was the owner of two hounds from hell came so much out of the blue I wasn’t sure what to say next.
“Um … They are dogs and they are going to bark sometimes, like all the other dogs in the village,” I heard myself saying.
“No. Your dogs make all the other dogs in the village bark. Your dogs bark all the time so you have to make them stop. Maybe you come to my house for coffee and we can talk about it more…”
I’ll admit that at that point there had been two or three nights over the past six months when I’d had to get out of bed in the early hours to tap noses and wag a stern finger in front of furry faces after half an hour of yapping at shadows, but suggesting our two were solely responsible for the nightly cacophony across the whole village seemed a bit rich, especially coming from someone only resident in the area for the summer months. Nevertheless, sensing I wasn’t going to win this particular argument, I said something non-committal, made my excuses and decided to consult our neighbour – and one of the village bigwigs – Tommy later. I didn’t need to wait though. Within an hour of me returning home and discussing our dilemma with Bec, the phone rang.
“Stiv … It’s Tommy.”
“Hi Tommy. I was going to call you actually….
“Was it about your dogs?”
“Erm …. Yes. How did you know that?”
“The man near you. He called me. He says your dogs bark all the time. You will have to make them stop or he will call the Jandarma (the local police). If you still don’t stop them, he will throw poison over the fence. You don’t need this so you must stop dogs barking …”
“And how do you suggest I do that? It takes time to train dogs to stop barking. You can’t just switch them off… I’ll do what I can now I know it’s a problem but ours are no worse than half a dozen other dogs up the lane. They all bark as well. And what about the cockerels, the peacocks, the sheep, the cows? This is a village. There’s always a noise somewhere.
“While you have dogs, you will always have trouble,” added Tommy ominously. “It’s up to you but you have to stop them barking or people in the village can make trouble for you.”
He was proved right – at least to an extent. The same complainant has since left a terse note on our gate after we had tea with friends reasoning, as it wasn’t late, the dogs would be fine on our balcony for an hour or so. We have also had a visit from the village head man – sent by the same neighbour – who instructed us to stop our dogs barking “all the time”, even though we’ve since had considerable success with reward-based training which has limited outbreaks of barking to no more than a handful, usually provoked by lost tourists riding up to our gates on noisy quad bikes. On another occasion, I found the dogs being deliberately provoked into a frenzy before I could reach them by an old man from another neighbouring property poking a stick though the gate and waggling it about in front of them.
With this in the background and our status as “guests” in Turkey apparently at stake, we have been forced to resort to English habits and have kept the dogs inside at night almost since the summer season began.
I was therefore horrified the other night when, after Bec and I had gone to bed, our daughter returned home from a meal out with the two teenage holidaymakers she has befriended and accidentally released the dogs into the garden at midnight.
Such had been our recent success with training them, any late-night barking has been reduced to a flurry of yaps before the dogs have remembered themselves and resorted to merely wagging tails and excited sniffing of hands and shoes. However, this time, something clearly alarmed them as I heard them run full pelt into the darkness of the orchard, barking hysterically as though our lives were in dire peril.
Without thinking, I was out of bed, down the stairs and in the garden. At that point, my only concern was warnings of poison, the visit from the head man, and possible “trouble” from villagers who, for all I knew, could soon be at our gates with pitchforks and burning torches demanding our immediate expulsion from Kayaköy.
It was only when I hurtled onto the porch and down the short flight of steps into the garden that I wished I’d also considered some additional clothing. Dressed in nothing more than what I can only describe as saggy, unflattering but comfortable pyjama shorts, I was confronted by two teenage girls and their parents, hopping from one foot to another as two excited dogs barked around their ankles.
Presented with four complete strangers turning up at their house in the middle of the night, the dogs were giving it the works, backing off to circle them and then darting in with upturned faces to bark shrilly and excitedly at any sudden movement.
With my distinct lack of decency in mind, I tried to persuade the family to walk briskly towards the house, bringing the dogs into range where I hoped our daughter would be able to intervene and bring them in – but to no avail. It quickly became evident the only way to quell the noise quickly would be to stride masterfully up the drive and assert some authority.
It worked on the dogs. One recognised the tone of my voice and was back inside like a shot. The other retreated into the vegetable garden and rolled over on her back, showing her tummy as an apology and awaiting collection. It only took a few seconds to make the detour from the drive, pick her up in my arms with some stern admonishments and then carry her back to the house.
However, those few seconds were probably more than enough for the bemused family. I left Bec to call an apology and a farewell from the house as I strode back in, contrite dog under one arm, and unflattering bottom cleavage peeping out of the top of my shorts.
To date, I have no idea if our intolerant neighbour was in to hear the barking or if he intends to make another complaint. All I can do is hope karma or fate takes into account the excruciating embarrassment and decides that’s punishment enough…