“Sad Girl’s in trouble,” observed Steve as I came into the kitchen one morning.
I joined him at the window to see our neighbour, Hüseyin, walking down the road towards one of the nearby restaurants.
Trotting beside him, at the end of a length of string, was a chunky, honey-coloured dog – a bit like a Labrador but with more fur and shorter legs. Sad Girl, as we’d christened her, had appeared a few weeks earlier – a victim of the most recent round-up and redistribution of street animals by the local belediye, or council. (Don’t get me started. The general treatment of cats and dogs here is one of the few things I actively dislike about life in Turkey.)
She had a mournful face – hence the name – and seemed a bit bewildered, but settled quickly. With food forthcoming from two restaurants at one end of the road and a family from Istanbul near the other, she certainly wasn’t going hungry – as her bulky frame showed. She had places to shelter from the rain, enjoyed meeting people who walked by, and – although clearly not a young dog – had a playful nature and plenty of energy. The only thing lacking was love and attention, so she was welcomed into our garden whenever she cared to come. She never stayed long – lots of pats, a tummy rub and a bit of fuss, and she was off again.
It seemed, though, that things might be about to change.
“She was in the field over the road, digging,” explained Steve. “Hüseyin and his wife came along and watched for a bit, then Hüseyin went over and pulled a dead chicken out of the hole in the ground.”
Oh dear. But there was more…
“Then he walked to a patch of dug-up ground on the other side of the tree and pulled out another one. I think he’s taking her down to the restaurants because he thinks one of them has adopted her.”
An hour later, I looked out of the window to see Sad Girl trotting back up the road towards us. The string hung loosely from her neck….and in her mouth she carried another dead chicken.
It might sound amusing, but we were worried for her. In a village like ours, livestock is a precious commodity. If our dog killed a neighbour’s chicken, we’d be expected to pay them 80 lira (around £14.50 at time of writing) in recompense. We know a couple who opened the door one night to be confronted by a Jandarma officer and an angry farmer demanding 1,200 lira (around £218) for a goat that went missing after one of their dogs chased his flock.
We didn’t see Sad Girl the next day, or for the few days after that. It seemed she’d been killing chickens on a regular basis – not for food, just for the fun of it – and people had had enough.
We feared she’d been quietly got rid of and that would be the end of it. But then, driving along the road one evening, Steve spotted her – on a lead, accompanying a member of the Istanbul family as she fed a local pod of street cats, a daily task.
Sad Girl, it seems, has found a permanent home. She’s one of the luckier street animals…and the village chickens can breathe a cluck of relief.