Turkey Dogs - Not Just for Lunch Anymore!

When residents of Atlanta, Georgia, and Arvada, Colorado, share their obsession for “Turkey Dogs,” they’re not talking about a healthy spin on classic American eats.

Over the past two years, 15 states have taken in almost 1,000 Golden retrievers rescued by volunteers in Turkey. And yes, Mr. President, the dogs even have valid passports complete with microchip number, photo and complete medical history!

Yasemin Baban and Edna Surujon run a rescue center in Istanbul that takes in strays including many Goldens. “They cannot talk. They don't steal. They just want food and affection,” Baban told CNN.

Baban reported that the Goldens, bought as puppies, are often surrendered to shelters or dumped on the streets or in forests when they grow into adults because people can’t deal with their size and high-energy. Sadly, this generally docile breed becomes a target for aggressive strays competing for limited resources.

Size and energy are not the only reasons why Goldens were turned out. In the mid-2000’s, owning a Golden made you golden in the eyes of fellow Turks because they were a status symbol. Unfortunately, we’re all too familiar with what happens to “dog breeds du jour.” In generations past, shepherds, dobermans and pit bulls all enjoyed star status before they were overbred, then abandoned (or worse) by fickle “pet-lovers.” Goldens comprise a hefty proportion of the estimated 100,000-150,000 dogs roaming Istanbul.

After learning of America’s passion for Goldens, Baban and Surujon focused their energies on re-homing the dogs overseas. These efforts included partnering with American rescue groups, developing and coordinating a thorough medical vetting process and arranging for transport. After a brief quarantine, the once homeless dogs are safely airlifted to the U.S (in pressurized, air-conditioned cabins) for adoption into forever homes. To date, Turkey Dog Rescue is the largest, ongoing international rescue effort.

Sponsors in the U.S. that have donated as much as $2,250 toward medical care and air fare for each Golden greet the dogs at the receiving airport’s cargo warehouse. The Goldens are then ferried to local groups partnering in the rescue effort.

Adopt-A-Golden, Atlanta (AGA), was the first, taking in three dozen Goldens in May, 2015. Back then, Director, Lauren Genkinger, told the Daily Share that there were far more applications to adopt that there were dogs available for adoption. To date, AGA has received 249 Goldens delivered over 13 flights. Golden Retriever Rescue of the Rockies teamed up with AGA in February, 2016, and has four runs to its credit. Several other rescues in the U.S. and Canada participate in Turkey Dog Rescue.

The language difference does not appear to be a barrier to love and understanding. Some interpreters are teaching adoptive families the Turkish translation of the seven common commands. The dogs are then given each command in both Turkish and English to link the meanings. Ultimately, though, gestures and body language are far more important than the words people use. Fortunately, these adoptive families have no trouble smiling in “doggish.”

While Americans may be divided as to whether to take in human refugees, there appears to be no hesitation in accepting road-weary outcasts on four legs.

But let us not forget that for many other breeds at home and from foreign countries needing adoption, our silence is not golden.