A Few Words about Gratitude and the Golbasi Dog Shelter

If you are an expat living in Ankara, you probably have heard of the Golbasi Dog Shelter.  It has been in existence for at least 15 years.  It is a place for dogs to live out their lives without the fear of being run down by a car, which is very likely in the Ankara traffic.

The Shelter is headed by a woman who has devoted her life to saving dogs.  I have only met her once.  She seems to be a very gentle and kind person.  I have not had a personal conversation with her, since we don’t speak each other’s language.  But my instincts are usually very good, so I trust that she has done her very best to help these 4000+ dogs.  When reading the rest of this blog post, please keep in mind that she takes care of the dogs, she is not involved in the organization of the volunteers or anything else being said below.

There are several employees of the shelter who help to clean the cages, make repairs, and give food and water to the dogs.

In addition, there are and have been numerous volunteers, both foreign and Turkish.  Two in particular, Grayson and Teresa, have done a tremendous job of doing a lot of the grunt work — physically working at the shelter (not an easy feat) and working hard to keep the shelter afloat with donations.

But for the rest of us, an attempt to volunteer has meant constantly hitting a brick wall.  There are some friends of the shelter that simply refuse to have help from a foreigner if they open their mouths with the slightest suggestion.  It’s so sad.  Shut up and do what you are told.  That’s often seems to be the motto.  Dozens of volunteers have come and gone with their tails wagging behind them.  Put down.  Shut down.  Denied.

I am not a dog-person.  (As you have seen from my recent post, cats are my thing.)  I have only been to the shelter once.  I took a tour, fed the dogs, and  my good friend Steve filmed my first impressions.  Surprisingly, these impressions did not include as strong a fear of the pups as I expected.

Having done that, I set out in any way I could to help the dogs aside from actually going there.  Steve and his wife were very gung-ho about helping the shelter, so I jumped on their bandwagon.

I raised money from friends in the States.  I helped to plan fundraisers and created posters and flyers to raise awareness.  I created raffle tickets. I called on local businesses (luxury hotels) to donate gift certificates for dinners and massages.  I edited numerous emails and documents to gain awareness.  I enlisted the help of a very large Ankara law firm to try to get “non-profit” status for the Shelter, work they are doing pro bono.  I edited the new website for the Shelter that Steve had created.  I ordered dog food and had it delivered.  And I helped with trying to establish a paypal account that has been blocked for various reasons.  (My apologies for all of these “I” sentences.  I don’t mean to be bragging here.  This section was necessary to get my point across.  There are many who do wonderful things for the shelter.)

I thought these were great ways to help.

In late Spring, there was a meeting of the core group and a few volunteers.  I was invited to attend.  After 2 long hours, not much happened at that meeting.  There was some talk of what attempts were made in the past – mostly complaints.  Alot of bragging from one or two about how much some people have done and paid to save particular dogs.  And then the talks turned to saving a new dog from the streets.  There was no call to action.

During the meeting I suggested a few things that were turned down.  For example, I offered to contact those people who had taken last year’s calendars to sell but never turned in the money or returned the calendars.  Brick wall.

Thinking about this meeting and what I personally thought could be done to make things better, I suggested an agenda be drafted for the next meeting, so that less time would be wasted complaining and more time spent making action plans and assigning people to carry out the plans.  Brick wall.

I really would have loved to help the shelter in ways that I know I can.  These ways do not include me going out there to tend the dogs, it’s true, although I have offered a group of people to rebuild the kitchen and repair cages.  (Brick wall.)  I am good at organization, following up on requests, writing, fundraising, etc.  But so many suggestions have been turned down.  And it’s odd to me.  I, in no way, want to take over.  But it seems to me that if you are not happy with the way something works, then you need to change your method to forge a better future.

I know that people here are against putting dogs down, and therefore, this is something I have NEVER suggested.  I have, however, suggested spending money on neutering dogs in order to stop the number of dogs from growing at astronomical speed.  Brick wall.

I have suggested days to get together as a group to make repairs.  Brick wall, although I believe another expat was able to follow through on this.

I have suggested that a few reliable people head groups that take care of different needs.  Brick wall.

The problem I am told is that I am a newbie and I don’t understand the way things work in Turkey.  Ok.  So tell me how it’s done.

After that meeting last Spring, I continued to try and help.  I was abused and accused of numerous things both verbally and in writing.  So I took a step back and waited until my help was requested.  Sadly, I have had few requests for help.  Until today, I did keep a link to the Shelter’s website on this blog.  And I have sent info to others on how to donate.

During the Fall, even after all of this, I was asked to give money to help stop the workers from leaving their jobs.  So I walked over to the ATM, got some money, and sent it over immediately.

A few days ago, another struggle occurred.  I was not involved although my name was mentioned in emails thusly:

Terry  . . .  being so new with us and not even coming to the shelter, she has no right to criticize us. We would rather have no help from such people. . .

Who are you to talk about it, you or Terry? we have been here for 15 years. You hera that…? please do not take more of our time. If you arenot happy with what is going on, do not be involved. We are already tired. Yes we are pessimistic, yes we talk behind each other… WE ARE BAD BAD people. Then get the hell out of it….

And so it goes.  Shut up and do as you are told.  I have not been involved in many many months with the shelter, yet this is what is being said by the “powers that be.”  I have never criticized in a mean or cruel way.  I have directly offered help to make a change for the better.  It doesn’t hurt my feelings that my suggestions are denied.  But it has hurt many other volunteers who have been treated similarly.

I wish the dogs a happy life.  I wish all the best to those of you who try to help — may you find the strength.  I pray the woman who wrote this finds peace within herself so that she can be helpful to the shelter and stop hindering it.  Volunteers are being sent over and over again — new blood means new energy.  There is no room for pessimism which spreads like weeds.  Positive attitudes can help light a new path for the shelter.

I especially want to send out a big THANK YOU from all of the dogs to my friend Steve, who has spent countless hours donating time and money — cleaning cages, feeding dogs, picking up food, setting up fundraisers, working at fundraisers, creating and producing films and writing and playing music to raise awareness, writing letters to folks around the world, and never asking for anything in return.

We love you Steve!  The dogs love you! (even though the pups probably know you are a cat person too!)  The amount of love you pour into the shelter can never be denied.  You have a huge heart that can never be trampled.  When you look back and think about these things, remember what the Beatles said, “Don’t Bring Me Down!”  Keep you chin up my friend!

12 thoughts on “A Few Words about Gratitude and the Golbasi Dog Shelter

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  1. This is so sad. My experience of Turks is that they are oversensitive to criticism of any kind from foreigners. Words have to be carefully chosen. As a Brit, I’m used to people criticising us (I’m sure as an American, you are too). I’m sure these people have the best of intentions but it sounds like they’ve lost the plot. Streets dogs are a huge pro-occupation for expats in this part of the Turkey. Hardly a week goes by when there isn’t a fund raising campaign. Again, it’s all done with the best of intentions but it’s often unfocussed and wasteful. There is a shelter here on the Bodrum Peninsular. I’ve not been. I think I’d find it too distressing. I hear it isn’t very good. Until social attitudes towards street animals change, the problem will persist. In my view, the best thing to do is to vaccinate and neuter the animals then let them roam. It sounds harsh but it is a more natural existence than being caged up in a filthy kennel.

  2. . . chin up, Terry! Do what you want and feel able to do with those who appreciate your efforts.
    Following our successful campaign here in Okcular a few years ago, J and I ended up with an unsought but high media profile. We were constantly asked to be involved in organisations with an environmental angle in neighbouring Dalyan – it has always proved to be a painful/wasteful experience. We are still asked and we give our honest reasons for refusing – conflicting egos (not ours). We focus all of our community efforts locally where individuals are valued for their contributions.
    Following on from Jack’s comment above, I believe that Turkish regs require that street dogs be neutered, medicated where needed and returned to the area/street where they were picked up from.

    1. Kudos to and J, Alan. Difficult situation. But we know what we need to do to be happy. By the way, I am happy to see you here today. your past several comments ended up in my spam folder. It took days before I found you.

  3. Darn T,

    Seems you have have been “kicked to the curb” just for offering and attempting to lend a hand.

    Calendars made up, money never returned, people that had the calendars dare I say “gone”? No attempt to locate ans recover said monies? I find this all very strange indeed but I guess the old cliche “when in Rome do as the Romans do” still sticks. I have an online friend from Romania which has the exact same dog issue. Thousands of dogs loose in the streets, woods and wherever one may imagine but they (shelters) welcome helping hands with open minds and hearts. There is more I would say but I will not say it here, most likely you have have had the same thoughts.

    1. Hey there Artie, my “Roman” friend. Did you ever meet my friend (and John’s friend) Fred T.? He did a documentary in Romania. Later he told me about the dog issue and how he was thinking about a documentary on that . . . small world.

  4. I pray that the attitudes you experience are cultural and may someday be softened. It would be so nice for all newcomers to be able to meet the objective, help the animals!

  5. We have all been kicked. All I tried to do is bring some peace and sensibly to the situation. People within the shelter are fighting with each other and all I wanted to do is have everyone sit down and talk about it. But I got thrown under the bus. Told by one individual that my efforts were a waste of time and that my work was BS. This ego manic even told me that its better to have one of her then 20 of me. She also slammed all the efforts of the foreigners that are involved in the shelter saying that we don’t do anything and that we are not to be trusted, Its a shame because there are some people that really care for the dogs. The people that have been there a long time (you know who you are) are worried about us coming in and trying to help. I have heard nothing but complaints from them.
    So after all the work I did I have shut down the website, paypal account and deleted the videos.

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