top of page

Fighting Kangals in Turkey

People who travel have their stories to tell. But these stories are, of course, not always nice. So here we go again: My mom was visiting Turkey and something happened.

A Bloody Incident

On a rainy Sunday in May, we went for a short walk with Vedi. We've been on our way back to the van already after turning around at a good distance from a herd of sheep. The sheep have been far behind us, when we heard the shepherd dogs barking that we had turned away from in the first place. There were a few hundred meters between us and the herd, from which we moved further and further away, but the shepherd dogs, two oversized Kangals, were coming towards us aggressively and pretty damn fast.

Since I've been traveling with Vedi, this has been my personal horror scenario. I know that shepherd dogs are not to be trifled with, so I always avoid the herds as far as possible, as we did on this day. When I saw their spiked collars and slobbering, barking snouts with a row of shiny white fangs, I picked up Vedi. Some may say that this is a risky misbehavior, but there is no scenario on earth in which I would let my dog get torn to pieces in front of me. And that would probably have happened.

I energetically walked a few steps further with Vedi in my arms. My mom, in the meantime, armed herself with a large rock (which works often) and stopped. We have been a few meters apart when I saw how one of the dogs bit her and how she fell down. The stone in her hand wasn't enough of a threat and she told me afterwards that she was too scared to throw it.

I paced up to her quickly, while I was screaming and shouting at the top of my lungs (and so was my mom). My vocabulary of swear words had no limits. Eventually, the cattle-sized dogs slowly went away.

A Conversation With the Shepherds

The first time we inspected and bandaged the wound, I felt sick. Although I have learned well how to do first aid in theory, is was a little more difficult in reality. Two fangs have dug pretty deep into my mom's thigh, while all the tissue in between and around them swoll up like a third buttock and turned into a deep blue colour. I would never have thought that a dog bite could look so bad, and I slowly understand how fatal incidents with Kangals can happen again and again.

In a café nearby, I explained to people via Google Translate that we have an emergency and that we would like to know from the shepherds whether the dogs have been vaccinated. A man joined us to help translating. So we drove back to the herd, where the dogs were attacking the car again. I most definitely had the impulse of running over the dogs, but I didn't.

The man called the shepherds, but I already realized from a distance: The “shepherds” of this herd and the two dogs were two children, barely older than 12. The child gave us a phone number and got dragged across the field on the leash by one of the Kangals while the man next to me talked to the owners of the dogs on the phone. We didn't get proof of vaccination - of course. But we did get their phone number.

A Provincial Turkish-Kurdish Hospital

On the way to the hospital, I was in an extreme state of worry and anger. I was terrified for my mother, who could barely sit up despite her painkillers, and I was furious about this country, where shit like this could just simply happen. The German potato in me was screaming for a lawsuit, compensation and a functioning legal system, but deep down I already knew that this case would go nowhere.

Since I've arrived in Turkey with Vedi, people have been running away from me. They crossed the road, they screamed or jumped out of the way when they recognized a dog in Vedi. Completely exaggerated, I thought. But now I know where it comes from. With all the stray dogs and this anarchic attitude towards dangerous dog breeds, unfortunately these incidents are not that rare.

At the hospital, the man from the café and an acquaintance of his, the hospital cook, who speaks a little English, helped us. My mom later said: “We got a lot of help, but no empathy.” I can imagine what people must have been thinking when they saw us: two German tourists, probably their own fault. These things just happen around here.

The public hospital in the easternmost tip of Turkey, right on the border to Armenia, is located deep inside the Kurdish region of the country. These south-eastern areas are often structurally very disadvantaged, which is why the hospital was in a really poor condition.

“Then we went to the ‘hospital’, where I was afraid for my physical well-being for a second time... [...] After incompetent treatment, I could've gotten a sepsis that would've needed treatment, which in turn would have brought me a little closer to the local cemetery...” - Mom

The treatments were unstructured, the rooms were dirty and people were smoking inside. The wound was only cleaned after I repeatedly asked, the vaccination procedure was unclear and communication was poor, which was definitely not just due to the language barrier. After about 30 seconds, one of the bandages that was applied to my mother's leg slipped right back down again. After that, there was a terrifying screaming in the hallway right after an ambulance brought someone into the emergency room. Within seconds, everyone who had nothing better to do was standing in the corridor to gawp. Shortly afterwards, my mom's vision turned black for a moment and she had to sit down. This place was a horror come true.

While mom got sent from A to B, I went to the cash desk four or five times to pay ridiculously small amounts individually. In total, the initial treatment with various vaccinations, painkillers, medicine and bandages cost us just under 40 euros. During the treatment, I also got in touch with my friends, organized someone on the phone to translate Turkish into English, discussed the ideal vaccination schedule with a friend who's a doctor and asked a Turkish lawyer whether there is a legal basis for a prosecution of the dog owners. When I asked the police officers at the hospital, to whom I would have needed to report the incident, whether they thought this case would ever be dealt with, they replied something like: “Maybe in a year or two.”

But yeah, these things just happen around here.

A plan got cancelled

We just wanted to go on a quick walk with Vedi, initially. After that, we wanted to finally check into the hotel and prepare for our hike up Mt. Ararat or Ağrı Dağı the next day. Months ago, we booked a guided, 7-day hike up the 5,000-metre-high volcano in eastern Turkey, we got the necessary equipment and mentally prepared ourselves to live with less oxygen than usual for a few days at these altitudes.

Less than 24 hours beforehand, this dog bite changed the plans. But life happens when you're making plans, right? The only thought that makes me a little less frustrated: Who knows what this was good for.


bottom of page