Two years ago a friend asked me for a favour. Would I help her rescue a puppy, starved by humans and drained by ticks. He was in a terrible state, ears sliced off by barbaric guards hoping to instil some fearsomeness in him and thin as a rake. We learned that he was most likely a hawsher and his large paws indicated he might become a large beast. A few days later I was at a party, and was asked about Tick (as we'd decided to call him). I couldn't remember the name of his breed, so I flipped out my smartphone and searched “Kurdish dog”. The results were eye-opening. A picture of this huge, gorgeous animal, standing on its back legs, front paws on its master's shoulders. I was instantly and totally obsessed, and the next day started to makes plans to visit northern Kurdistan and find some Kangals. In March last year I took off on an adventure, which took me to Hasankeyf where I found some Kangal puppies in the canyons and further north to Van where I visited the university's cat breeding facility. The proud symbol of the city, the pure white Van cats have one amber and one azure eye and apparently love to swim.
However, on that trip I failed to find any adult Kangals and resolved that my quest would continue. And so it came to pass that this March just passed, I had another chance to travel north, and this time took my path across Turkey via the town of Kangal. I enjoy the bus network in Turkey and had a lucky break in Mardin, where I had been catching up with an old friend, discovering that a new route had opened up, direct to Sivas, the nearest city to Kangal. From there it was a short local bus into Kangal, and my optimistic search for the canines began in earnest. The town is covered in statues and pictures of their famous animal, much like Van. And I found a cheery taxi driver, who spoke as much English as I speak Turkish (none) and through a system of laughing, pointing, hand signals and a note my friend in Mardin had written for me, we were soon barrelling through the Anatolian countryside. I always travel with hope and expectation, and I was not disappointed – I spent a couple of hours with several of the most magnificent specimens. They may be fearsome to look at, but in truth they are the gentlest of giants, know for being especially good with very young children.
Oh, and Tick, my friend's rescue dog?