In a city as vast as Istanbul, travelling to and from work each day can really take it out of you. So, last Friday I decided to stay in and get an early night. Little did I know that I would in fact be up until Saturday morning.
Around 9pm I set about the thrilling task of marking homework, preparing lessons and cleaning the house, with a plan to do some writing after. My boyfriend Oli, on the other hand, decided to go out drinking in Taksim with our two good friends Cansu and Gokhan. After a night’s shenanigans, he finally returned at 5am with a not so little surprise…
In fairness, I was still up writing when I heard Oli’s keys in the front door. But the last thing I expected to see walk into my living room was a beautiful, hazel eyed, white-headed husky. To my utter amazement the huge dog walked towards me and stood — where my boyfriend should have been — and stared at me as if to say, “How do you do?”
I stared back at this great wolf-like creature, and for a split second contemplated the unlikely possibility that Oli had in fact turned into a dog whilst out on the town. As we stood gawking at each other in silence, I had the urge to pinch myself, just to check this was actually a waking-life experience. To my relief, Oli staggered through the door a moment later with a broad grin on his rosy face. The dog lay down and side-glanced at me for a bit, not quite sure what he had walked in to.
After my initial shock had worn off, Oli explained that he had been walking through Sishane with Cansu and Gokhan when he had noticed the majestic animal. He approached to pet it and got talking to the man he assumed was the dog’s owner. The man was a German-Turkish tourist, who said that the dog had been following him around all day but did not belong to him. The man explained that he was in Istanbul on business and would be returning to Germany on Tuesday. He said that he wanted to give the dog to one of his business associates to take care of. After some debate about what would be in the dog’s best interest, Gokhan managed to convince the tourist to let Oli take the dog home with him. The animal had no collar, so Oli took off his belt and fashioned a lead for him. The two then happily walked side by side back to Galata.
Oli and I then began debating what on earth to do with the dog, in the event we couldn’t find his owners, if indeed he had any. Entirely unperturbed by us, the happy pup proceeded to make himself at home in our apartment, running around and sniffing every corner and behind each peace of furniture. Contented he had scouted the area for rival animals, he slumped down in a great furry heap on the floor, as if had lived here with us for years. He was extremely affectionate, periodically collapsing at my feet and lifting his paws in hope of a stomach-rub.
He was utterly adorable and of course, being fanatic dog lovers, both Oli and I immediately began to dote over him. We gave him a bowl of water, fed him soğuk fat left in the pan from our dinner the evening before and sat on the floor petting him for an hour or so. He was clearly no older that a year and very playful. Oli and him darted around the living room playing together like two puppies. Behaviourally speaking, this stray dog bore an uncanny resemblance to our beloved dog George, who sadly we had to leave with family in England when we moved here. George is also a mix-breed and displays many Husky features and characteristics. Both dogs shared the same quirky mannerisms and expressions. Having felt rather dog deprived since moving to Istanbul, it gave us both a happy nostalgia to spend time with a dog like this again.
We decided that if this lost/stray dog was going to stay with us for the time being we had to give him a temporary name, as calling him “He/The Dog/It” felt far too impersonal. So, we decided to name him Ferris Bueller, after the title character from 80s cult classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, in which a charming and opportunistic teenager bunks off from school to go on an adventure through the streets of Chicago.
Like the original character, Ferris the dog was clearly very intelligent — being a mixed-breed of Husky and German Shepherd. However, it quickly became clear that he did not speak a word of English. We tried our best at Turkish but we mainly communicated with Ferris through a series of “Shhht” and “Tuting” noises. We made him a bed from an old bath mat and placed it outside our room. Concerned that Ferris might not be house trained and may therefore use our living room floor as a toilet during the night, we moved all chewable objects and important possessions onto higher surfaces. We said goodnight and went to get some well needed sleep. In the morning, to our delight and surprise Ferris seemed to have stayed in his bed and resisted the urge to chew or poo.
As Istanbul is teeming with stray dogs, we had assumed Ferris was one of them. But his behaviour made us all the more certain that he was in fact a ‘house dog’ and therefore had a human family that must be looking for him. So, we decided we had to try our hardest to reunite him with his owners.
I said my goodbyes to lovely Ferris and set off for a music rehearsal in Şişli. Soon after, Oli and Ferris set off for Taksim to find Ferris’ misplaced family. Oli enlisted the help of our friend Bade and the three of them went from bakal (corner shop) to bakal, talking to people about Ferris in an effort to retrace his footsteps.
When I arrived home that evening, Ferris was gone. The house suddenly felt horribly empty. Oli enthusiastically explained what had happened: First, he recalled how bizarre it was for him to walk such a big dog down Istiklal Avenue (one of the longest and busiest streets in Istanbul). He said that everyone reacted in extremes to Ferris, some stopping to excitedly fuss over him, others frantically diving out of his way in fear. Oli went on to explain how he had wandered around Taksim for hours with Bade and Ferris, asking all the kestaneci, midyeci and simitci’s (street sellers) the same question: “Do you know this dog?” He told me how, just as he was about to give up, go buy Ferris a collar and head back home, a shop-owner exclaimed that he recognised the dog. As the man led Oli and Bade towards Cihangir, Ferris started pulling desperately towards a side street, clearly recognising where he was. The dog guided all three people up to the door of a basement flat, and so Oli apprehensively rang the bell. A man answered, poking his head out suspiciously. Oli described how it was immediately obvious from Ferris’ reaction that this was his home. He started pulling manically on his lead, straining to get inside the house. Although I felt sad that Ferris was no longer with us, I was glad that he had found his way home — with a little help from his friends, of course.
So, unbelievably, after hours of searching in a city of approximately 16 million people, Oli and Bade finally managed to find the owner of Ferris the dog (who it turns out is actually called Pasa). Relieved to have his pet back, Pasa’s owner explained how he often let him wander the streets alone, as do many dog-owners in Istanbul due to the lack of garden space. On his latest walk-about, Pasa had obviously ventured a little too far from his home near Taksim Square. Or, perhaps, he had every intention of bunking-off from his everyday routine and, like his namesake Ferris Bueller, had set out to have an adventure; to make new friends and spend forty eight ours with two random foreigners in Galata. Either way, having Ferris as our surprise late night guest was an absolute pleasure and we certainly hope that he gets lost with us again sometime.
*A Random Relish