May 2012, Sivas, Turkey
The first photo of this early May day captured a statuesque Kangal on a huge pile of manure. The afternoon light was very dramatic, illuminating the threat of pending storms. It was my tenth day in the country and my sixth seeing Kangals while traveling this ancient land and "dogscape" of Sivas. I had little to no idea of what was in store, except that our mission was based solely on the dogs. My friend and fellow traveler, Ugur, lived in Norway, but he graciously allowed me to join him on this trip he’d been planning for quite some time back to his native Turkey to study Kangal dogs. We traveled the countryside, we scanned the horizon for dogs guarding their flocks. The color of the dogs and sheep blended seamlessly into the land making them difficult to spot. Our guide Orhan navigated his way through this rugged landscape and people with remarkable sensibility and respect.
I was the only American on this trip, the only non—Turkish speaking person and the only female. Outside of Ankara the country becomes increasingly more remote as you travel eastward to the Anatolian plateau. On this particular day we followed a couple of men in a pick-up truck after Orhan, Ugur, Ismail and Mali chatted with them at a gas station. We stopped in a small village and picked up a shepherd (seen wearing the striped shirt in the video below.) He insisted we visit his dogs at his home before we set off towards the mountains. The four—wheel drive carried us over mountians and streams in rough terrain with no roads for many miles.
By this time there were seven piled in our rented SUV and we seriously wondered if we could keep up with the shepherd. The lead truck had a far larger wheelbase than our rental, which was already struggling to keep up. Thick heavy soil hid rocks large enough to stymie our progress and we were finally forced to stop. Completely nonplussed, the driver of the pick—up motioned us into his club cab, bringing our number to a cozy ten for the rest of the way. Approaching the dogs, we were instructed to stay put in the truck as they were in full guarding mode. When we were within their range they came at the truck in full pursuit, like something in a novel. We waited until the shepherd steered them back towards the flock before getting out. Snapping photos as quickly as we could, the dogs turned, saw us and returned in full pursuit. We raced back to the truck, this time to the bed, me saying many holy molies and all of us giggling in a true adrenalin rush but loving every moment. What a great day and journey this was!