Anatolian World

Aslan of Murted

Aslan's Beginnings
by Nancy Lane

I was living in Ankara, Turkey in the spring of 1988, working with Paul on a highway construction project jointly executed by Bechtel Construction (our employer at the time) and a Turkish firm called Enka.  Our project office was near the village of Murted, about 30km from Ankara on the road to Istanbul.  As our personnel drove up and down the proposed highway alignment over the months, they saw lots of "Kangal dogs" guarding sheep and goats, storming after the pickups and chasing them until they were no longer menacing the herd.

Our project manager became interested in these dogs, and a Turkish contact of his offered two male pups as gifts to the project manager and the construction manager.   (Aslan was the construction manager's.)  The PM's dog contracted parvovirus and died, and a second dog from the same litter was sent in.  (This is the dog that was registered as "Gentleman Kaan" in Oregon.)  They were claimed to be about 4 months old, which would have put their birthdays in January 1988.

Aslan taking a walk in Oakland

Aslan at Semavi Anatolians

Aslan at home in Oakland and visiting in Sacramento

Aslan and Kangal (that was the name he was given in Turkey) lived happily on the jobsite in a big (30'x30') fenced, concrete floored kennel with two big dog houses and service from the various workers on the site given the responsibility of feeding the dogs and cleaning out the kennel.  I started working with them on leashes at about 6 months, just to spend some time with them.  Kangal was the alpha dog, not very affectionate and not very responsive.  Aslan was a teddybear, always eager to come over for a cuddle when someone approached to scratch him through the fence.

In August '88 the construction manager left the project and did not make arrangements to take Aslan.  By this time we had worked out how to import Science Diet dog food (in the containers of tires and spare parts we always had coming from the US) and I volunteered to pay for the next 800 pounds (well, they are big dogs and we wanted to deal in bulk!)   So I became Aslan's unofficial owner.

Aslan of Murted02.jpg (61114 bytes)Kangal was shipped to the US in January '89.  After living with his brother for a whole year, Aslan was pretty miserable alone.  We started bringing him home at night a few times during the week, and every Saturday so he could spend our Sunday off with us.   After about nine months of this, we were notified we were being turned around back to the US.

I started looking for a good home for Aslan.  I thought about returning him to his breeder, but as he was probably too old to learn how to be a working dog it seemed like a bad idea.  As most Turks in the city live in apartments, there would be little room for an Anatolian so I discarded that idea.  We were planning to buy a house after we returned to the US, but that might take six months - I didn't know what to do with him until then.  I called my brother, who had a dog and a fenced back yard in San Jose; he offered to have Aslan there until we found a place.  So we were set!

Next came the business of exporting him, and concerns about what the US imposed as import conditions.  I discovered that current shots were the only requirement from the US.  I then started digging into the matter from the Turkish end, knowing that my only hope would lie in having the customs veterinarian decide that Aslan was not a pure-bred Kangal.

That part was easy - the vet looked at him and dismissed him immediately.  Wrong color (reddish tawny) and missing two white paws (only his front paws are white.)  So we decided that "Choban Kopegi" or "shepherd dog" would be the best description for him.

Aslan at Semavi Anatolians
Aslan in California

I then went to the Ankara airport with a picture of Aslan and the vet's export papers.   The customs guards took one look at the photo and started saying "yasak, yasak" ("forbidden, forbidden") because they said he was a Kangal!  So I went back the next day to the customs vet and told him what had happened.  Big mistake - I wounded his professional pride.  "I am the veterinarian!  They are ignorant - they can barely recognize that it is a dog!  If I say he is a shepherd dog, they can have no questions!"  He refused to amend the papers to read "shepherd dog, NOT Kangal" as I had asked.

Now I was in a bind.  Aslan's brother had once been pulled off a plane and kept at the airport because of the whim of a customs guard, and the customs vet was located miles away from Esenboga airport.  I called in the next wave of help - one of my Turkish friends.  Berdan had a long conversation with the customs vet, then the manager of customs for Esenboga.  I asked her to get the manager's home phone number so I could call him from the airport if I had any problems with his guards.  As my Pan Am flight was leaving Esenboga Airport at 6:30am, he undoubtedly told all the staff at the airport to let that stubborn American woman with the big dog onto the plane so he could sleep!   as I had no problems at all in departing.

We flew from Ankara to Istanbul, Frankfurt, New York and San Francisco - a total of 27 hours en route.  Aslan was a champion traveler.  I got off the plane in Istanbul to see him, and he was terrified at that stage - so I opened the door to the kennel (very bad idea) and barely got it closed again as he strained to get out.  The baggage handlers scattered like leaves before the wind - they were more terrified than he was.   In Frankfurt I checked him again, and he was resigned and calm.  Next stop, New York - and finally I gave him some water, though he wouldn't eat.  Someone had stuffed a piece of candy through the bars of the door, but he hadn't touched that either.   I stopped his drinking after about 3/4 liter - he was going to burst otherwise.

I fell asleep in my seat before we took off and woke up as we were landing in San Francisco (the woman next to me was amazed.)  Aslan appeared but had to stay put until I could get a rental car, which I did post-haste.  When I returned I wheeled the kennel out the door, opened it and barely got a leash on the poor guy as he zoomed past me to get to a tree - which I am sure has since died of nitrogen poisoning.  I can't believe he held it for 27 hours, but he refused to mess that kennel.  I never worried about his housetraining again.

Aslan at home, with his family.
Aslan as a handsome elder

He lived comfortably in the backyard in San Jose until April '90, when we moved to Oakland and introduced him to modified urban living.  We are in the hills above Oakland, so it's really quite wooded and seemingly rural, but I still kept him leashed at all times.  He never quite caught on to the necessity of "come" as a command, so I couldn't trust him outside on his own - and one of the neighbors had chickens, which he found irresistible.  He escaped once the week we moved in, went for a half-hour jaunt and came home with little grey feathers on his muzzle.  Killed one and broke one leg - just likes to grab them and shake them.  Not too hot for the chickens, unfortunately.

So that's how he came to be an American Anatolian.

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photos on this page, by Nancy Lane and Janice Frasche
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