ISTANBUL – Turkish Daily News
The affluent Nişantaşı neighborhood, in Istanbul's Şişli district, has recently acquired an unlikely mascot � an aged golden retriever by the name of Simba.
Simba had made his home comfortably squatting in a car park, but when the park was closed for construction, he became homeless on the streets. There he caught the attention of the municipal mayor and he now lives in a lavish dog house in front of the car park where he used to reside.
Visitors to the Abdi İpekçi statue at the beginning of Abdi İpekçi Avenue might be surprised to see a large green doghouse covered with handwritten notes informing passers-by not to worry, that "I am vaccinated and don't bite," that "I have permission from the municipality to be here," and that "Thanks to the mayor I am 15 years old. I love you all." Although, locals admit the animal is actually a much sprier 12.
The valet at the restaurant next door, İbrahim Ülker, 34, told the Turkish Daily News that Simba was originally his dog, or, more precisely, the dog that lived in the car park next to the Grissini restaurant before the lot was shut down several months ago.
"We used to look after Simba while he lived in the car park, but when it shut down for construction, the dog was kicked out to the curb," he said, adding that he and other locals who had come to care for the dog first tried to take him in, but the shelter's staff informed them that the dog would not be able to live there.
"He doesn't even cross the street to the other sidewalk," said Ülker.
The city offers help
Local animal lovers decided to take action and applied to the municipality to build a dog house and care for Simba close to the home to which he had grown accustomed. The request went all the way up to Şişli Mayor Mustafa Sarıgül, who gave his blessing and offered for his veterinarian to give free routine check ups to Simba.
Since then Sarıgül has visited Simba, issuing orders to ensure the dog is well looked after. Aside from having the staff at the local animal shelter at Çaglayan treat him and offer weekly veterinary assistance, he also instructed his garbage men to clean up the area around the dog house every day.
But while the municipality has offered much, it is the local residents and animal lovers who provide for the day-to-day expenses of the canine. It was local animal lover Filiz İz who put up the money to construct the dog house, at a cost of nearly YTL 1,000 � a house that is now packed with water and canned food.
Animal lovers rejoice
İz's driver, Murat Ünal, 25, who is tasked with feeding Simba every day, told the TDN, "Ms. İz covers most of the cost of looking after the animal, and she buys him food and bones from the butcher daily, but there are also many donation's from locals."
Twice a day at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., seven days a week, including holidays, Simba gets fresh meat and bones brought to him by Ünal, who remains humble about his role in looking after the dog, praising all the assistance he has received from locals.
"If we notice anything wrong before the city vet visit, we just approach a local animal lover, explain the situation and they cover the expenses of a private vet," said Ünal. Many are so gracious, they donate resources anonymously, leaving food or offering to pay for medical care without giving up their names, said Ünal, adding, "Just the other day someone paid for a vet visit and didn't even leave us a name that we could thank."
Simba chose not to comment on the generosity of his neighbors, instead opting to pant heavily in the summer heat and bark at a passing beagle.