Chloe made her debut in Sultanahmet a few weeks ago.
I had been keeping her in my apartment because for one thing I was really busy moving and buying all those little things you need (towels, can openers, shampoo, knives that will cut a tomato and not just squash it) in a foreign language, as well as starting a new job doing something completely new to me. For another, even though I live about 2-3 blocks from the most touristy area in Turkey my immediate neighbors are rather traditional and I didn’t want to brand myself as that weirdo foreigner with the fluffy white dog. At least not right away.
But after more than a week in my building (she did get to travel four flights down to Musa’s atelier a few times) I decided it was time to take her out into the world.
First, she sniffed around in the street in front of my building for awhile. We started down the road, but true to form she balked after a few yards so I picked her up and carried her. I just don’t have the patience sometimes to cajole her into walking and there’s too much traffic on some of the streets to worry about her stopping in the middle of a road.
But the little bit of trouble I had getting her going was worth it because we had some interesting encounters.
I walked her through the Hippodrome which was crowded with Turkish families, mostly tourists from the towns outside of Istanbul. Dogs are becoming more popular pets here but are still not common, although it is common to see feral, but friendly, dogs in the streets. But tiny white dogs are almost unheard of so the reaction to a tiny white dog walking through the Hippodrome was what I might have expected if I had a giraffe on a leash. There was oohing and cooing, and children ran towards us. Toddlers either shrieked gleefully and ran toward her or, more cautiously, stood well back despite my encouragement and that of their parents, simply jumping up and down and flapping their arms but not daring to approach.
One girl in her twenties ran up and asked in Turkish if she could pet her, or so I thought, but when I nodded she picked her up and cuddled her, posing in front of the Egyptian column so her boyfriend could take a picture.
So I made my ways slowly across the park, through Chloe’s admirers, to my friend’s shop on the main street. All the guys came out to see her and one of them took her leash and tugged her toward the shop next door chattering excitedly and showing her to the guys over there. While the men at home make fun of my tiny, fluffy, white dog, the men here in Istanbul are enthralled. Anyone who has seen me walking her now asks me where she is and how she’s doing whenever I pass by.
After making the rounds I headed back home, and just as I was passing the last shop before entering the quiet streets of my immediate neighborhood the shop guys gathered around and started asking me questions about Chloe. They asked her name and then as usual my limited knowledge of Turkish hampered things a bit, but finally one of them said “mademoiselle…?” So I told them yes, she is a girl, “Mademoiselle Chloe”. I think it fits her.
But the last encounter was my favorite. As I walked her slowly down my very quiet street, four boys of about 12 years old or so were playing soccer in the street. After I walked past they huddled together for a minute and then walked toward me, sneaking looks. So I stopped and picked Chloe up to show her to them. They asked the usual questions (her name, age, sex) and stood talking to me for a few minutes. Some of them spoke English better than the others and would translate my answers into Turkish. They were very interested in Chloe and in me and wanted to know my name and what I was doing in Istanbul and where I was from.
I waited for them to get bored and go back to their game, it seemed funny that four pre-adolescent boys would be interested in my little dog and in me, but they really seemed to want to talk, and paid very close attention to everything I was telling them. One of them stood beside me with his hand on my shoulder the whole time and they were all very sweet and very polite. I finally had to break up our conversation or I think they would have kept me there all day.
So there it is, Mademoiselle Chloe, ambassadress to Istanbul.