In Corum, Turkey, whenever a car pulled up to the garbage dump, a dog named Hercules would run over to greet them.
“He was very good about recognizing the cars of the people who would come to feed,” Amanda Cunefare, a volunteer for Rescuers Without Borders (RWB), an organization that rescues dogs in Turkey said. “He’d jump up on the windows of the car, and he clung to every person. He was a people dog.”
However, Hercules wasn’t the only dog at the landfill, there were more than 800 other strays living there too.
“It is cold, there is no clean water and food is scarce,” Cunefare said. “You have to fight with 800 dogs for resources, and bury yourself in piles of garbage to stay warm. It’s a horrible, horrible place to have to survive for years.”
In 2014, a 23-year-old Turkish woman named Gocke Erdogan began feeding the landfill dogs, getting them vet care and rehoming as many as she could. Volunteers from RWB, which is based in the U.S., joined forces with Erdogan last year and so far, the team has managed to pull 47 of the dogs from the dump and rehome most of them in the U.S. They help Erdogan feed and give vet care to the dogs at this landfill, as well as dogs living in remote villages across Turkey.
Unfortunately, RWB team can’t rescue and rehome every single dog without more resources. They prioritize by helping puppies and senior dogs, who have a particularly hard time surviving at the landfill, especially in the wintertime.
Hercules was neither a puppy nor a senior and seemed pretty healthy, he was not selected immediately for adoption. However, volunteers made sure he got food, water, and vet care until they could rescue and rehome him.
Hercules was determined to get out and every time rescuers stopped by, he would run to their cars and look inside and eagerly accompany them on their rounds.
“This dog wanted out so badly,” Cunefare said. “You could see it in his eyes.”
Cunefare herself had never been to the Turkish dump, rescuers knew she’d be the perfect person to rescue Hercules. She volunteers with RWB from her home in Troy Grove, Illinois, and already adopted Dudas, a 10-year-old female who’d been living at the dump for at least five years.
“She’s an old lady,” Cunefare said. “She’s 143 pounds, and she’s a big old mama. I wanted to adopt an older one because I’d felt like she’d fought so hard to survive.”
After adopting Dudas, Cunefare also took in King Artur, a crippled dog who had been having a hard time competing with the others for food. Then Cunefare got a phone call about Hercules.
“Gocke had contacted my friend,” Cunefare said. “She’d said that she was afraid to ask me, but she wanted to know if she could send me Hercules because since Dudas had left, he was not doing very well.”
Hercules and Dudas had been best friends at the landfill and spent all of their time together. Dudas had looked after Hercules in a motherly way.
“My heart broke,” Cunefare said. “I said, ‘That’s horrible. If I’d have known that, they both could have come.’ I can only imagine how awful it was [for him] to watch her leave. So I said, ‘Absolutely send him over.’”
Hercules was transported to the U.S. and came to live with Cunefare on her 2-acre property. The reunion between Hercules and Dudas was beautiful. “They immediately recognized each other,” Cunefare said. “They ran around and they played.”
Hercules and Dudas are inseparable agian, just like they were at the landfill.
Cunefare’s family has grown since Hercules’ arrival, and she now has six dogs from the Turkish landfill: Sky, Millie, Aussie Canga, King Artur and, of course, Hercules and Dudas.
“I’ve been doing this [rescuing dogs] for 13 years, and the Turkey dogs are resilient,” Cunefare said. “They’re housebroken, and they’re more well-behaved than my three dogs from the States.”
Cunefare said it’s hard to decide who is happier — her or the dogs she’s taken in.
“They’re just so grateful,” Cunefare said “They’re like, ‘Oh my God. There are a bed and a blanket. I don’t have to sleep outside. Holy crap, you’re feeding me breakfast every day. This is amazing.’ I have yet to meet one that isn’t grateful for everything that I’ve given them.”
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