April 11, 2022
We got more than we bargained for in our travels through Turkey. After a few days on the Gallipoli peninsula visiting the battlefields of the Anzacs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corp) and the city of Troy it was time to move on. Not far outside of Çanakale a very young puppy crossed the road in front of Janell on a busy motorway. It was very unusual even in Turkey to see such a youngster alone and on a busy motorway so we had to stop and check. She was so tiny, a little black fluffy (but quite dirty) ball, and appeared to be no more than 6 weeks old and had found herself in the medium strip (wide gutter) between the two flows of traffic. We searched everywhere for her mum knowing that at her age she would still be dependent and could not have ventured far. After an extensive search of the area and seeing that she was very different to any other street dog in the area, or from what we’d seen in Turkey in general, we concluded that she must have been dumped.
She seemed happy to come along with us and got herself comfortable in Janell’s Pillion Pooch, empty at that time as Weeti and Shadow were riding together for warmth. We travelled with her for a couple of days covering around 400km while trying to work out what to do. We contacted rescue centres but they were already overwhelmed. To be honest we weren’t devastated, we’d fallen in love with the little terror and were happy to find a way of making it work.
While riding we threw around a few ideas for names over the comms, but nothing seemed right. We wanted something that represented where she came from and so a Turkish girl's name made sense. Janell Googled a list and towards the top was a name that had a nice ring to it and would be easy for us to pronounce, Azra.
The decision to adopt Azra was going to slow us down. Getting her properly vaccinated like Weeti and Shadow would take nearly 3 months and she also needed a Rabies Titre Test which we calculated would put us over our allowed 90 days in Turkey. But the thought of what would become of her if we didn’t have her join us was more than enough to convince us we would work this out. But our first obstacle to overcome was a Pet Sit commitment through Trusted House Sitters in Cyprus we had agreed to months earlier. There was no way we could smuggle Azra into Cyprus.
Azra’s first night with us was fairly easy, we gave her a bath, something to eat and then she slept, presumably exhausted from her ordeal. However, the second night was tough, she cried all through the night and vomited a number of times. We weren’t sure if it was something she’d eaten or maybe a bad reaction to the flea treatment we had administered but we weren’t taking any chances, the next morning we took her straight to a Vet.
Janell hoped on Google maps and researched Vets near our Hotel. A lot came up so we decided to pick one with a good rating based on lots of reviews and the most recent comments written. Artemis Veteriner Klinigi was the one Janell chose, a 5 star review based on 49 reviews. On examination, the Vet, Selim, determined that Azra had typical symptoms of Parvovirus and conducted a quick test for confirmation. A few minutes later the results came back positive. We knew nothing about Parvo other than being one of the pathogens we vaccinate Weeti and Shadow against. Selim explained that Parvo is deadly to puppies, very contagious and usually kills within 5 days of diagnosis. We were absolutely gutted and willing to do whatever was needed to get her through. Selim told us that there was a treatment requiring 5 injections a day over 11 days but she would need to remain local for the duration. Our Pet Sit commitment in Cyprus meant that remaining local wasn’t an option, not for both of us in any case. With this in mind we asked that Selim kennel Azra and administer the treatment with her staying at the surgery and then keep her on until we could return in a month's time…if she survived. Selim was initially reluctant as this would put other animals in the surgery at risk, but finally agreed after considering ways to isolate her during the treatment. So off we went, continuing our travels along the Turkish coastline towards Taşucu whilst keeping in regular contact with Selim and getting daily Azra updates.
Our trip to Cyprus didn’t quite go as planned, and that's putting it mildly. We took the ferry from Turkey to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), a disputed region. That went well enough and we even had 2 relaxing nights in the TRNC before doing the ‘border crossing’ into Cyprus. Due to regulation put in place during the Cyprus ascension into the EU, animals (including pets) are forbidden from crossing the land border between the north and south of the island. After 90 countries, this was the first time we couldn’t cross a border because of our dogs. A very quick and upsetting conversation resulted in Janell proceeding to do the pet sit and Stu returning to Turkey with the girls. We were separated for about 3 weeks and over the period was Christmas, New Years and Janell’s Birthday.
Once we accepted and settled into the situation we were in it was fine. Stu connected with the Turk Riders Chopper Club Adana syndicate. He stayed at their clubhouse in Adana and was very well looked after by the General President Ruhsati, the Adan Club President Özgür and a man we came to recognise as the best cook in Turkey, Taner. Meanwhile, Janell had a beautiful house in the middle of Nicosia with a Nespresso machine and two adorable boys to keep her company. But Azra was still on our minds and from Cyprus, Janell demanded Stu return to collect Azra who had made a full recovery from Parvo and was now terrorising the clinic. Stu agreed (reluctantly), but only after Christmas so he could rest a couple of days and be able to spend Christmas chatting with family and friends in peace.
It was 1000km to travel from Adana back to Selcuk to collect Azra. The weather had become seriously cold and with car hire available at just over $10 a day it made little sense to ride with the girls. Taking a car also allowed them to travel through the fast mountain route. The excitement grew with every km and now Stu could hardly wait to see Azra, but arriving late, he would have to wait until the next day. Stu returned to the same hotel we had stayed when we initially passed through, Rebetika Boutique Hotel Selcuk. The owner, Rebetika, had been wonderful then and had been genuinely concerned about Azra. While we had been away, Rebetika had visited Azra at the Vet Clinic and was so happy we were helping Azra that she refused to accept any payment for the room.
It was a sunny but chilly morning as Stu, Weeti and Shadow walked over to the vet clinic. No sooner had they entered and Azra came barrelling over to greet Weeti and Shadow, wetting herself whilst rolling onto her back. It was quite a display! It had been a couple of weeks but they all remembered each other. There was some paperwork to complete and photos to take and then Azra was out of the clinic and clearly ready to be part of our pack.
All three dogs were perfect on the return trip to Adana, nearly 16 hours of travel. Regular stops were of course key and keeping Azra contained. Back at the Clubhouse in Adana though Stu’s cushy life was about to change. Azra would need to be taken out every 4 hours day and night, require pretty much 100% supervision and very much interrupted sleep at night. Getting her to bed at night would seem impossible at times with FRAPing, Frenetic Random Activity Periods (FRAP), which occured at random times, but usually around bedtime, and involved Azra running around as quickly as her little legs would take her, digging frantically at the ground and just being a general terror to everyone. Luckily, the clubhouse had a huge courtyard, this allowed Stu to get Azra running around and wear her out during these manic bursts.
Stu was able to get Azras vaccination process started in Adana by getting the Rabies jab. Easy enough to get, but to our surprise Turkey had a centralised database for all animal records, this is great, but it means you need to have a Turkish ID number to own and vaccinate a dog, even if you are exporting it. Without this Azra’s details couldn’t be saved and the Vet couldn’t legally enter her details into a Turkish Pet Passport or issue a Health Certificate to cross borders. Ruhsati’s daughter, Ceren, came to the rescue and graciously gave up an entire day to help obtain this ID number. The process actually was fairly easy, it just wasn’t in English and would have been a nightmare trying to workout through Google Translate. So, with the Turkish ID, Stu was able to register Azra’s Microchip and vaccinations.
Eventually, on the 11th of December, Janell returned to Turkey and rode the 175km from Taşucu to Adana and the pack was reunited. Now Stu had someone to share the puppy workload.
We still had more requirements to meet in making Azra travel ready and prepared to cross borders. Our pre-Azra plan had us travelling directly to Lebanon via ferry and continuing through Jordan and Saudi Arabia while the weather was cool. Without detailing the timeline of vaccines and tests it would take about four months. We only had a total of 90 days in Turkey so we would have to leave without the Titre Test results but with all the vaccinations complete. We couldn’t impose on the motorcycle club for that period so we got a car rental and an apartment in Istanbul for the remaining two months. The motorbikes were safely stored in one of the clubhouse rooms.
At this point in time we also didn’t have a Carnet for our motorbikes and with Iran, Pakistan and India ahead of us we knew we needed to solve this. Having Bulgarian registered bikes meant we would need to obtain a Bulgarian Carnet. We made contact with the Bulgarian Carnet issuer and after providing the list of countries we wanted to visit, they deemed our trip too risky. So we contacted Polly at MotoCamp Bulgaria, she had been amazingly helpful in the past and we knew that if anyone had a solution to our problem she would. She quickly put us in contact with a biker who had recently obtained a Carnet, but only after personally visiting the office and providing her planned route in detail and evidence of previous overland travel to show she was genuine. She suggested that we were best off visiting in person with as much supporting documentation as possible. To this, Polly added that we might try and get a letter from a dealer or BMW themselves to give our case some real credibility. We decided to go all out, we contacted the dealership in Plano, Texas (through our good friend John) where we had originally purchased our motorbikes and they provided a letter of support on their letterhead. With this in hand we approached a dealership in Bulgaria to get a Bulgarian written equivalent, and then things snowballed in a good way. Our request has landed at BMW Headquarters in Bulgaria and they personally contacted the Carnet issuer on our behalf to request the Carnet. With this kind of weight behind our request it was subsequently approved and within two days we had Carnet’s in our hot little hands.
With Carnet’s in hand and Azra’s vaccinations requirements mostly met (for the Middle East at least), it was time to service the bikes and hit the road. It was so good to be back in Adana with the Turk Riders and they all chipped in to assist us preparing our bikes for the journey ahead.
The next challenge would be getting Azra used to the motorbikes. She’d ridden a few hundred kilometres when we first picked her up and didn’t mind at all, but she was scared and exhausted then and was put in a dark, warm and comfortable space that must have seemed safe. Now we were going to expect her to ride day after day. Janell got straight onto treats and activities around the bike including getting her on the bike and sitting in the Pillion Pooch. She was nervous at first but got the hang of that quickly.
When we left Adana we put Azra with Shadow, we felt would calm her nerves and give her comfort. This was great, Azra looked to Shadow for guidance all the time so if Shadow was okay with this then Azra was as well. But after a week or so it was obvious that Azra was too much for Shadow and we should try her on her own. Shadow and Weeti were used to riding together so it was no drama putting them together. To our great relief, Azra didn’t seem to mind riding by herself. The arrangement with Weeti and Shadow on one bike and Azra alone on the other allowed us to completely close up Azra when needed and allow Weeti and Shadow to ride fully or partially open which they prefer under most weather conditions. So the arrangement was a win-win.
Our plans changed regarding visiting Lebanon, which in part was aided by the adoption of Azra and massively delaying our entry to the Middle East. With warmer climates and much less snow we could now travel across eastern Turkey and through Iraq to reach Jordan.
It wasn’t until we reached Jordan, two months after Azra gave blood, that her Titre Test results returned from the lab in Istanbul. Knowing we needed these results to enter Saudi Arabia, we quickly arranged a DHL shipment with the help of a friend in Turkey, Öykü, collect the results and courier them to us in Amman. Azra’s vaccination process was finally complete.
Azra is proving to be a great addition to our pack, she guards the bikes in a different and complementary way to that of Weeti and Shadow. Although they have their moments, they get on OK, all five of us can sleep together in one sleeping bag and in one tent which says an awful lot. As Azra ages she will calm down and her energy levels will become even more tolerable. We are excited to see the lady she is going to become and hopefully we do a good job teaching her to move through the world.