When Nicky Holden went on vacation to Turkey, what captivated her most weren’t the beaches or the people but a stray dog. She had found the desperate pooch collapsed on a street, dirty, neglected and seemingly half-starved. And upon discovering the animal, Holden knew that she had to help in some way – even though, at first, she had no idea what to do.
Holden, an agility trainer and dog-lover from England, had gone to Turkey with her family in 2016. And the holiday had started rather typically, with the clan choosing to unwind by the pool and splash about in the sea. Then, however, they made a fateful discovery.
You see, on the third day of the trip, along with her partner, brother-in-law and daughter, Holden ended up browsing a market in the southwestern city of Fethiye. And in July 2017 she would tell The Dodo, “We were looking at the stalls and exploring the market when we turned a corner and I saw this black mass on the floor. It looked like a pile of rubbish.”
But what had appeared to be trash was actually a street dog. “She was laid there on the ground and everyone was just stepping over her,” Holden later recalled. “It was shocking to see a living creature in such a state, needing help, and hundreds of people just walking past, paying her no attention.”
The dog in question was a young retriever who was seemingly both starved and unloved. “As we got to [the dog], she looked up at us and wagged her tail,” Holden continued to The Dodo. “She was so skinny and could barely lift her head. We sat on the floor with her, and she just laid there, licking our hands.”
Holden added of the dog, “She was skin and bone, she was filthy and her coat was so matted.” Then the pooch gazed up at the woman, and it was at that moment that Holden felt compelled to act on behalf of the neglected animal. So, the family got the retriever some food and water.
And Holden and her other half Sid Gates were so overcome with emotion about the situation that they couldn’t help but weep in the poor dog’s company. That was despite the fact that their reaction had caused people to stop and laugh at the scene. “They couldn’t understand why we cared so much about this ‘worthless’ street dog,” Holden later revealed to The Dodo.
Then, reluctantly, the family went back to their hotel and left the dog behind. “There was nothing I could do there and then,” Holden would go on to explain. “I barely slept that night as I was so worried about her.” The next morning, though, she and Gates set to work to try to assist the animal, spending hours on online research and contacting others by phone.
But, in the end, the effort got the couple nowhere. Therefore, in another bid to find some help for the street dog, they decided to go and talk to people face to face on the streets. And, fortunately, Holden and Gates finally received a lead. A woman in the vicinity was giving out leaflets for an upcoming charity event; through this encounter, Holden was able to get the contact details for Mad About Mutts, a nearby kennel that would apparently help the pooch if the English woman could locate her.
Consequently, Holden and Gates went back to the market at which they’d first seen the dog; this time, though, the retriever was nowhere to be found. “Our hearts sank,” Holden later told The Dodo. “We searched the whole area, looking behind bins and showing people her picture.” She added, “Lots of people tried to put me off going back for [the dog]. They said it was pointless and that we’d never find her.”
Still, Holden and Gates canvassed the neighbourhood. In the process, they made inquiries with local residents and business owners; no one could give them any real clues as to the whereabouts of the dog, though. And even Holden herself had started to doubt whether she and her partner would ever locate the animal.
Indeed, Holden would later relate to The Dodo, “I was losing hope and didn’t think we’d ever see [the dog] again.” But, as it happens, the couple had one final stroke of luck. Holden went on, “We turned down an alleyway and there [the dog] was, slumped in a doorway – we couldn’t believe it. She recognized us immediately, and her tail started wagging.”
The relieved pair subsequently purchased a leash and collar so that they could keep the dog with them. After that, they contacted Mad About Mutts to inform workers there of the good news. And kennel workers swiftly came to the trio’s aid by picking them all up and taking the retriever to the vet.
Consequently, the Mad About Mutts kennel soon became the dog’s new home – but she wouldn’t be there forever. That’s because Holden ultimately made the admirable decision to adopt the animal into her own family. As a result, then, the vacationer began the necessary arrangements to turn the dream into reality.
But the process of officially bringing home the dog wouldn’t be a quick one. Five months would go by, in fact, while the details of the move were ironed out. Holden needed to pay $2,000 towards costs too – although she found the money in just 48 hours. Then, eventually, the big day finally came.
That’s right: after a life on the streets, the dog found her forever home. In November 2016 she flew all the way from Turkey to England, where the animal would become Holden’s tenth canine companion. And the once hungry pooch was ultimately named Kez in honor of a family friend who had not long since passed away.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, though, Kez took time to adjust to her new surroundings. Holden told The Dodo, “[Kez] was very nervous at first, particularly of men. She would bark out of fear. She’d bark at people wearing hats or people on bikes.” But the former street dog eventually came around. Holden continued, “It’s taken time and patience, but she is fine with people now. She loves other dogs, she loves puppies and she loves children. She is so good with my grandson.”
Then Holden’s other pet Tri had a litter of five puppies, and Kez showed so much affection for the brood that it was almost as if they were her own babies. “[Kez] loved the puppies, she worshipped them,” Holden added proudly. “She is the sweetest thing I have ever met; she is so gentle.”
Indeed, Kez took to her new home so well that it may have been difficult to believe that she had once lived on the streets of Turkey. Now, the black retriever is a happy member of Holden’s pack of dogs. She plays happily with toys, can be walked properly on a leash and has undertaken agility training with Holden.
Today, Holden attempts to alert the public to the number of stray dogs in Turkey and helps gather funds for Homeward Bound, a U.K. charity dedicated to rescuing the animals. As for Kez? Well, she now spends her nights on a comfortable couch with a belly full of food and a heart full of love. Let’s hope, then, that more street dogs will have similarly happy endings.