by Deniz Çağlar

A year ago today, I swam the longest race of my life, 7 kilometers, from Meis to Kas, for almost 3 hours. But at the time I applied to enter the race, I never imagined how it would turn out to be one of the best journeys of my life. Although I really wanted to swim the race, to be frank I was intimidated by the route. Still, I was determined to try. If the worst came to the worst, they would come to drag me from the water.

But then, with the inspiration I got from my friends who run “Adim Adim” (a way to raise money for causes while competing in races), I decided to swim this race to raise money for the street dogs I love deeply, and that’s how our project, “7 Km for 7 Dogs” started. With this project I was hoping to be able to raise enough money to enable our charity ARK (Animal Rescue Kuşadası) to neuter 7 female street dogs and also help raise awareness for the cause. There is no way for me to forget the happiness I gained from the support I received, both financially and morally, from my family, friends, acquaintances, and even people I don’t know, from the day I announced my intention. This motivation became a huge drive for me during the race too and I not only finished the route but I also won second place in my age category!

Then the journey that took place after the race was at least as thrilling as the race itself! My friends & I from ARK and immediately got on with the job. The first dog we neutered was named after Rusen Gunes, who had not only always believed in me and supported me, but also contributed to this project both financially and morally in a way I could never forget. I wish he were alive now to see this day and feel happiness through reading these lines. I had wanted to surprise him with good news at the end of the project, that Rusen got adopted and now was safe with a very nice family, but we ran out of time and I couldn’t.

Rusen’s friends Keira, Elise, Mavi, Gümüş, Runny, Karabaş, Cisli, Theo, Ollie, Bozo, Leah, Pila, Ada, Ipek, Laika, Badem, Seker, Elisa, Anna, Frida & Bubba; after being neutered by ARK’s panel of vets, they were all lovingly taken good care of by our volunteers and, when ready, some were homed and some were taken back to areas that they knew. Most of the ones that were released are still being monitored by our volunteers.

With the amazing support we got, we completed our journey – we had initially aimed to neuter 7 dogs, but actually succeeded in neutering 22 dogs in a healthy and stress-free manner. I would like to thank our vets with whom we entrusted our dogs for their operations, Özden GÜven, Deniz Esener Iscen, Çağdas Kurklu, Mine Kurklu, Arif Sapmaz, Cihan Sengun and Nevzat Yildizli; my fellow volunteers who helped selflessly with finding nominees, the catching, transport, aftercare and homing of the dogs throughout the project, Banu Engin, Brenda Cassidy, Jane Moulding and Mehmet Erikci; dear Belma Bircil Özgun for helping to raise awareness by inviting me to her radio show, Yasamin Renkleri; my doctor Olcay Ulusoy; the secret heroes of the project, Devrim, Zeynep, Ahmet abi, Ulas ve Emrullah; my friends who supported me by their social media posts and messages, and last but not least, our supporters who made all this possible with their donations.

Within a year we neutered 22 female street dogs in a healthy and stress-free manner. An adult female dog can give birth twice a year and each time she can have 8 or even 10 puppies. I’m not an expert in statistics but with a very rough calculation, even if a say 5 puppies survives after birth each time, that makes 220 puppies within a year. Puppies whom we spared from facing the danger of viral diseases, traffic accidents, and even harassment.

Even though most races are being cancelled due to COVID-19 for a while, when it’s all over, I will start swimming open water races again and we will help many more street animals together.

I hope to meet you in new projects. With love, D.