A sweet dog, named Hercules, was living at a garbage dump. Every time someone came to dump their belongings, the dog would run over to greet them. In his own way, he was asking them to take him home.
Sadly, no one did. Maybe they viewed him like trash because of where he was living and how dirty he was. The smart dog would know which cars belonged to people who would come and feed him and he would run happily over, jump up to the window and say hello.
Amanda Cunefare, a volunteer for Rescuers Without Borders (RWB), an organization that rescues dogs in Turkey, told The Dodo, “He’d jump up on the windows of the car, and he clung to every person. He was a people dog.”
Shockingly, he wasn’t the only dog living at the landfill. More than 800 other strays lived there too. It was a hard life. The conditions were heartbreaking. It was cold and there was no food around. The dogs scavenged the best they could but it was obvious they were starving.
“It is cold, there is no clean water and food is scarce,” Cunefare explained. “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.”
Four years ago, a young Turkish woman, named Gocke Erdogan began feeding the dogs at the landfill and getting them medical care. Even rehoming the dogs when possible. Last year, RWB decided to join Erdogan and help the landfill dogs. The team has saved 47 of the landfill dogs and rehome them. For the others, they continue to feed them and get them veterinary care.
RWB wish they could rehome all the dogs but they don’t have the resources. For now, they focus on puppies and senior dogs who have a harder time surviving the harsh conditions.
Hercules fell into the other category. He wasn’t a puppy and he wasn’t a senior. He was also strong and doing better than most considering where he was living. But Hercules wanted to leave. He desperately wanted a home. He would run to the volunteers’ vehicles and tried to hop inside.
“This dog wanted out so badly,” Cunefare said. “You could see it in his eyes.”
Cunefare had never been to the dump herself. She resides in Illinois but has already taken in one of the landfill dogs, named Dudas, a 10-year-old dog who lived there for at least 5 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.”
RWB knew that Hercules would thrive with Cunefare but were afraid to ask her to do so since Dudas had a lot of challenges of her own. Plus, Cunefare took in another senior landfill pup named King Artur.
“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.”
Turns out that Hercules and Dudas were actually best friends at the landfill and Dudas had become a sort of surrogate mother to Hercules. It was a rough place but Dudas made it her mission to look out for Hercules. Once she left, Hercules was broken hearted.
“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.’”
With Cunefare’s approval, Hercules was transported to the U.S. to live with Cunefare and Dudas on the 2-acre property. Hercules and Dudas’ reunion was pure magic. “They immediately recognized each other,” Cunefare said. “They ran around and they played.”
Cunefare is amazed by the landfill dogs. Their resilience is inspiring. They are also so well-behaved! Better behaved than her adoptees from the U.S.! It’s almost like they understand how much better life is now.
“They’re just so grateful,” Cunefare said “They’re like, ‘Oh my God. There’s a bed and a blanket. I don’t have to sleep outside. Holy crap, you’re feeding me breakfast everyday. This is amazing.’ I have yet to meet one that isn’t grateful for everything that I’ve given them.”