“She just laid there, licking our hands. Her eyes were so deep and she gazed up at me. I knew then that I had to do something.”
When Nicky Holden and her family booked their first overseas vacation last year, they had no idea they’d be returning with an additional family member.
Their first few days in Turkey were spent lounging by the pool and swimming in the sea. But on day three, Holden opted to go shopping at a local market in Fethiye with her partner, daughter, and brother-in-law. “We were wandering the market and looking at the stalls when we turned a corner and I noticed this black mass on the floor. “It looked like a mound of trash, but I knew it was a dog,” Holden explained to The Dodo. “She was on the ground, and everyone was simply stepping over her,” she explained. “It was terrible to witness a living thing in such a position, in need of assistance, and hundreds of people just going by, paying no attention to her.” “As we approached her, she glanced up and wagged her tail,” Holden recollected. “She was so thin she couldn’t even lift her head.”
Holden and her family purchased some food and water from a neighboring booth and fed the young, flat-coated retriever, whom they eventually called Kez after a friend of Holden’s who had recently died of cancer. “We sat on the floor with her, and she just lay there licking our hands,” Holden explained. “She was skin and bone, dirty, and her coat was matted to the bone. Her eyes were dark and she looked up at me. I knew I had to act at that point.” Holden and her colleague, Sid, were both crying as a crowd gathered around them.
“They were laughing at us,” she explained. “They couldn’t comprehend why we were so invested in this ‘worthless’ street dog.”
Holden and her family eventually returned to their motel without Katz. “There was nothing I could do at the time,” Holden admitted. “I couldn’t sleep that night because I was so anxious about her.” They spent four hours the next morning in the hotel lobby making phone calls and exploring the internet for someone who could assist Key. However, they were unable to locate anyone who could assist them. They were walking down to a nearby village to talk to the people when a woman handed them a flyer promoting a fundraiser for a local charity, and they raced over. The group put them in touch with Mad About Mutts, a local dog boarding school that volunteered to assist the family if they could find Kez again.
The couple returned to the market, but when they arrived, they discovered that it was closed and that all of the market stalls had vanished. Holden remarked, “Our hearts sunk.” “We scoured the entire neighborhood, peering behind bins and showing people her photo. We knocked on every door in a nearby residential neighborhood. We went down to the harbor and asked all of the restaurant and shop owners.” “I was losing hope and thought we’d never see her again until we went down an alleyway and there she was, collapsed in a doorway – we couldn’t believe it,” Holden said. “She recognized us right away, and her tail began to wag.”
The couple bought collars and leashes from a local pet store, put them on Kez, and then called Mad About Mutts, who soon came to pick up the three of them. They took Key to a nearby vet’s office, then back to the kennels, where she would stay for the next five months until her transportation and paperwork were organized. Holden only needed two days to raise the $2,000 she needed to pay for everything. They then waited.
Finally, in November 2016, Kez arrived as the family’s tenth dog at Holden’s house in England. She’s now a member of the pack, with collies Bean, Bear, Tri, and Tootz, Jack Russell terrier Pip, dachshund Tula, lurcher Otto, kelpie Cross Dex, and bearded collie Casca, though she took some time to adjust. “She was quite nervous at first, especially around men,” Holden explained. “She would bark in terror. She’d yell at folks wearing caps or riding bikes. It took time and care, but she is now comfortable with other people. She enjoys socializing with other dogs, pups, and children. She is wonderful with my grandson.”
When Tri, one of Holden’s other dogs, gave birth to five puppies, Kez treated them as if they were her own. “She adored the puppies, she worshiped them,” Holden explained. “She is the loveliest person I have ever met; she is really gentle.” Kez quickly adjusted to life in a house, learning how to walk on a leash and play with toys. She has begun agility training with her new mother, a top agility trainer. “Many people attempted to talk me out of going back for her. They thought it was pointless and we’d never find her,” Holden explained. “But now, every evening, she curls up on the sofa with us and our other dogs, and we know she’s safe and won’t be hungry or thirsty again.”