A stray dog named Boji has become something of a celebrity in Istanbul, as he travels throughout the city on its ferries, trams and subway vehicles.
His escapades came to light a few of months ago, and local officials began to track his activities. They were surprised with his inventiveness.
“He knows where to go. He knows where to get out,” said Avlin Erol, the head of customer relations at Metro Istanbul.
Boji is projected to travel up to 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) a day, travelling through dozens of Metro stations and taking at least two ferry crossings.
“He’s such a free spirit,” said Chris McGrath, a Getty Images photographer who recently spent a day following Boji about the city. “All he wants to do is ride on transit. Every time he walks past a bus or van or any type of transit, he just wants to get on it. It’s really quite bizarre.”
McGrath first saw Boji on Twitter, where people upload photos and selfies of themselves with the mixed-breed dog. Now the dog even has his own Twitter and Instagram accounts with tens of thousands of followers.
“Everybody knows him now and everybody’s seen him,” McGrath said.
For many, the dog has become a beloved member of the community.
“He went into one restaurant and two men sort of shooed him away, yelled at him,” McGrath said. “And then you hear someone else, another restaurant owner, hollering at those men going: ‘It’s Boji! It’s Boji! Don’t shoo him away!’ So he’s clearly got celebrity status now.”
City personnel are very protective of Boji, and they have been caring after him. Early this month, they took him in for some grooming and a medical examination. They also ran a behavioral study to make sure he was Alright and that all the human interaction isn’t an issue for him or people around him.
“They brought him to a training camp type of thing and gave him some some TLC, some grooming, some shots,” McGrath added. “They observed him interact, repaired his tracking collar, and that took about a week.”
The municipality even erected a tiny cage for him at one of their Metro stations, and they feed him anytime he wants to come back.
City personnel maintain checks on Boji from afar, using a smartphone app to track his activities. McGrath teamed up with them last week for his day following Boji.
“He knows precisely where the doors are for the trains,” McGrath exclaimed. “He’ll stay on the side of the platform, and as soon as he feels the vibration of the train approaching, he walks to the extreme end of the platform and then basically chases the train back and waits at the door. He knows exactly where the doors are. He’s rather forceful actually; people are trying to get off, he tries to get on.”
When Boji gets on a ferry, he knows precisely where to go: the side with the sun.
“He likes the water,” McGrath added. “When the ferry starts departing, he starts barking at their waves.”
“He checked one, and people were climbing on. I don’t know how he knows, but that one was heading to Eminönü. And the second one was headed to Beşiktaş. Then he checked the Eminönü one and decided no, that’s not the proper one. And then he ducked beneath the turnstiles and moved on to the Beşiktaş one. I don’t know how he knows, but he appears to adore riding the Beşiktaş ferry.”
“At the ferry, he’ll sit in the back where the motor is because the vibration, he likes it,” McGrath added. “And then when he’s on the Metro, on the subway train, he sits where the wheels are — like down beneath on top of the wheels. He always likes this feeling of sitting on those.”
It’s this region of the subway train where Boji gets his name. It’s known as the bogie region, in railway parlance, and bogie translates to boji in Turkish.
If there’s anything Boji doesn’t like, it’s cats. And he comes across several stray cats on his travels.
“Istanbul is dubbed Catstanbul because there’s so many cats here,” said McGrath, who’s been based in the city for six years now. “(Boji) sees a cat in the distance, and he simply pursues it up. I watched him do it three or four times, chase them up trees and whatnot. He truly dislikes cats.
“But other from that, he’s really a great dog. Simply walks around. Everyone pats him. He’s extremely happy.”
Because there are so many stray animals in Istanbul, it isn’t hard for Boji to get food.
“There’ll be water and a food dish out for animals concealed discreetly in the nooks of restaurants or houses,” McGrath added. “So (Boji) knows where to go.
“He was on the way to the ferry, and there’s a taxi stand and there was a tiny housing for a cat and some bowls and he stops there and drinks. And there’s a photo of him on the subway drinking, and that’s like a municipality’s food-and-drink place for animals. He knew exactly to go there.”
McGrath said the municipality would soon be putting up some information signs about Boji on the transport system, offering people some advise about how to interact with him.
But don’t expect the dog to heed orders.
“He doesn’t listen to anybody,” McGrath added. “Like if you do attempt to tell him something, he just ignores you essentially. Plenty of people say, ‘Oh, come over here, sit here,’ and he just ignores it, he goes where he wants to go.
“He’s definitely that type of spirit. He simply wants to go and do his own thing and travel around, and he’s pretty satisfied doing it.”