I believe it is a part of human nature to want to contibute something meaniful in their lifetime.  Some people search for that "something" with a focused drive.  Some people dedicate their life to contribute on a daily basis, towards those things they believe.

And then, there are people like me who are taken quite unawares...who have an opportuniity dropped right into their lap.  As with all meaningful things in life, the journey is laden with moments when you want to soar like an eagle...and moments when the valley shadows appear to envelope you in their darkness.  The end goal, the passionate conviction in your heart, is what keeps you taking one step after another inspite of the circumstances that surround you.  Sometimes the minutes and hours, days and weeks, seem to roll slowly by as you work towards birthing this important work until one day, it's suddenly arrives and all the sweat and tears you have poured into it produce something that far exceeds your wildest imagination.

This is a story I've waited a long time to share.  My hope is that I can put into the confines of the written word, the the depth and meaning that this journey has blessed me with.  This journey is one that is etched on my heart forever and even if nobody ever knows I had the honor of being a part of this, I will know, the dogs involved with know in away, and those that were involved "across the pond" will know.

That is sufficient for me.

I don't think that anyone could explain all that transpired and all that it has meant more than the one who was instrumental in orchestrating it all...Michael Thomas from Wales, UK.  Here's the article he wrote for his club's magazine that was published in June, 2012:

The Long Road

My wife Tracy and I first met Pat Broadhead in November, 2010.  Earlier that year in May I had lost my “heart” dog and I couldn’t contemplate ever owning another dog.  As the weeks and months wore on our home would echo with the emptiness from that loss.  As Fall came upon us I found myself beginning to contemplate the possibility of looking for another dog.  This was a painful proposition to consider because I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was being disloyal to the dog I had lost.

I began to spend hours and hours researching various breeds of dogs on the internet and one day I came across a picture of a flock guardian dog from Turkey.  There was something unique about this breed that captured my attention so I began to research them in depth in an attempt to learn as much as I possibly could about them.  I was fascinated by their history…it was unlike any other breed I had looked into.  I read about the different opinions about this breed and it was apparent that there was a lot of animosity surrounding the Karabas dog.  In spite of all that I couldn’t deny the fact that there was something about them that captured my heart and I intuitively knew this was the breed for me.

I began to search for a Karabas Owner/Breeder in the UK which proved to be a little difficult until I found the Karabas Club’s website.  Between the Club’s website and the other pieces of information I had gathered thus far I contacted Pat Broadhead and arranged for a visit in early November.  I wanted to see the dogs in person so that I could get a better feel for who they were and what they were all about.

From the moment we arrived at Pat’s place we were in absolute awe of her dogs.  There was a huge difference between researching and reading about them and actually seeing them in person.  It was one of the most special days of our lives and one that is etched on our hearts forever.

We spent a long time talking with Pat about the pro’s and con’s of owning this breed.  She was very forthright in answering all our questions and by the time my wife and I got ready to leave there was no doubt in our mind that we would love to have the opportunity (and honor) of owning a Karabas dog.  At that particular time, Pat did not have any pups available so we began the wait for a litter to be born.  In June, 2011 we brought home our first Karabas…a beautiful and spunky female. We have learned that while the Karabas is a “dog” she is unlike any other dog we have owned in the past so we have learned a lot while walking the journey with this breed.

While we were still waiting to adopt our first Karabas, we attended the Club’s AGM in March, 2011.  It was through listening to what was discussed at that meeting along with the many conversations with Pat that it became clear to me that the Karabas gene pool was very small here in the UK.

In late March, 2011 I began to do some in depth research about the possibility of importing a dog from Europe in the hopes of augmenting our small gene pool.  I attempted to contact a breeder in mainland Europe but received no response to the 3 emails I sent.  I broadened my search and found a breeder in the USA who had bloodlines that I felt would be an asset to our breed here in the UK but before I could make contact with her I discovered she had passed away a few weeks earlier.  Fortunately, there was a link to another site where she had placed her dogs before she had passed.  I contacted Darlene Kelley, who now owned these dogs and explained our problem and concerns in regard to the small gene pool here in the UK.  Darlene was very sympathetic and understanding and expressed a willingness to help in any way she could.  We discussed DEFRA’s guidelines for importing a dog and we both agreed there was no way we could put a Karabas in quarantine for 6 months.  She suggested that she keep the pup until all of DEFRA’s conditions were met to which I whole heartedly agreed.
My wife and I were ecstatic and contacted Pat to tell her the good news.

I forwarded all the details, pedigrees, photos, etc of Darlene’s dogs to Pat.  After careful consideration we decided to go with a pup from an Ancient Warrior/Odaci’s Hediye breeding because of the bloodlines in Hediye’s pedigree.  They date back to the 1800’s over in Turkey and these Odaci lines were very famous in that country.  I contacted Darlene to see if it was possible to reserve the pick of the litter male pup and she agreed.

About a week or so later I contacted Pat because I had an idea and wanted her thoughts on it.  I asked her if she would be interested in a bitch from the same litter if it was available and she said she would definitely be interested.  I contacted Darlene to see if this would be possible and she told me it was available so I reserved the pick of the litter female from the same Ancient Warrior/Odaci’s Hediye litter.

This was when the waiting game began.  Even though it wasn’t, it seemed like forever before I received an email from Darlene stating that Hediye and Warrior had finally mated.  I called her to thank her for letting me know.  She shared with me on the phone that she had also bred Baghatur and Canan approximately 3 weeks earlier and had a question that she wanted to ask me.  She wasn’t sure whether or not I would be interested but wanted to ask if I would let her gift me with the pick of the litter male from Canan’s litter.  She understood the situation in the UK with the small gene pool and since we were interested in the Odaci lines (of which Canan is from), she wanted to share what she has been blessed with, with others who love them as much as she does.

It felt as if she had dropped a bombshell over me.  I cannot put into words how I felt at that moment.  All I can say is that I was stunned that someone would offer to do something like that to try and help.

The pups arrived in the fall of 2011.  Canan’s pups were born on 16/9/11 and Hediye’s pups were born on 9/10/11.  The anticipation of waiting for the pups to finally touch ground seemed like it took forever. 

Thankfully DEFRA modified their animal importation laws effective January 1, 2012 which meant that we would be able to get the pups over to the UK by the end of March.  I began to make arrangements for my wife and I to fly to Atlanta.  As the time neared for us to travel to the States everything started to feel surreal.  All the planning, all the work…everything that had gone into bringing these pups back to the UK, had finally arrived and had gone into overdrive

We flew from the UK to Atlanta on March 15, 2012.  We spent the first 2 nights in the city of Atlanta and on the 3rd day Darlene drove 2 ½ hours from her farm to pick us up.  To say I was a little nervous about meeting Darlene is an understatement.  We had spent over 12 months working on this which culminated in nearly 400 emails and probably 150 phone calls.  The day had finally arrived when we were going to meet this special person who had gone far beyond the call of duty to help me with these pups…and we were only 2 ½ hours away from actually seeing the pups for the first time that would be flying back with us.

We arrived at the farm early in the afternoon and I don’t think I’ll ever forget finally seeing in person, what I had only seen up to that point in pictures online.  It was a fabulous setting as we drove up the long driveway to her house.  There were pastures on each side of the driveway as we drove down it with Kangals in each pasture.  As we drove down the driveway all the dogs would come towards the fence line to look at us.  We had spent so much time looking at their photos on Darlene’s website that it was as if we already knew them.  

New Dawn and Ancient Warrior were in the first paddock on one side of the driveway.  Across the drive was Molly (a Hediye/Sampyion daughter) and Rosemary (a Lokum/Kahraman daughter).  In the third paddock was the iconic Hediye, mother of Sava and Misty.  In the 4th paddock was the inseperable Canan and Baghatur and in the 5th and 6th paddock was Lokum and Kahraman, and Sula and Yaylar.  Up at the house waited our 3 pups, Gazi, Sava and Misty.  I could barely contain my emotions as we went into the house.  I remember Darlene asking if we wanted to see the pups one at a time or all of them together.  I said, “all together”.

We went out to the paddock where they were and it was as if they already knew us.  Sava and Misty came straight to us.  Gazi was a little more reserved even though the way he wagged his tail made me worry he was going to fall over lol.

Meeting the pups for the first time will live in my heart forever.  It was a fantastic experience and the 2 days we spent at the farm with Darlene and her beautiful family were incredible.

We spent some time visiting with all of her dogs and what struck me was how placid and friendly they all were.  All except Kahraman lol, who nearly knocked me over by leaning up against me wanting to be loved on and petted.

On the day of our departure Darlene drove down to the Atlanta State Vet’s Department.  She arrived as they opened at 9am to get all the paperwork stamped so that we could travel with the pups back to the UK.  She left us alone with Hediye in the house and I was absolutely in awe of her.  She is so big but incredibly gentle as she lay down in front of me.  I realized that this would probably be the only time I would ever get to spend with her, along with the rest of the dogs on the farm and the reality of that still weighs heavy on my heart.  It brought tears to my eyes then…and it still brings tears to my eyes now.

Darlene arrived back home about 1pm and we began loading up the trucks to get the pups to the airport in plenty of time for the flight.  We had to be at the airport with the pups at least 4 hours before departure so there was a flurry of activity as we loaded each pup carefully in the truck.

We arrived at the airport in plenty of time and after a rather lengthy discussion with the Delta Airlines cargo employee, we finally got the pups checked in (that’s another story for another time lol).

We arrived back at Heathrow the following day about 12:30pm.  Due to some complications we arranged for James Cargo to transport the pups to our home which meant we would have an additional 7 anxious hours to wait before the pups finally arrived safe and sound.  Once home, they settled in quite quickly, especially considering what they had just been through with the long flight and all.

I had made a point of keeping Darlene’s gift of a pup a secret from Pat.  She was not aware of what Darlene had done so as Pat and Shell travelled to our home the following day, they did so with the intent of only collecting a little female pup.  When they arrived I couldn’t seem to put into words all that Tracy and I had just experienced.  It had been such an emotional few days and now that the pups were safely in the UK I couldn’t contain my emotions any longer.  Thankfully Tracy was able to explain to Pat what Darlene had done.  Not only would Pat be going home with a little girl pup, but a little male pup too!

I called Darlene so that Pat could talk with her and I could tell from Pat’s reaction that she was having a difficult time taking it all in.  Pat got on the phone with Darlene and thanked her for the very special gift.  I could tell that Pat was very moved by all we had accomplished on our trip to Darlene’s.

As I’ve sat here trying to write this all out, I can’t help but see how much my life has been impacted by the Karabas.  My journey started with a heart that was empty because of the loss of my dear canine friend, and has since been replaced with a breed that has touched my heart in ways I’ve never known before.  I’ve been incredibly blessed to own and walk the journey with a UK born Karabas and a USA born Kangal.

I don’t know how these dogs stole my heart, but they have and I consider it an honor to have had the opportunity to help preserve the Karabas here in the UK.  As I’m sure you can see, it’s sometimes hard to put into words these things that lie close to the heart but it’s important to me that I share the work that we did to help benefit the Karabas breed in the UK for many years to come.

A very special and heartfelt thank you goes to Darlene Kelley.  Pat and I will never forget all the time and effort that she put into making this dream a reality for us.  Without her genuine love of the breed and willingness to share, none of this would have happened.  

Michael Thomas

Obviously it was an honor for us to do this work to help our friends across the pond.  I'll never forget those special months I worked with Mike...it's one of those things that is etched on the heart forever.

Here are a few pictures state-side and finally home in the U.K. of the 3 pups we shared with them:

Country of Origin: Turkey

Group: Guardian Dogs (United Kennel Club).

Use today: Guardian, national dog of Turkey

Life Span: 12 to 15 years

Color: Cream to light tan to gray in a sable pattern with a black mask.

Coat: Short double coat, neither wavy nor fluffy.

Grooming: Brush weekly.

Height: 28 to 30 inches for females and 30 to 32 inches for males.

Weight: 90 to 110 pounds for females and 110 to 145 pounds for males. 

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