Tamara Taylor teaches English to international students at the Intensive English Language Institute . Away from the classroom, she and her husband raise award-winning goats and dogs. One of their Texas-bred Turkish Kangal shepherd dogs, Hedi, was sent to the Africa-based Cheetah Conservation Fund to help protect the endangered cats. Below is the interview with Mrs. Taylor to find out more about her and her love for the Kangal Dogs.
What is your job at UNT?
Last year was my 25th year of teaching English as a Second Language, ESL, at the Intensive English Language Institute, or IELI. I began teaching English as a second language in 1976, before most universities offered degrees or certification in that field.
How do you choose ESL?
My bachelor’s degree is in English and French from Dominican College in Houston (now defunct), and I have ESL certification from The English Language Centre in London. While working on a master’s degree at Texas Woman’s University, I taught freshman composition and became enthralled with the process and teaching of writing, thanks to one of those once-in-a-lifetime, talented professors. My goal is to make writing in English more logical and easier for my international students.
What do you like about working at the university?
The university setting moves ESL instruction to a new level. Our students are here for academic English and preparation for the related skills they will need in a university. The IELI has a clearly defined mission to teach academic English and to provide needed services to our international students. The result is an environment where the creative and qualified personnel at IELI and UNT-International work to provide the very best education for our university-bound international students, who enjoy the status of being recognized as UNT students with access to libraries, dormitories, activities – a real United States university experience.
How did you learn about Kangal dogs?
In the early1980s, my husband Mike and I bought a small farm and soon had chickens, rabbits, goats – and predatory coyotes and neighbors’dogs. We needed protection for our animals while we were at work all day. A veterinarian friend recommended a Turkish native dog breed, Akbash or Kangal. When my Turkish students at IELI heard I had a real Akbas Çoban kopek (Akbash shepherd dog), they came to visit with other Turkish friends, graduates of UNT. Soon we were friends with Turkish people in the area, and one of them asked if we would accept our first Kangal dog.
In 1995, I was invited to Turkey to present at an international symposium at Selçuk University and talk about how the dogs were used here to reduce the threat of predation. I met a young veterinarian, Dr. Cafer Tepeli, who became a good friend, came to study at IELI, and returned to Turkey to do important DNA research into the native Turkish breeds. In 2005, I was able to travel with Dr. Tepeli and his team of researchers. My Turkish friends find it intriguing that an American woman enjoys visiting villages, drinking ayran (yogurt beverage) and chatting, through an interpreter, with villagers about their sheep, goats and guard dogs. Visiting Turkey, I have always been assisted by Turkish friends, many of whom are members of the Turkish Institute for Police Studies, which has an office here at UNT.
How have these dogs affected your life?
My work with Turkish native dogs has added other dimensions to my life. I stay informed about the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s work with predation control and have done presentations about the breed and the use of dogs for predation reduction. My cooking repertoire has also been expanded to include some simple Turkish dishes.
My affiliation with UNT made it more probable for me to meet and become friends with people who have enhanced my understanding of these dogs and, more importantly, the people and the culture which created them. The Kangal dog is an old world breed that has come to the new world to work at reducing predation and protecting livestock, and now we have been able to send a dog to Africa to start a new chapter in the history of Kangal dogs.
How did you get involved with cheetah conservation?
I offered my support when the Cheetah Conservation Fund wanted Kangal dogs to help protect endangered cheetahs in Namibia.We arranged for the donation of semen and a puppy, Hedi, short for hediye, which means gift.
How are things going for Hedi, above as a puppy, in Namibia?
Hedi, above, is doing well. She immediately settled in with the goats and an older Kangal. We have since received updates and very positive reports on her behavior. But – what would you expect? Texas or Namibia, goats and coyotes or cheetahs – there’s not a lot of difference for a working livestock guard dog!
Do you recommend Kangals as pets?
The Kangal is a large breed, weighing from 110 to 140 pounds in working weight. Like other livestock guard dog breeds, they are protective without being aggressive. They are bite-inhibited, which means they are reluctant to snap or nip. Once they are mature, they are calm and quiet. These qualities make them very good potential family guardians. However, they are also very smart. Owners report that their dogs learned to open round doorknobs, dispense ice from refrigerator door dispensers and generally train the owners.
What animals do you raise here in Texas?
We have purebred dairy goats and our animals have produced two national champions. I also am a judge with the American Dairy Goat Association. That means I travel to shows around the U.S., in Mexico and Brazil. While we primarily raise dairy goats for breeding and dairies, a few of our goats also are sold to facilities that produce both cabrito and halal (kosher) meats for both Texas and international Muslim communities.We have cattle, which our Kangal dogs also protect, particularly during calving season.
Source: InHouse –UNT Sep 18, 2009 (posted by Carolyn Bobo)