Kibbutz, Living in Community

Bark if you’re Jewish

I am many things. I am a writer, a wife, a mother, a sugar addict.

But one thing I am not is a dog lover.

In fact, my dog-loving friends would say that is an understatement. They’d say I’m a dog-hater.

They’d be exaggerating. But only a little bit.

For a time, I was a dog-owner hater. And then I realized I only hated dog owners who dressed their pets in sweaters and referred to themselves in the third person as “mommy or daddy” when speaking to their dog.

Now, I’m dog- and dog-owner tolerant.

It’s a prerequisite if you want to live on a kibbutz in Israel.

The two biggest concerns I had when we were considering making Aliyah is how would we keep my nut-allergic son safe in a nut-obsessed culture; and how could I possibly live in harmony with the dogs of Israel?

I tried to prepare myself in advance. I started smiling at dogs. I walked through the dog food aisle at Target. I even instructed my kids to not scream in terror when the neighbor’s dog jumped up to sniff them. Even though I think they have every right to scream and fend off with force any living thing who jumps on top of them against their will. (Why do dog owners think it’s okay when their dog jumps up on a kid? Nine times out of ten, their dog is bigger than my kid. Would they want a big grizzly bear jumping up and scratching in the area of their jugular? I think not.)

Alas, none of this conditioning worked.

On Hannaton, there are a lot of dogs; the majority of which are not on leashes the majority of the time. In fact, when the grownups are off at work during the day, there are more dogs wandering around here than humans. And they are under nobody’s jurisdiction; required to follow nobody’s rules, but their own.

They knowingly strut around — daring those of us humans still at home to just try and keep them from shitting on the playground or barking at passing cars. They stand guard over the owners’ driveways until they find a cat to growl at or a lone jogger to chase.

Most of the dogs here are small enough that I could overcome one if need be. (I think.) At least, this is what kept me calm the other night when a pack of three of them followed me home from my friend’s house.

But there is one dog here who is pushing his mazal.* I had a hunch he was a German shepherd and Google confirmed it. (The irony of his German descent is not lost on me.) He looks like this, only bigger, with sharper teeth and with a really arrogant look on his canine face.

Our first encounter was a week ago, mid-afternoon when I was at the playground with my four-year-old son. The dog seems to live across the street from the playground and barked at us as he stood guard in his driveway (no leash.) I casually kept my eye on him, but in my new paradigm of dog tolerance I didn’t want to overreact.

A few minutes later, the dog strutted over to us. I picked up Oliver and slowly walked towards the steps to my street. The dog followed us up the steps. “Look, mommy, the dog is following us,” Oliver said innocently. “What do you think he wants?”

I don’t know, I thought to myself, lunch?

We made it home unscathed, but my older son didn’t when the same dog barked at him and “stole” his soccer ball yesterday afternoon. By the time he was done with it, the ball was deflated and my eight-year-old dog lover was in tears. My son ran all the way home with the dog chasing after him, until my husband shouted at the dog “Lech!” and the dog walked away. Smugly, I’m sure.

Somehow, my son still wants a dog for his birthday next year.

As if.

Now I have to choose between ignoring a matter that is really important to me or being the annoying American dog basher.

It’s bad enough this dog chewed up my son’s brand new soccer ball, but I’m honestly concerned about my family’s safety. What good is it that your kids can run around alone all day if you constantly have to worry about them stepping in dog shit, or worse yet, being eaten by a German shepherd?

I am certain there is a dog lover reading this who will try to reassure me that domesticated dogs are harmless. That “out in the country” is the ideal place for dog owners to live so their pets can have room to play and run.

My counter argument to that is “buy a farm.”

I truly want to live in harmony with both humans and animals here. And I truly promise to try to be tolerant of your dogs despite my distaste for them. But you have to meet me half way. Be a mensch — keep your dog on a leash or in your own fenced-in backyard.

Thou shalt love thy neighbor, right?

GLOSSARY

Mazal = luck
Lech = Go!