Meant2Be: Barking up the right (family) tree
My whole married life I wanted a dog, but my husband and I always rented places that had “no pet” policies — not that it would deter me from constantly asking him for one. I was mostly joking, but secretly hoping he’d surprise me and bring one home from work someday.
After all, he works at the Pasadena Humane Society & Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a bit of a tease for me. He would always reply with a kind “no,” and remind me of the no pet policy. However, he promised that once we moved to a place that allowed pets, we would adopt a dog.
Just two weeks after moving into a new place earlier this year, that day came.
The actual process of finding a dog was a little like internet dating. I browsed the Humane Society’s “Available Pets” page every day looking for a match, until I came across a pint-size, tri-color, female Chihuahua/papillon mix named Chalupa. I had been asking my husband about a number of dogs before coming across Chalupa — who looked like she was wearing boots with her white paws and brown legs — but many already had long waiting lists of other potential adopters.
She was found as a stray and was adopted, but then quickly returned. We felt bad that she had to start the shelter process again, so we started the adoption process that day. Two days later — March 4 — she was in her new forever home with us.
Netanyahu family dog put in quarantine after biting guests
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday his family had put its dog in quarantine after she made headlines by biting two guests at a Jewish religious event they had hosted.
“We were compelled, with sorrow, to put Kaiya into quarantine, as required by law,” Netanyahu said on Facebook. He added that he had found unspecified flaws in the conditions for canine custody in Israel that he wanted legislation to fix.
The post did not say what fate might await the 10-year-old mixed breed, which was taken in by one of Netanyahu's sons from a rescue home earlier this year.
Kaiya bit the husband of Israel's deputy foreign minister and a lawmaker, both from Netanyahu's Likud party, at a Hannuka candle-lighting on Wednesday. The latter victim dismissed the incident as “trivial”.
Israel's Channel 10 TV said Netanyahu was himself also bitten by the dog that evening – an account his spokesmen could not be reached to confirm.
6 things every home should have
Whether you’ve just moved into your first home or have been living in the same house for decades, there are certain home essentials that just make life so much better.
Everybody has their own “must haves.” (For example, my mom can’t live without a rice cooker.) My suggestions here are certainly not definitive — they may even inspire you to think of more. How many of these essentials are in your home?
The Mensch List: Hope for Paws founder’s dogged devotion
When Eldad Hagar, co-founder of the dog rescue Hope for Paws, arrived at the trash heap in Wilmington last November, a defeated-looking white husky huddled miserably amid the garbage, her red and raw body racked with mange, bacterial infections and parasites. The dog was too listless to run away or even to move as Hagar approached. But Hagar patiently sat with and fed the dog he would name Miley, until he was able to coax her into his Honda SUV more than an hour later. His heartrending YouTube video depicts the rescue, as well as Miley’s remarkable recovery and her friendship with another stray, Frankie, a black Chihuahua that Hagar saved by crawling deep inside a tunnel running under the I-5 freeway in Sylmar.
Miley and Frankie are just two of thousands of dogs that Hagar, along with his wife, Audrey, have rescued and found homes for since 2001: “I always save the most miserable, saddest, sickest dogs,” said Hagar, who prefers to handle the rescue missions solo. “They’re matted, starving, filthy, shot with BB guns. One pit bull mix had been shot, hit by a car and he was so hungry that he had eaten rocks to fill his stomach.”
Hagar has been rescuing animals since he was 5 in the northern Israeli town of Zichron Ya’akov, where neighbors knew to bring him stay dogs, kittens, birds and even hedgehogs that he would nurse back to health.
After marrying Audrey in 1999, the couple began volunteering with local animal groups and then fostered hundreds of dogs before Hagar began rescuing strays and capturing his missions on videotape for YouTube. The couple founded Hope for Paws in 2008, which survives on funds donated mostly from followers of their two Facebook pages.
One of Hagar’s some 200 YouTube videos shows him tying two ladders together with a leash to save a German shepherd trapped 20 feet below him in the Los Angeles River in Compton; another depicts him saving Frankie from the tunnel where she had almost drowned. But it was the video of Fiona, a terrified, blind poodle mix who underwent surgery to repair one of her eyes, that went viral last year and put Hope for Paws on the global map.
The organization now has 500,000 followers on Facebook, and Hagar has begun a new mission to spay and neuter strays with a mobile unit that treated 1,000 dogs last month. He now works 15 hours a day rescuing up to 20 dogs per week, driving to veterinary appointments and working to find the animals new homes, among other endeavors. “In my car I carry traps, ropes, fencing, flashlights — I’m ready for everything,” he said.
Hagar has rescued other animals as well: Last year, he chanced upon a donkey on the side of the road in the Negev Desert, its front legs tied together with rope that had cut to the bone; he waited for two hours in the searing heat until his friend from Israel’s Pegasus sanctuary arrived to pick up the animal.
“There are 30,000 dogs on the streets of Los Angeles each night,” he said of his work here. “There are so many living in horrible conditions, and they can’t help themselves. Miley, for example, would not have gotten better over time; she would have deteriorated and died a painful, miserable death.”
For information about Hagar’s work, visit hopeforpaws.org.
The Mensch List 2013
Last month, for our eighth-annual mensch list, we again invited all of you to submit your nominations of extraordinary volunteers, and again the outpouring of suggestions of amazing people was overwhelming. We faced this enormous response only to wonder, once again, how to choose from, among others, a Holocaust survivor who makes an annual trek with teens to the Birkenau concentration camp to ensure they know the story; an Iranian-born woman who created an emergency fund for those in need in her community; an Israeli who matches up his fellow countrymen to business contacts and a high schooler who resells designer bags to help African refugees. (And those are just three who made the cut.)
This list could have been much longer — what we offer here is just a sampling of the extraordinary people who give so much to make the world a better place. If your nominees were not included this time, please remember, we’d love to see those names, and more, again next year. We are inspired by all of these stories and highlight this list of mensches each year to motivate us all to live up to their example.
The Mensch List
Eldad Hagar, Dogged devotion
Sidonia Lax, A survivor marches with the living
Jacob Segal, The matchmaker
Stephen M. Levine, A magical ability to conjure up fun
Maya Steinberg, She has tzedakah in the bag
Leslye Adelman, Feeding body and soul
Armin Szatmary, Person of the Book
Leon Shkrab, Bearing witness to Russians’ Holocaust stories
Wendy Colman Levin, The way home
Jews and dogs, unleashed
The Age of Feelings
In the Pacific Coast waters off the Northern California city of Eureka on Nov. 10, a mother, a father and their teenage son all died.
It was not a boating accident or a shark attack.
They died because at least one of them tried to save the family dog, which had been carried out to sea by 10-foot waves. The 16-year-old son ran into the water. When the father could no longer see the son, he ran into the water to save the teen. Meanwhile, the son had gone back to shore. But when he and his mom could no longer see the father, they both tried to save him.
All three drowned.
The dog swam back to the shore.
I relate this terrible tragedy because it illuminates a major issue that we all — especially parents raising young children — need to address.
It is the role of feelings in determining our actions.
Why did this teenager — as have so many others, young and old — risk his life to save his dog? Because he acted on feelings, not on reason or values.
We live in the Age of Feelings. People make big decisions in their own lives, and in the life of the nation, based on feelings.
The heart has supplanted reason and values. Some years ago, I interviewed a Swedish doctoral student about her thoughts on life.
I asked her if she believed in God? No.
I asked her if she believed in any religion? No, again.
So, then, I asked, how do you determine right and wrong?
Her heart tells her, she responded.
One of the first things I learned in yeshiva as a child was not to allow feelings to determine how I acted. This realization took place in fourth grade, when my rabbi announced, “Boys, it’s time to daven mincha” (to say the afternoon prayers).
I walked over to Rabbi Fostag and respectfully told him that “I wasn’t in the mood to daven mincha.”
He studied the comment thoughtfully, rubbing his beard. He had probably never heard the words “mood” and “daven” (or any other mitzvah, for that matter) put together.
Finally, he looked up and said, “Shmuel Prager is not in the mood to daven mincha? So what?”
I learned one of the greatest moral lessons that day — that good can rarely, if ever, depend on the heart. Indeed the Tanakh is filled with warnings against being guided by the heart (and the eyes).
That family might be alive today if someone had told that teenage boy never to risk his life to save his dog.
Someone, ideally his parents, needed to tell him the following:
“All of us in the family love Teddy [a name I’m giving the dog]. But you must understand that you are infinitely more precious to Mom and Dad than is Teddy. As sad as Teddy’s death will one day be, we can always get another dog. But we can never replace you or your sister [a sister is now the family’s sole surviving member]. More than that, human life is infinitely more precious than animal life. We, not animals, are created in God’s image. So, you need to promise us that if there is any risk in saving Teddy’s life — such as happens most frequently when a dog falls into a body of water or is carried away by a current, you will stop yourself from trying to save him. Your death would ruin our lives. Teddy’s death wouldn’t.”
There are no guarantees that this would work. But parents should have such a talk with their children. At the very least, it teaches one of the most important rules of life: that we cannot be ruled by our feelings but must be ruled by values.
We have sent young Americans the very opposite message. How they feel about things has become parents’ and society’s No. 1 concern. Instead of an objective right and wrong, young people are taught only to be concerned with how they feel about an action. The entire Values Clarification movement in public schools years ago was about “clarifying” how students felt about any action (such as whether to return a lost purse). Because there is never a right answer, all that mattered was that they be clear about how they felt.
A generation of parents and educators has now come to believe and to teach that when it comes to sex, teenagers will simply act on their feelings, so all we adults can do is provide them with contraceptives and sex education about contraception. The idea that teenagers might actually curb their sexual appetites if taught to control their feelings and to live by certain values is regarded as antiquated nonsense in this, the Age of Feelings.
But this “antiquated nonsense” is actually a fundamental Jewish teaching. Indeed, if one had to isolate the greatest lesson of Judaism, it might arguably be this: Behavior is what matters. Not feelings.
Feelings make us human, but they are awful guides on how to be human. Tell that to your kids.
Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host (AM 870 in Los Angeles) and founder of PragerUniversity.com. His latest book is the New York Times best-seller “Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph” (HarperCollins, 2012).
Paws of Love: Fur healing’s sake
Ari Gould, 6, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia three years ago. In addition to the physical pain he has endured, the disease and the stressful medical procedures that followed have also left him socially isolated.
The steroid treatments he receives once a month have numerous unpleasant side effects, including increases in anxiety levels.
“When he is on steroids he feels really bad,” said Alissa Gould, Ari’s mother.
During those times she arranges for Ari to visit with Ziggy, a friend he made back in April.
“When Ziggy comes, it totally calms him down and is a great distraction,” Gould said.
Only Ziggy isn’t a boy; he’s a golden retriever whom Ari met through Paws of Love.
Started in 2011, Paws of Love is a volunteer-based project of Chai Lifeline that provides seriously ill children with canine companions from Lend a Paw, a pet therapy agency whose teams of handlers and dogs have been through a rigorous training program. The therapy dogs and their trainers help lift the spirits of chronically ill children and fill the social void that often occurs when a child gets sick.
“When someone is hit with an illness out of the blue, the shock and the terror that strikes a family is overwhelming, especially for a pediatric illness,” said Gila Sacks, coordinator for Paws of Love.
First introduced by Boris Levinson in the 1960s, animal-assisted therapy has grown from fewer than 20 programs in the 1980s to more than 1,000 such programs today. Therapy applications include helping children practice reading, assisting with physical therapy, and providing emotional support to senior citizens and war veterans, among others.
Aubrey Fine, author of the textbook, “Handbook on Animal-Assisted Therapy,” says that while there is little evidence-based research to confirm the effectiveness of animal-assisted therapy, that’s beside the point. “There is a lot of qualitative support out there to say that animal-assisted therapies have value,” he said.
Some evidence is beginning to emerge that dogs can help people with cardiovascular disease. Blood pressure in both the human and the dog may be reduced when the person pets the animal, according to Fine, and people who walk their dogs are less likely to have chronic health problems.
Levels of oxytocin, a neurotransmitter that promotes good feelings, also change in humans and animals when the animal is being petted. And when it comes to the emotional benefits of animal-assisted therapies for children, Fine said, “The animal seems to go under a child’s conscious defense mechanism.”
Sharon Vincuilla, director of Lend a Paw, says she regularly sees the positive effects of animal-assisted therapy. “There was a woman at one facility who never talked, but she would talk to the dogs,” she said.
One Chai Lifeline family, Sacks noted, has noticed significant improvement in their children’s communication skills after several sessions of pet therapy.
In addition to Paws of Love, Chai Lifeline offers a wide range of services for all members of a family fighting a childhood illness. Programs include individual and family counseling, telephone support groups, art therapy for patients and siblings, tutoring, help with medical insurance, referrals to specialists and therapists, big brothers and big sisters mentoring, and retreats for parents. All of Chai Lifeline’s services are free, funded by private donations and grants.
Chai Lifeline has “helped us a lot with food and keeping the Sabbath. They have helped with activities Ari could do that were very sanitary and geared toward his age,” Gould said. “They also have programs to help the moms … relax without the kids, to give them some free time. And they are very good with the children.”
During a July visit, Ari ran out to meet Ziggy, despite feeling ill from his steroids.
Ziggy’s handler, Jody Rudy, said she met Ziggy while walking dogs for a golden retriever rescue organization. She says she quickly noticed he was meant to be a therapy dog.
“It was not so much about me, but about my dog. The thing about Ziggy is that when someone is nervous or having a hard time, Ziggy will pick that person out of a crowd and sit next to them. I saw this in him, and so I wanted to use him to benefit other people.”
Rudy wanted to make sure she was not forcing Ziggy into a job that was against his nature, so she barely trained him at all before the therapy dog exam. “I read what he was supposed to do … and I made the determination that if he was ready to be a therapy dog, he would pass that test. … And he did. It was really easy for him to do it.”
Rudy chose New Leash on Life to get Ziggy certified for therapy, because they make a point of choosing shelter dogs to be trained for therapy.
Although he was too tired to play outside, Ari gave Ziggy his full attention for most of the visit, petting him while telling his visitors about his recent experience at summer camp.
“Ari just lights up when he sees Ziggy,” Rudy said.
For more information about Paws of Love, call (310) 274-6331 or visit chailifeline.org.
Saving Golani: An Israeli puppy’s journey from Jerusalem to Houston
A puppy born in Israel and abandoned in the streets of Jerusalem has completed his unlikely journey to a new home and new life in Houston, Texas: the final stop on a trek that began beneath the wheels of a tour bus that was parked in front of the hotel where Texas State Representative Debbie Riddle (R-Houston) and the tour group she and her husband brought to Israel were staying.
The dog’s cheerful welcome by Riddle and friends who first met the puppy in Israel culminated in an unlikely series of events that began before the Riddles even departed for their trip. The couple had debated whether Israel would be the right place to find the rescue dog they had been looking for, but without success. Riddle vividly recalls the reaction of husband Mike, a Houston estate attorney, who thought he had settled the matter with his unqualified declaration, “No, no, no. We are not going to do that.”
Looking back, though, Debbie – attractive and petit, but a determined and experienced politician now in her fifth legislative session at Austin – insists with a knowing grin that she didn’t go against her husband’s wishes at all because, “We didn’t really find him—he found us.”
An animal lover and horse breeder, Mike didn’t really stand a chance. The puppy was cowering beneath the wheels of the tour bus after being ejected from its mother’s owner’s home. “He was abandoned on the streets right in front of the hotel and he was going to die because he was under the bus. There were a lot of tour buses around and he would have been squished,” Debbie recalls. Besides, she adds, “He immediately took to me.”
Hundreds of thousands of dogs and cats are abandoned each year on the streets of Jerusalem alone. A fortunate handful are adopted by foreign residents willing to go through the time and expense of enlisting organizations that handle the bureaucratic red tape involved in relocating animals – details far more complicated than having the animal vaccinated and brought on-board someone’s flight home.
Dr. Eytan Kreiner, CEO of Terminals4Pets, the veterinarian who handled Golani’s arrangements, told The Media Line that “the first thing to be done after determining that the animal is in good health is to determine what regulations in Israel and in the destination country apply.” In the Riddles’ case, even though, as Dr. Kreiner said, “you could see from the first moment…that he’s physically in good shape…he’s happy… the only thing he wants is attention, attention, to be around people,” it would be a month of vaccinations and examinations along with a trip to the Agriculture Ministry, before Golani would reach Houston.
“To fly a cat or dog from Israel to any place in the world can vary from $500 to about $1500 or more depending on length of time the animal needs to spend in Israel, vaccinations, crating, security, Customs and transportation,” according to Kreiner.
As foreigners transporting rescued animals to their home abroad, the Riddles are not alone. It’s not unusual for visitors to rescue one or more of the hundreds of thousands of dogs and cats abandoned in Israel and ship them home for a new life. Paula Nelson of West Virginia told The Media Line that over the past four years she has flown seven cats home, three of which have become pets for her two daughters. Nelson says, “People are crazy” and attributes the obsession with Israel’s strays as “Jerusalem fever.” Yet, she says that she and her husband, Carl, “have very tender hearts.” They spend about $3,500 annually just to feed the twelve cats, three dogs and a rabbit that live with them on their one-acre plot. But she discourages anyone from bringing back a pet they’re not willing to “take care of for life.”
According to Nelson, “you do it because you love the animal, not because it’s from Israel,” but Debbie Riddle disagrees. For her, that Golani was born in Israel was an important element in her decision to take him home, which is evident in her selection of a name for the dog. In fact, Golani’s breed is mostly Canaani, a breed indigenous to Israel and renowned for it’s prowess as a rescuer. Since part of the dog’s role with the Riddle family will relate to personal protection, Debbie wanted a “tough” name. She named her puppy in tribute to one of the Israel Defense Force’s elite infantry brigades, explaining that, “because he’s going to be a family pet, a member of the family, and also a protector, I felt like the name “Golani” fit him very well. He is very handsome and terribly lovable. He has the instinct to protect but is lovable.”
Deborah Taylor was on a Trinity Church trip to Israel when she found two kittens near Jerusalem’s Temple Mount – the spot holy to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Afraid one would be trampled, she scooped up the kitten and placed it in her pocket book. Her taxi driver led her to Dr. Kreiner to whom she paid $100 per kitten to insure placement off the streets. With two dogs and a cat back home, “my husband didn’t want me to bring more animals home.”
Chaya Beili, who manages the shelter at the, The Jerusalem Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (JSCPA) where currently 200 dogs and about 200 cats are currently boarded, attests to the overabundance of stray animals on the streets of the Israeli capital. She told The Media Line, “We advise leaving cats on the streets as long as they are spade. What’s the point of moving them to an environment they can’t handle? Dogs are a different story. Legally they can’t live on the streets in Israel, and practically it’s more difficult for them.” Chaya receives twenty calls monthly and can’t accommodate many of them.
“I just got a call from someone who found a puppy by the Qalandiya checkpoint [separating Jerusalem and the Palestinian city of Ramallah]. There’s no city responsible at the checkpoint. These puppies are usually strays belonging to Arab villages where spraying and neutering is banned and dog food is barely heard of. We have at least 100 of these Canaani dogs.”
Israel is not the exclusive birthplace of animals America-bound. “In both Afghanistan and Iraq, American soldiers bond with street dogs and go to all measures to bring these animals home”, according to Kelley O’Meara, director of companion animals and engagement at the Humane Society International. According to O’Meara, “Local groups are essential in expediting this complex process which in the case of Afghanistan can cost between three to four thousand dollars [per animal].”
Thirty-five days after their fortuitous meeting alongside the tour bus in front of the Olive Tree Hotel, Golani was brought to the cargo terminal at Ben Gurion International Airport where Dr. Kreiner cleared the final red tape and the dog, now grown to a robust six and a half pounds, was placed aboard a lighted, pressurized area of a United-Continental Boeing 777 jet for his flight to Houston with a Newark stopover for custom clearance.
Meanwhile, back in Houston, inhabitants – human and otherwise – of the Riddle’s 16-acre horse farm anxiously awaited Golani’s arrival. At Houston’s George Bush International Airport, Golani was greeted by Debbie Riddle and some members of her tour group who had witnessed her fateful and dramatic meeting on a Jerusalem street. It didn’t matter whether Golani recognized Rep. Riddle because he remembered her or he became familiar with the scent of the Riddles’ socks left in the dog’s crate. An onlooker would be hard-pressed to deny a bond already existed between owner and pet.
“He ended up the birthday present I wished for,” an emotional Debbie Riddle told The Media Line by phone after arriving home with Golani. “And Golani’s got duel citizenship: Israeli and Texan.”
This article originally appeared at The Media Line Ltd.
Popcorn, a prayer and a trip to Israel
I had suffered from extreme dog deprivation for years and had resisted getting a canine friend as a single person with crazy hours. Shortly after I got engaged in the spring of ‘97 I received a call from one of my dearest friends. One of our mutual clients, a little boy, had parents going through a divorce and they were looking for a home for their toy poodle, Popcorn (who was named thus because his owner thought that he looked like hot, buttered popcorn). Though they loved him they weren’t allowed to have pets in the apartment where they were moving. My friend had watched Popcorn before and urged me to take him. “You’ll never find a sweeter dog- he rarely barks and is good with my kids.” And so we adopted him – sight unseen. On a hot summer day in July his mother delivered Popcorn at age three to our home with a photo of him as a puppy. Though I had had poodles growing up this was my first dog. I had no idea at the time that the universe had delivered the most miraculous wedding present right to my door.
Popcorn quickly integrated himself into our lives. He was so well-behaved that I decided to take him to my office every day. With a PR firm full of women that loved dogs he fit in perfectly. Within no time he became our COO (Canine Operating Officer) by running into the lobby to greet all guests (except for the unfortunate postal workers and delivery people with carts that he mildly terrorized but never injured!), jumping on the couch and sitting next to them – usually with his head on their lap. It was entirely disarming for everyone that walked in the door. Popcorn quickly became our supreme ambassador and was considered a great asset in every new business meeting. He was particularly fond of photo shoots and had the honor of appearing in a number of magazines. His sweet behavior and mellow demeanor undoubtedly calmed down many a client. And he was a ham as well. When one of my clients was posing for the cover of Hollywood Dog magazine Popcorn ran into the frame and nudged out her Golden Retriever!
After the terror of 9/11 hit my universe came crashing down. It started with identity theft after my purse was stolen in New York City and then was followed by a rare cancer diagnosis that required immediate and painful surgery. Shortly thereafter, my deeply unsatisfying marriage came to a close. Words cannot describe the comfort that I received from my canine companion. It was Popcorn always there by my side that helped bolster my spirits on a daily basis. His unconditional love and eternally patient demeanor inspired me to surmount all of the challenges that life was throwing my way.
When I started to date again Popcorn displayed a rare albeit humorous behavioral issue. Though he always welcomed guests into our home over the years he showed clear agitation when a man would venture inside. Within moments he would start to hump his leg! I was shocked that my fixed little guy would do this and yet amused by the reaction of my dates. It definitely broke the awkwardness of dating again right off the bat! Fortunately, I was able to find an animal behaviorist that helped me curb that behavior. She told me that Popcorn now thought that he was the male of the house (and he truly was) and that he was showing his position by humping my male friends. In retrospect I wonder if he realized that it was too soon for me to be dating… Fortunately, after three years when I met the man that would become my husband, Popcorn had mellowed and attached himself quickly to his father-to-be. It seemed as if Popcorn innately sensed that his mom was ready for a relationship again and knew that Steve was the one for me.
Popcorn wasn’t only an asset for my professional life. He widened my social interactions and caused me to become a friendlier neighbor. It was through my many walks with him in our Brentwood neighborhood that we got to know a plethora of canine-loving people. It was one of these friends that brought up a subject that I had been too afraid to contemplate: what would we do when Popcorn died? A kind women with a large rescue dog, Missy, had decided to bury her beloved in a pet cemetery in Calabasas. She said to me, “I’m Jewish- how can I have my dog cremated? We don’t believe in that.” Indeed I am Jewish as well, but the thought of leaving Popcorn in a grave in Calabasas somehow didn’t feel right. It seems to me that scattering Popcorn’s ashes would be the most natural thing to do- and in a sacred place that had meaning.
But what place would that be?
Over the years I learned how feeding my dog a natural food diet would help his energy and longevity- and so I shared my flax seed oil with him, my COQ10 supplement to strengthen his heart, etc. I invested in doing everything that I could to ensure that my little guy would live a long life. I secretly hoped that I would be able to call the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest dog to ever live. My mother (a/k/a the poodle whisperer) warned me that at age 17 I would see a sharp decline in his health and sadly, she was right on target. Shortly after his 17th birthday in May he started to have serious issues: losing balance and falling, lethargy, etc. I was shocked by how quickly this occurred so I took him to the vet thinking that he had contracted a virus. When I suggested that he was ill my vet looked at me sadly and told me that it was very rare that a dog walked through his door at the age of 17. After a panel of blood tests it was determined that there was nothing wrong with Popcorn other than old age. I went home with B 12 shots to administer to him weekly and a bag of IV fluids to give subcutaneously to help to keep him hydrated. After that vet visit there was temporary improvement but he was never the same. Popcorn died six weeks after his 17th birthday almost to the day that I had adopted him 14 years earlier. My little guy waited until I returned from a business trip and died in the comfort of our home where he had spent most of his life. I had decided that a private cremation was the right thing to do. The kind man at the pet mortuary assured me that we would have his remains with his paw print within 10 days.
Towards the end of the business day Popcorn would usually start to scratch the carpeting to let me know that it was time it was time to go home. One week to the day of his death as I sat typing on the computer alone in my office at 6:45 p.m. I heard scratching on the floor. I got up to see what it could be and then I realized exactly what it was – my French poodle had paid me a visit on July 14 (Bastille Day). I knew at that moment that he had been cremated that day and that his little spirit came by to bid me adieu as he left for his next adventure. There was tangible proof that animals also possess souls. When I returned home to tell my husband about my amazing experience I received a quizzical but sympathetic look; however, my alleged chimera was confirmed when we received Popcorn’s ashes a few days later. On the certificate of cremation in black ink it was affirmed that Popcorn was indeed cremated on July 14. And yet what to do with his ashes? How do we honor the pets that have provided us with so much unconditional love for so many years?
I had had a local artist make a painting of Popcorn from a beautiful photo of him taken by my cousins at an Israel rally which hangs in our stairwell. In the background an Israeli flag is billowing. As I looked at the painting I had an epiphany- why not bring his ashes to Israel in September when we travel there on business? I could think of no more sacred place to spread his remains. That flag in the background seemed to be prescient. When I called the rabbi that was traveling with us about some kind of a prayer for Popcorn when we scatter his ashes he was stumped. Could I say the mourner’s kaddish (a Jewish prayer for the bereaved) perhaps? Uncomfortable silence followed. There are no prayers for pets in the Torah, I was told. Indeed the references to animals in there involve sacrifice and consumption. He suggested that I make up my own prayer.
We departed for Israel on September 11 and I decided to bring a portion of his ashes. I thought that the Mt. of Olives would be the perfect location since this is the most holy place to be buried in Israel. Once we arrived in Jerusalem and the day came for our ceremony we were walking through the Old City. I was inspired by the newly built Rambam synagogue where beautiful pink flowers graced the front of the limestone building. After all, Popcorn had the innate wisdom of an old sage so why not spread his ashes nearby? As I took out the bag with his ashes and started to spread them next to the bushes in front of the synagogue I said in Hebrew (through my tears): We bless Popcorn. He will live in our hearts always. I was so emotional that there was nothing more that I could say at that moment except stand there holding my husband. Despite my unbearable sadness I felt an incredible relief. I had found the spiritual solace that I was yearning for to honor the dog that had been my constant companion for so many years. When we returned from our trip we went to synagogue for Rosh Hashanah and as the congregation joined in the mourner’s kaddish prayer, I said a prayer for Popcorn.
Knesset’s oldest guard dog retires
The Knesset’s oldest guard dog has retired.
Kai, a 7-year-old Labrador retriever, was forced to leave his position after failing to pass a fitness test, Ynet reported.
The dog had participated in a variety of security missions, including sniffing for bombs. He has lived in the Knesset Guard’s kennel since he was a puppy, according to Ynet.
Two of the dog’s young offspring are slated to replace him. Kai will receive a certificate of merit at a good-bye party in his honor.
The Knesset found the dog a home with a family in Rehovot.
You talking to me? When dogs are our best friends
I spend an enormous amount of time hanging out with my dogs. At the moment, I only have two, but at various times in my recent history, I have had as many as six. Technically, I believe, that constitutes a herd and therefore makes me somewhat like Jane Goodall — but without all those newsletters and research.
Back in those days, my house looked less like a spread in Architectural Digest and more like the badlands of South Dakota, especially during shedding season, when giant clumps of dog hair floated freely through my living room, not unlike tumbleweeds during a dust storm.
And yet I find it all very enjoyable. For me, living with dogs is kind of like living with exchange students from Neptune. We all try to understand each other, but the bottom line is that we are simply from different planets and most things are just outside of all of our comprehension.
That said, I still find it moving the way my dogs good naturedly attempt to live inside of my rules and limitations, despite the fact that most of what is being asked of them probably seems completely counterintuitive to them.
It was thinking about this sort of thing that led me to write my third novel, “Walking in Circles Before Lying Down.” My intention was to try and consolidate my thoughts and feelings about loving and trying to understand the dogs with whom I share my life.
The book is about a woman who so loses track of the direction her life should be taking that when she finds that she can suddenly talk to dogs, she starts wondering whether they are offering advice worth taking.
Dawn Tarnauer’s life isn’t exactly a success story. Married twice before she was even out of her 20s, she now has yet another boyfriend. But at least she hasn’t married him.
She’s still not sure what she does for a living or even what she wants. But after her second marriage crumbles, she finds herself moving in with her sister, Halley, and taking over her job baby-sitting dogs at a dog day care center so Halley can use the time to launch her career as an Internet-certified life coach.
As a roommate, Halley leaves something to be desired. She not only has many platitude-filled, life-coaching affirmations and body language techniques she wishes to practice on Dawn, but a well-documented attraction to sociopaths, having once dated convicted wife- and baby-killer Scott Petersen.
Then there’s Joyce, Dawn and Halley’s narcissistic mother, who continues to pursue a grandiose identity, this time marketing something called “The Every Holiday Tree” that she has developed with her Korean boyfriend, Ng, and is hoping to sell to Wal-Mart. Rounding out Dawn’s life is her mostly absentee father, Ted, who models his life and wardrobe after his long-dead rock idol, Eddie Cochran. He is mourning the end of his brief third marriage by scheduling two dates for the same night.
The one reliable constant in Dawn’s life is her new dog, Chuck, a pit bull mix she adopted from an animal shelter. When Dawn’s boyfriend surprises her one morning with an announcement that he’s leaving her for someone else, her world begins to unravel. Never having been dumped before, she finds herself sobbing into Chuck’s fur; “Now what am I supposed to do?”
She is stunned when she thinks she hears Chuck reply, “Come on! You must have at least suspected there was someone else. Couldn’t you smell her on his pants?” He then vows to take over as the new alpha of their pack, since he feels that Dawn’s instincts have proven continuously unreliable, claiming that he will use his much more reliable centuries-in-the-making canine instincts to help Dawn find better solutions to all of her dilemmas.
From that point on, Dawn realizes that she can talk to all dogs. Either that or she is going crazy. As she debates this with herself, it soon becomes a case of be careful what you wish for, because although the dogs have much to say to Dawn, what they consider good conversational topics aren’t always the kind of thing most of us want to hear.
There is also the dilemma of what to believe. When a dog in her care reveals that it is being abused, Dawn wants to act on this. But should she? How does she know whether the conversation she is hearing is real? What if the actual problem is that Dawn is delusional?
These are questions that I deal with in my own life on occasion. My book provides the best answers I can come up with.
For the Kids
We Are All Kings
We are told in parshat Shelach to wear tzitzit, a fringed garment. This is so central to Jewish identity, that the white-and-blue tallit became the model for the Israeli flag. Wearing fringes on the edge of your garment was, in ancient times, a sign that you came from nobility. So, why are the Jews instructed to do this?
Everyone wears certain clothes based on where they are going or what they are doing, such as going to school, temple, parties or the beach. Jews who wear tzitzit always remember that they are like the holy priests, always striving to act like noble and generous kings and always remembering their relationship with God. You, too, can wear or imagine yourself wearing the holy fringes.
Over the next few weeks, we will be publishing essays and poems by children who won the San Fernando Valley fifth-grade writing contest. The theme of the contest was: My Special Friend. Awards were given out on Sun., May 25, at the Encino Community Center, by the California Writers’ Club. Here are a few excepts of a third-place essay by Jacob Rooks, 10, of Woodland Hills.
Happy, My Imaginary Stuffed Dog
My stuffed dog, Happy, is always going on adventures with me. For example, I remember the time Happy and I went to Shambam Waterfall (which is really the back of my bed). He almost fell off, but made it back in the end. Another time, we went to Hinkytwink Forest (which is under my bed). Cocoa Volcano is located near my night table and the Himper Pits are in front of my bed.
Happy is happy, energetic and playful. Sometimes, Happy gets lonely when I’m at school. Recently, I bought a stuffed tiger that I named Hobbes. Now Happy has someone to play with.
How did I get Happy? The neighbors gave him to me after their dog bit me! So now I have my very own dog, and he doesn’t bite!
I want to tell you what happened at Shambam Waterfall. We decided to visit the waterfall because the other stuffed animals said it was really pretty. Happy wanted to climb it. At first I said no, but in the end he talked me into letting him climb. When he got about halfway up, he found a cave behind the fall, where he sat for a few minutes. The he climbed all the way to the top. He tripped on a rock and fell, but I caught him.
I hope that soon Happy and I will go on another adventure!
Creating a Picture of Unity
Here is something exciting for all of us to participate in:
The Jewish Dream Network (JDN) would like Jewish children worldwide to send in Prayers for Peace, accompanied by a digital photo of themselves. These will become part of a photo mosaic, which will be sent to the Western Wall next Chanukah. It will also be housed online and reproduced as posters and cards. Tobey Herzog, founder of JDN, says that “this is a way to create a picture that shows that we [Jews] are a family, and we take care of one another.”
Please send your prayers and photos to: email@example.com .
A Canine Commencement
A black Labrador retriever, proudly bearing Israeli and American flags, joined several dignitaries on stage this month to celebrate the first graduation exercise of Pups for Peace.
The ceremony marked the end of an intensive two-month training course for 20 dogs — Belgian and German shepherds and Labrador retrievers — who will soon see service in the Jewish State as explosive-sniffing canines to foil would-be terrorists.
Sharing the honors were the dogs’ human companions, 14 young Israeli soldiers and policemen, who also helped build the training site and kennels at a well-guarded Los Angeles location.
The project, initially conceived by Dr. Glenn Yago just six months ago, set a record for red-tape cutting and fundraising on both the American and Israeli sides.
Yago’s goal is to send 1,000 trained dogs a month to Israel, “enough to form a screen across the country,” said veteran trainer Mike Herstik, director of canine operations.
The cost for training one man-dog team is $10,000. Close to $1 million has been raised so far from 300 donors, foremost the Jews in Crisis Fund of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, which presented a check for $675,000.
Consul General Yuval Rotem, expressing his thanks on behalf of Israel, said that, “By enhancing our security and saving lives, you are keeping our hopes alive.”
A tour of the kennels showed the dogs barking and leaping vigorously, a performance that gave Rabbi Dan Shevitz a good feeling. “The Talmud tells us that when dogs howl, the Angel of Death is coming,” he observed. “But when dogs frolic, they foreshadow the arrival of the Prophet Elijah and the promise of eternal life.”
Service for the Dogs and Cats
The rabbi wore a pooch-print tie.
The rebbetzin sported a pussycat brooch and a doggy bone pin “to give equal time” to man’s best friends. The congregants arrived two by two, with canines and felines in tow.
On the occasion of Parshat Noach – the yearly Torah reading of the Noah’s Ark story – some 40 members of B’nai Tikvah Congregation in Westchester gathered for their fourth annual “Celebration of the Animals” on the shul’s cement courtyard. Rabbi Michael Beals’ collie, Yofi (“Beautiful” in Hebrew), shook paws to the command of “Shalom.” A 100-pound great Pyrenees named Romeo nonchalantly sat in his own chair. Westchester United Methodist Rev. John W. Mills, Jr. fussed over his feisty Jack Russell terrier as someone introduced a 13-year-old mixed-breed named Bubbie. There were chows and West Highland terriers, tabbies and mutts, meowing and yapping along with the animal-related readings. The unique program just won an award of excellence in the ritual category of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Beals noted over the cheerful din. “There’s never been an event like this in Conservative Judaism, or any Judaism,” he said, cradling his blue-eyed ragdoll cat, Shovav (“Naughty”).It all began while Beals was finishing up at the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1997, when his veterinarian wife, Elissa, noted the line that stretched all the way down Amsterdam Avenue the day the local Episcopal cathedral offered its “Blessing of the Animals.” “She came home, all excited, and said, ‘We should do this,'” Beals recalls. “And I said, ‘Uh, well…'”
A “Celebration of the Animals” would be liturgically correct, Beals discovered, after finding myriad animal references in classic Jewish texts. Moses, for example, gets the OK to lead the Jewish “flock” after he’s concerned enough to search the desert for a lost sheep.
At the B’nai Tikvah celebration, participants shared shaggy dog stories in between readings from Talmud and the Tur (a medieval Jewish commentary). Richard Seigel, 9, described how his beagle-mix, Jazzy, was rescued from an abandoned trailer; the mutt’s since been known to bury bagels in the backyard. A mom spoke of how her golden lab, Lady, previously a breeding female, had never lived in a house and was scared of TV when she was adopted by the family. Now the pooch is helping her 5-year-old daughter to sleep in her own bed.
The owner of a couple of Australian blue shepherds confided that “Celebration of the Animals” brought him to shul for the first time ever. “An event like this helps get people through the door to encounter their Judaism,” concurs Beals, who hopes other temples will follow suit.
“We want lots of copycats,” he quips.
People interested in organizing “Celebration of the Animals” at their own shuls can call Rabbi Beals for information at (310) 645-6262.
A Dog Tale
Author Paul Auster and his daughter, Sophie, were strolling on Seventh Avenue in Brooklyn one day when they spotted a woman standing beside a skinny, scruffy, fearful, “completely ravaged” golden-yellow dog. Around its neck hung a sign: “Please adopt me. I need a home.”
The mutt was shivering with fever, his nose bleeding from a beating he had received from some bad men. “But there was something that drew me to him, a kind of human gaze in the eyes,” says the author of 15 books and films such as “Smoke” and “Lulu on the Bridge.” Auster promptly adopted the dog and named him Jack, after the hero of his favorite Elizabethan novel, “The Unfortunate Traveler.”
The canine hero of Auster’s latest novel, too, is an unfortunate traveler, a kind of Wandering Jew, Auster says. In “Timbuktu” (Henry Holt, $22), Mr. Bones plays Sancho Panza to his master’s Don Quixote; Willy Christmas, nee Gurevitch, is a homeless, schizophrenic writer, the son of Holocaust refugees who expires and leaves Mr. Bones to fend for himself in a world where “a dog alone [is] no better than a dead dog.”