I HAVE never really been much of a pet person. But if I ever would entertain the idea, between the two most common pets, dog or cat, I am most definitely not a cat person.
I hope I am not offending all cat lovers out there, but I just don’t understand why anyone would want a cat (although who doesn’t adore those little kittens?). Maybe it’s the Israeli in me. In Israel, alley cats are practically like rats.
On the other hand, I can understand the desire for having a dog. I have been witness to loving, comforting dogs who have become a part of people’s families, providing a lot of emotional support, comfort and affection. As the saying goes, man’s best friend.
Growing up in a religious neighborhood in Israel, dogs were practically unheard of. To be precise, there were only two: Black-y, who was black as a chimney, and Krembo, named for the uber popular Israeli treat, a version of the American Malomar bar. They both ran loose around the neighborhood, chasing us kids.
As much of non-pet person as I am, I have my soft spot for some dogs. I absolutely adore the droopy eyes, floppy ears and clumsy feet of Basset Hounds.
I think Collies or Golden Retreivers are beautiful, gentle and approachable; and dachsunds, known as Pretzel in children’s story lingo, are super cute. The regal silhouette of the perfect posture and upright ears of a German Shepherd, a la Rin Tin Tin, is cool (fine — they scare me, too).
I am touched when I hear or witness the stories of the loyalty of dogs. Recently in Italy, when a dog owner who attended church regularly every afternoon died, her poor dog kept going to church and just sitting there at the front of the pews waiting for her.
Later, when I was an adult and moved back to Israel, a homeless woman whose dog was her “partner in crime” — they were inseparable — died, her dog wouldn’t leave the place in the park where they had mostly “lived.” Passing that dog by just broke my heart. That woman was that dog’s home.
Then there are those precious guide dogs who are the eyes or ears for those who can’t see or hear.
Or the dogs who are trained to sense various medical issues in their owners, thereby saving their lives.
And, of course, those dogs whose affection and comfort promote healing and bring something therapeutic to victims of trauma (as is the case recently for the Newtown children), or to someone coping with loneliness or suffering from a disability, such as autism, for example.
I enjoy seeing Snoopy in the park, being walked by his owner Bill, who I have learned served as a pilot in WW II and whose joy in his later years is caring for his black-and-white spotted pooch (she really looks like Snoopy!).
Thanks to the documentary “Best In Show,” I have also seen the humorous angle of people who become obsessed with their dogs.
BUT not in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be entertaining the idea of getting one.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, I became aware of an unfortunate dog situation.
A mixed breed of lab and chow, a reddish-blond hair dog with the tell tale black tongue of the chow, who had been a wonderful pet, bit the UPS delivery man.
Unfortunately, dogs have bitten people at the park, but unless the victim presses charges, the dog has no record and goes scott free. This time, the UPS guy pressed charges. The dog had a record. In the state where this happened, and also because of the level of the bite, the rehabilitation of this dog required 100% attention, in combination with very specific, rigid, retraining rules.
As the owners of the dog are a young family busy raising young children, they felt they could not take the risk of keeping their beloved dog, especially since they risked jail time if the dog ever bit someone again.
Unless they found a new home for their dog — a home equipped to retrain and rehabilitate — they would, with a broken heart, have to put the dog to sleep.
As soon as I heard, I went into overdrive thinking about any and every animal lover I knew across the US (the owners were willing to drive anywhere in the US to bring their dog to a new home). Something about this death sentence for a dog who, except for the aberration of this single, weak bite was a kind, living creature, upset me. But there were no takers. For a split second I thought to myself, maybe I should adopt this dog . . . until I remembered how I can barely tolerate dog hairs, not to mention just about everything else about dogs.
It’s unlikely, given this particular dog’s history, but what if this dog did bite someone again? Then, of course, I remembered the horror story of a San Francisco resident being mauled to death by her neighbor’s dog. Which, of course, had nothing to do with this situation. That dog was probably a Pit Bull, a Doberman Pincher or a Rottweiler. But it was still in my head.
In the end, this poor dog got his miracle and found a new home with an elderly gentleman on a farm.
THIS situation sensitized me more to the plight of some of these dogs, known as “rescue dogs.” Tza’ar ba’alei chaim, not oppressing or causing pain to an animal, is a real mitzvah. Because of urban living and because of PETA’s extremist attitudes toward animals, I have been removed from sensitivity toward these mostly loving creatures.
I am not quite at the dog shelter picking up a rescue dog to adopt, but am more aware of them on my walks and more appreciative of them. And, thinking to myself, never say never. You never know when you suddenly are one step closer than you might have thought possible to having a dog. Before you know it, one day you might just be another dogwalker in the park throwing tennis balls and cuddling up to man’s best friend.