Some years ago while driving from our home in Rishon Lezion to Jerusalem, my daughter passed a sign indicating the location of the Shaar Hagai kennels. She had heard about them, about the Israeli national dog, the Canaan, and was curious to see them.
Driving up a rugged path from the main Jerusalem highway, she found the kennel and was warmly welcomed by the owner and breeder of the Canaan dogs, Myrna Shiboleth. It was, for my daughter, a love-at-first-sight experience and she became fascinated with the Canaan dogs, their 3000 year-old history, and read every book she could find dealing with the origins and history of these rare desert dogs who have inhabited our country for all those years.
The more that she read about them, the more she wanted one. And so our sabra Israeli Canaan dog, Carmit, became a treasured member of our family.
They may not have been the dogs who did not bark when the Israelites began the exodus from Egypt, but they surely were among the desert route which our ancestors trekked en route to our promised land. They are definitely not silent dogs. They bark frequently and loudly which is the distinguishing factor between the Canaan and other dogs and which accounts for their value to the Israeli police and army.
Their loud barking is the alarm which indicates the approach of strangers. They do not bite nor attack. They are not aggressive. But they are valued for their extremely keen sense of sight, hearing and smell which alerts owners that strangers are approaching their territory. It is for that reason that the Canaan has been named Israel’s national dog.
Shamefully our Lands Administration authorities have evicted Myrna and her kennel of dogs from the Shaar Hagai residence in which they have lived for 46 years. With no other land area available to her, Myrna and all her dogs must be evacuated to a new home in Italy where she can continue breeding the Canaan dogs.
As readers may remember from my previous articles, my beloved wife of 56 years was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in January and underwent chemotherapy for eight months. She is now in hospice care and is dying. Some medical personnel estimate that she can live for 2 more weeks, others say less and a few say more.
She lies on her death bed barely eating and only sipping a few drops of water. And in all this time, our amazing Canaan dog, Carmit, has been lying next to her on the bed, not allowing any strangers or non-family members to enter the room. While my daughter and I are the care-givers to my wife, Carmit is her faithful protector.
Today while sitting on the edge of my wife’s bed and holding her hand, Carmit suddenly stood up and walked over to my wife, stretching herself on my wife’s body, her paw gently patting her shoulder.
I was astounded by this reaction and tried to move Carmit away but she would not budge. No treat could entice her to abandon my wife until I lay down beside my wife, one hand holding her hand and one hand patting Carmit’s head.
It is said that some dogs can smell death approaching. Carmit is one of them. Silently she gives an abundance of love and protective care to my dying wife.
My family and I are devastated as the eventuality of Rahel’s death approaches. We weep loudly without consolation. We are in a state of mourning even before Rahel breathes her last breath.
This is a testimony to a dog who cannot weep but I am assured that Carmit will lie at our feet when we are sitting shiva.