Readers may recall a story I wrote that was published in the September 20th edition of The Times of Israel. It was called “A History of the Jewish Dog” and described in some detail Israel’s National Dog, the Kelev K’naani or the Canaan Dog. It is one of the oldest canine breeds in the world. Evidence of the Canaan dog goes back more than three thousand years, when they wandered with the Israelites on their way out of Egypt.
After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. and the exile of the Jews by the Roman armies, the Canaan dog roamed the deserts of Israel and what is now Jordan as pariah dogs. Desert Beduin found them to be excellent herders and used them as guard dogs for their flocks of sheep.
In the 1930s, Dr. Rudolfina Menzel of Vienna, a world-renowned authority on dogs, emigrated to Palestine and upon discovering these wild dogs, she sought to capture some and train them. Her efforts were so successful that she was requested to provide Canaan dogs for the pre-State Haganah and ever since, these marvelous dogs have been used by the Israeli police and the military forces as guard dogs who can also sniff out and detect mines. They have become the Israeli national dog breed.
Their life span is usually between 12 – 15 years and their temperament is described as “vigilant, devoted, alert, cautious, quick, highly intelligent, independent, protective, and loyal to their families”.
They excel as herders, are excellent watchdogs and are extremely defensive of their territory. One of them lives in our home. We have no sheep nor herds, but she quickly adjusted to our non-desert way of life and became our beloved pet, a child who never grows up.
We bought her from Shaar Hagai kennels near Jerusalem from the world’s leading authority of and breeder of the Canaan Dog, Myrna Shiboleth. Myrna’s books, Tails of Shaar Hagai and The Israel Canaan Dog, give the authentic and complete history of these marvelous creatures.
Our dog was born to a Jordanian desert dog, brought to Israel, and named Bat Yarden mi Dhibaan Jeyni. Dhibaan is a town in the Kingdom of Jordan, largely populated by Beduin tribes. The place is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as a spot where the Hebrews rested for a short while on their travels through the desert after leaving Egypt. The Bible calls the place Divon and sometimes Divon Gad, referring to an area which was settled by the tribe of Gad.
Jeyni was a beautiful and loving pet, the queen of the female Canaan Dogs at Shaar Hagai. We were especially partial to Jeyni out of gratitude for giving birth to our puppy in her first litter of eight beautiful pups. There were ten puppies born in her second litter and seven new puppies in her third and final litter. Jeyni brought twenty-five beautiful puppies into the world.
Jeyni had an outstanding temperament and loved people. In dog shows, she was Israel Junior Champion, Israel Champion, and Desert Winner and Best of Breed at the Israel Canaan Dog Convention in 2015.
Myrna Shiboleth informed me that she was lent to a friend on kibbutz Mishmar HaEmek. By day, she was petted and played with the children of the kibbutz, while at night she was a guard to deter thieves and predators from stealing sheep. She loved the sheep and took care of the lambs as if they were her own puppies.
On the eve of Sukkot, we learned of Jeyni’s tragic death. Raising the cup of Kiddush wine to celebrate the festival of zman simchatenu…the time of our rejoicing… we had no feeling of simcha, no joy, no rejoicing. Jeyni’s death had not been an accident. She had been murdered.
She had just reached her 4th birthday and had given birth to a new litter of puppies six days earlier.
Seven newborn motherless puppies. Seven homeless puppies. The heart aches as I write these lines. Tears well up in my eyes and fall uncontrollably down my cheeks and onto the keyboard of my computer.
According to Myrna, “Jeyni was poisoned by someone who wanted to steal a sheep, someone who didn’t like dogs that barked, or just someone evil who likes killing. There is no chance of finding who did it.”
Today, Jeyni’s orphans are thirteen days old and Myrna hand feeds them and watches over them lovingly.
Jeyni could have lived for at least twelve more years until some evil person stole those years away from her.
With a heavy heart, we bid farewell to a beloved friend. All you who love dogs, mourn with me. Mourn for a beautiful life that was and is no more. Pray that her seven new puppies will grow strong and healthy, bearing the characteristics for which Jeyni was famed.
Yitgadal v’yitkadash shmai raba. Rest in peace, precious little friend.