If you don’t love dogs, skip this article. I happen to be passionate dog-lover . (Cats are a no-no).
First there was Ouzi, a pure-bred German Shepherd who chose me when she was a puppy. Years later there was Moco, a pure-bred Doberman Pinscher . Later, one mixed breed female named Justice, my lawyer daughter’s dog. We loved her just the same as the pure-breeds.
On a visit to a special dog kennel on a glorious day in 2013 things began to change in our lives.
My daughter Liora fell head-over-heels in love with an Israeli Canaan dog female puppy, a pure-bred born to her mother Jainie, a Jordanian Canaan, and to her father Tzuk, an Israeli from a Beduin tribe.
The Kelev Knaani, Canaanite dog, is one of the oldest in the world dating back three or four thousand years when the Israelites left slavery in Egypt and became sheep-herders. The breed has since been Israel’s national dog since 1948 and has won many medals and certificates of excellence in dog shows around the world.
She was one of 25 puppies born in 3 litters to Jainie over a few years in the Canaan dog kennel at Shaar Hagai at the entrance to the city of Jerusalem. And Liora simply had to have one of Jainie’s puppies.
She was three months old when we took her and named her Atara Carmit… Carmit or Carmi for short.
She was a beautiful cream-colored puppy and remains today at age 7, a beautiful cream-colored dog, bearing the only two major traits of an Israeli Canaan sheep-herder and protector: she sheds her fur constantly. There is not a carpet, rug, blanket or floor-piece that does not proudly bear her fur. And secondly, she barks ferociously at all times of day or night as soon as she hears a noise from someone walking in a distance but close enough to our front door.
At 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning when an adjacent neighbor happens to walk to the garbage room, Carmit is at our front door to remind the neighbor to keep far away from the territory which she protects… our apartment and us. Her bark can no doubt be an un-set alarm clock.
Other than going outside for ten minutes or less when nature calls, she refuses to go outside. She is an indoor member of our family and her exercise is running from one bedroom to the next or from one to the kitchen wherever smells of food entice her.
Somehow her senses are unusually keen. As soon as the Shabbat or holiday candles are lit and we chant the blessings, lo and behold, the big fur-ball is sitting next to the table anxiously awaiting for her slice of fresh challah and her dessert-to-come of a slice of chicken, fish, beef or turkey. It is completely impossible to know which she prefers as her mouth is wide open to all of them.
With past dogs, my wife had a ruling… they had to be kept off the furniture and never, never permitted to be on a bed. Except for Carmit. The rules changed.
My wife was born in Israel and Carmit was born in Israel, so that made them special. And since they were both Israeli sabras they could change the rules to suit themselves at any time or place. Asking permission is not necessary.
Some of the best photos I have are those of Rahel lying on her bed with Carmit lying directly against her, Rahels’s hand caressing Carmit.
And I, the loyal and loving “grand-paw” snapped many photos of my two beloved ladies.. Rahel and my “grand-dogger” Carmit.
Now four years since Rahel’s death, Carmit’s favorite comfort and sleeping spot is on Rahel’s bed next to mine. Often when I wake up in the early morning I find Carmit’s head lying against my toes. She does not object to my wiggling them to get out of bed because she knows that her breakfast is on its way.
She is a religiously-observant Israeli (but thankfully not an overly-zealous one) who understands the Torah’s command that we must feed our animals before we feed ourselves, based upon the premise that since they cannot feed themselves they must wait for the kindness of two-legged creatures to provide for the four-legged ones.
Carmit comes first. First to eat. First to bark for “out for needs” and first, upon return home, first to go back to sleep on the bed of her choice.
Since my marriage to Rahel in 1960 and until her death in 2016, I never had any other female lying in my bed with me. Our Israeli female bitch (not a curse word, only a generic term used for female dogs) is like my baby or young child who doesn’t grow up. She remains totally faithful to my daughter Liora and to me as well as to all the members of the family who she knows, trusts and loves, especially my older daughter Sharona who provides her with toys and gifts of treats sufficient for a semi-pet store in our apartment.
In my loss and loneliness and depression, Carmit is always beside me. Where I go, she goes. My daughter Liora said we should have named her Ruth who proclaimed to her widowed mother-in-law Naomi. “whither thou goest, I will go”.
Thankfully, however, Carmit knows that she does her business outside and we do ours inside. No quarrels about that.
If you have never loved a dog you cannot know nor understand what has been missing in your life.
The love of dog and man first began when God created the universe. It has never changed. And our Carmit has been my salvation and my constant companion for the past years of my loneliness and depression. A friend who does not leave my side.
And that is why, for me, Atara Carmit will always come first.