Esor Ben-Sorek

Dogs on a Street in Jerusalem: A Hebrew Fable

If you are a dog-loving Israeli like me, you will know that all dogs are identified not just by their breed but of course, by their gender.

There are four different genders of the same breed living in a luxurious home on a main street in the center of Jerusalem, none of them closed in kennels but three of the four should be.

A male dog is called a “stud”. A female dog is called a “bitch”. The younger dog is called a “puppy” and the older dog is called a dangerous “mad” dog.

Israelis know them by their proper pooch names.

The “stud” is called in classical German Tzilassohn. The “bitch” is called Chavastochter. The “puppy”, gentle and loving, is called Avshtillhund and the dangerous “mad” dog is called Yawildhund .He is the one who needs to be muzzled to prevent him from biting, his nails clipped to prevent him from causing bleeding scratches, and paws tied to prevent him from pawing at keyboards to send out messages of hatred.

As a dog lover, first to a pedigreed German Shepherd, followed by a pedigreed Doberman Pinscher, and more recently in the past eight years, a pedigreed Jerusalem- born Israeli Canaan dog… kalba c’naanit.

I loved them all but my Israeli Canaan takes first prize. While she is a very loud barker my only regret is that she does not bark in her mother-tongue… pure Jerusalem Hebrew with some curses in Arabic.

She is the dog who brings great happiness into my daily life. She lies on my bed next to me and cuddles up close to me. Since my wife died in 2016 I have never slept with any other female. Atara Carmit is the exception.

She may be a “bitch” but is one who never makes demands nor disagrees with my cooking. She devours each morsel of food set before her. No complaints to the chef nor to the server. A light smile of thanks.

She knows when it’s time to relieve herself and her paw on my knee is the signal for me to put on the leash and go with her for a brief walk.

Our Israeli situation could have been better some twelve years ago if the “bitch” on the main street had been properly leashed with instructions of what to do and mainly what not to do. But she was protected by her “stud” who surrendered his dog bones and treats to her upon her demand.

The loving “puppy” seldom barked. He was always visible but seldom heard. He may have growled on occasions but was never a severe barker.

The “mad” dog frightened decent people away from his home and served as the loyal defender of the “stud” and the “bitch” who always patted him affectionately and paid more attention to him than to the loving and gentle “puppy”.

Very soon the four dogs will be vacated from their comfortable home, a place from where maids and servants will now be freed. In their new home by the beautiful sea waters they will have freedom to romp in spacious gardens. All fables are best enjoyed when surrounded by nature. So was Heidi. So was Bambi.

The male dog will begin digging holes in the grass-covered gardens. The female dog will carry seedlings in her teeth and drop them carefully into the holes for planting. The puppy will dig and use his front paws to assemble the seedlings to the way he would like them, while the mad dog will use his paws to dig up that which has been planted when no one is looking and he will lay the blame on a neighbor’s dog.

Eventually the loving puppy will find a mate for himself and together they will bring many more loving puppies into the world.

No one can venture a guess for the mad dog. He has been unsuccessful in finding a proper mate. A Norwegian miniature once ran away from him and left him without a mate. He growls and barks and sometimes attempts to bite at humans whom he dislikes. But he can be easily driven away with a stick in hand.

We Israelis are known to love and to take care of our pet dogs. Some are used as shepherds to protect our flocks and property. Others, the ones I adore, constantly remind me that a dog is man’s best friend.

Well, at least, that is 100% true for me. I cannot imagine my life without my Israeli Canaan dog.

I hope she loves me as much as I love her. But it’s not easy to tell. She barks in Sephardic and I address her in Ashkenazic. But like the humans, it’s been a wonderful marriage. And that is definitely not a fable… it is rather known as God’s truth !

Ha kalba ha yisraelit sheli m’chamemet et chaiyai. My Israeli dog warms my life. Nu. Who warms yours?

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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