In the week after Purim in March 2023 (one more year if I make it), I will observe my 90th birthday with thanks to Almighty God, my Father in Heaven, who has preserved me in good health (at least physical health) and has maintained much (but not all) of my mental life. Memory loss comes with advanced old age. I have reached it.
All my life I have lived by an Aramaic phrase from the Talmud: “O CHEVRUTA O MITUTA”… give me good friends or give me death “, for a life without good friends is not a life, but rather a living death.
I often give thought to my very dear and good friends, seven of them, with only three still living who I counted always as my best friends. We were like family and shared our joys and our sorrows for the past 72 years of my life. And our devoted friendship continues to this day, loving friendship without an end.
But now in my very old age I have fallen in love with a beautiful young female. And this one has four legs.
She was born 8 years ago in a kennel in Shaar Hagai at the entrance gates to Jerusalem. Her mother’s name was Bat Yarden Dhibaan Jeyni, born in the Jordanian desert and her father’s name was Tzuk al Kashaar, an Israeli-born Beduin.
From her birth to the age of three months she was reared and nurtured by the world’s leading expert on the history of the Canaan dog, a history that goes back more than three thousand years, and as some believe, were the dogs who followed the Hebrew slaves with Moses out of Pharaoh’s Egypt.
At the age of three months, she left the kennel and entered into our home.
Myrna Shiboleth is the author of the encyclopedic history of the Kelev K’naani, and has spent decades of her life in breeding the Canaan dog in Jerusalem and in Europe and sending them to dog shows around the world.
When my daughter visited Myrna’s kennels in Shaar Hagai she fell in love at once with the Kelev K’naani and very shortly after she became the immensely proud owner (“mother”) of a three-month old female cream-colored puppy who she named Atara Carmit. She and her Canaan dog are bound together and are inseparable, except for eleven hours each day while she is at work in her office, which blesses me with the joyous privilege of caring for my Carmit until my daughter returns home in the evening.
Carmit, in my vernacular, is not a “dog”, not an “animal”. She is my “child”, my “baby girl”, and I treat her like that with many hugs and kisses. Carmit has saved my life by making sure that I am not alone.
When my beloved wife died six years ago, I was left alone in my mourning grief and agony. My children called each day and visited me frequently to be sure that I was in good health. But nothing warms my heart more than the love our four-legged friend gives me for eleven hours on end each day. Precious hours which I treasure with her.
I pat her, hug her, hold her, belly-rub her, kiss her, feed her and walk her several times each day. We are partners sharing a mutual love. I talk to her and sing to her and she barks back. It’s probably my singing in Yiddish to her that she doesn’t care for!
When our religious texts speak of love and devotion I think of Carmit. When the prophets of ancient times praised the Aramaic phrase from the Babylonian Talmud it inspired me to choose Carmit as my current best friend. In short, I could not go on living alone without my Canaan companion to share the hours of the days together with me. Hours of great happiness and abounding love.
She often prefers to sleep on the bed next to mine and to my joy she frequently moves her body from that bed to mine, cuddling up against me. A paw on my knee and a soft growl reminds me that it is time to place the food bowl next to her water bowl and she extends her thanks in her own special way.
My daughter chastises me for over-feeding her, of sneaking in to give her treats which add to her weight, but when she asks (read “loud barking”) I don’t have the heart to refuse.
My life would be very empty if Carmit was not with me and beside me. The Aramaic phrase strikes deeply into my heart… “O chevruta O mituta”…. There can be no life without a good friend.
Atara Carmit is not simply a good friend. She is like a human child to me. The best friend that one could want.
As the years of my life are coming to an end, our Carmit makes the days of my life worthwhile living.
My best friend is a four-legged friend. And I know full well that when I am no longer here both she and my daughter will continue loving and caring for each other for many more happy and blessed years to come.
I only regret that Carmit never had puppies. She would have been a terrific loving, caring mother.
As the saying goes: “a dog is a man’s best friend”, our Carmit is proof positive of it. She is pure love!