The Companionship of Canaans

Kudos to Amanda Borschel-Dan for her beautifully written article on a history of Israel’s national dog, the Canaan.

As an owner of a four year old female Canaan, I rejoiced in every word and description which Amanda wrote.

We have always been dog lovers. First a pure-bred German Shepherd named Ouzi. After his death at age 12 we had a pure-bred Doberman named Moco, He was gentle and loving, slept at the side of our beds and ate from our hands, loved children and was never aggressive.

When Moco died, my daughter adopted a mixed breed Doberman-Rotweiller named Justice who she adored and was heartbroken after his death.

A few years later, my daughter expressed a wish to buy an Israeli Canaan dog. We drove to Shaar Hagai kennels on the road to Jerusalem and visited with Myrna Shiboleth, breeder and historian of the Canaan.  Myrna is recognized across the world as the leading authority of the Canaan dog. She took us into the kennels and showed us the recently-born litter of Canaan pups.

My daughter, my wife and I fell in love with them at first sight. Not knowing which one to choose, Myrna solved the problem for us and handed us a three-month old cream-colored female Canaan.

We named her Atara Carmit bat Jeyni (Israeli mother) and Tzuk (Jordanian father). She is the absolute delight and love of our lives. We constantly wonder how we could live without her. She is our best friend and companion.

She is very aloof with strangers, backs away when unknown persons attempt to pat her, but jumps with joy and a curled up wagging tail when she sees us. She is more of an alarm-dog than a watch-dog. When the telephone or door-bell rings, she barks furiously to alert us. Sometimes her barking is so intense that it is difficult to carry on a conversation on the telephone. It’s hard to hear the voice on the line.

Canaans are noisy but that is the nature of the breed. That is why they are so popular in Israel’s police and army forces. Their loud barking when a stranger approaches is a signal to be cautious.

Our Carmi is very loveable but not very loving. That is to say, she does not lick our hands or cheeks in a kiss as our other dogs always did. But she lies on our beds and delights in being patted, especially when she turns over for the awaited belly-rub.

When my beloved wife lay dying in her bed, Carmi would hop up and lie beside her. I don’t know if she recognized illness or approaching death but she rarely left my wife’s side in the last stages of her life.

Carmi is very gentle with children whom she knows and allows them to pat her and to give her treats.

Canaan dogs are not aggressive. They do not bite. Their loud barking defends us from would-be intruders.

On Shabbat, Carmi instinctacly knows when Kiddush and Motzi are made. She comes running to the table and sits patiently awaiting her piece of challah. Often she puts her paw on my knee as a signal that she would like another slice. And she gets it.

Myrna Shiboleth had operated the Shaar Hagai kennels for some forty years. The kennels were located on abandoned land following the end of the British Mandate. Without water, heat or electricity for many years, Myrna and her family survived the challenges due to their intense love of the Canaan dog.

For several years she had been threatened with eviction by the Israel Lands Authority even though she had paid taxes over the years that she lived in Shaar Hagai. But the Lands Authority was relentless and cruel and last year, after long court battles. Myrna and her dogs were evicted.

There was no other suitable place in Israel to establish new kennels. Myrna was forced to leave Israel after some forty years and she and several crates of her Canaan dogs flew to Italy where Myrna established a new kennel.

Sadly and regrettably, Israel’s national dog was chased out of the country.

But wherever Myrna may be located, of one thing we can be sure. She will continue to breed and to sell her famous Canaan dogs and blessed be the people who buy them. There is no dog quite like a lovable Canaan.

Those lucky people who own a Canaan dog will love them forever.

I’m 100% certain that Amanda will agree.

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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