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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Forever Homes

When it is sunny out, Bow enjoys lounging in the sun. But this morning, it is quite foggy.

So Bow is napping on his blanket.

Wherever he is, Bow is secure in the knowledge that he is loved and protected.

However, this does not mean that I can never leave him. I have periodically taken a week off and gone someplace else and left him in the care of interns he knew or of  Lawrence, and he was still secure in the knowledge that he was cared for and loved and that I would be back.

Ezooz eating raw meat on his birthday
Behind him: myself and my friend Haya

I have been thinking about the recent dogma that has surrounded what exactly owners owe their dogs, and it reminded me of Ezooz, a dog I knew in my childhood, but who was not ours. He belonged to an academician who lived in Jerusalem, but when his owner went on sabbatical to the United States for a year, he left Ezooz in our care. We lived in Rehovoth, and my father worked at the Weizmann Institute, and we could not commit to a dog full time, because we traveled, too. But it just so happened that we were able to provide Ezooz with a temporary home for a year, until his master returned and reclaimed him and took him back to Jerusalem, where he lived with his first family until he died of old age.

Two of Ezooz's offspring and myself

Is that all right, by current standards about what a dog is owed by a family? I'm not sure. Because while Ezooz was with us he had many adventures, and he did things that maybe current standards of dog care would not allow:

  • He was not fixed, and he roamed free, and when a female went into heat anywhere in Rehovoth, he would be gone for a few days and then come back.
  • He fathered at least one litter of puppies that we know of, while with us. It was with a stray female that lived on the property adjoining the house where we lived.
  • He ate a diet of raw chicken heads and other uncooked bones and discards of meat that we got at the butcher shop. Today, Americans are convinced that dogs should not eat bones -- and especially not raw chicken bones.
  • We let him have chocolate, because nobody told us that was poison for dogs, and it did not kill him.
  • He hated dogs that looked or smelled like poodles, and he did attack one such dog, fatally wounding him,
  • He hated religious Jews (dressed in black clothing from a different era and with side curls and long beards), and when any of them came around, he chased them away.
  • He barked at horses and donkeys. There were still wagons drawn by such animals that occasionally passed by in the street.
We did not teach him any of these behaviors, and when we found out about them, we tried to moderate his behavior so he would not hurt anyone. But we were not overly protective, and we did not chain him in our unfenced yard or require him to stay in the house all day, taking him out on walks on a lead. In fact, I don't ever remember him being on a lead. He was always free, and he always came home to us because he wanted to, even though he knew we were not his masters, and that his real owner was away.

                                            Ezooz at my friend's house: he was not on a leash
                                                                   and neither was I

My father took Ezooz to work with him, and Ezooz was even listed as a co-author on a physics paper that my father wrote during that period. 

I also was allowed to roam without supervision. I sometimes think that in order to have free range children, you also need to have free range dogs. Today, though, my dogs do not roam. They are fenced in. And Bow and Sword also do not roam, because we would get in trouble if they did.

We visited Ezooz in Jerusalem in his forever home once, and we brought him butter to eat, because he really liked butter. He remembered us, but he was clearly happy with his real owner. I think we all did right by Ezooz, and he had a good life.

In contrast, Ezooz's master had three children, all of them adults. His two daughters we met, but the son was mentally retarded and institutionalized. Ezooz had a forever home in his master's house, but his son, a human, did not.

It's really strange the way things turn out, and how society's standards are different in different eras and locales. In those days, you never saw mentally retarded children in school, not in Israel, anyway, and today, they are not even called that, anymore. It is very possible that Ezooz's human brother would have been diagnosed as autistic if he were born today, and his treatment would be very different. But if Ezooz were born today in the US, would he have been allowed to roam? Become a father? Author a physics paper? Eat raw chicken bones and chocolate? And would his master be considered a bad person for leaving Ezooz with someone else for a year or institutionalizing his son?

I think we judge people too harshly. Standards that change all the time cannot be moral absolutes. We have to let people make their own decisions, and in order to live free in a free world or a free country, we should not dictate to others. This does not mean that mistakes will not be made. It just means that people have a chance to make their own mistakes, instead of those dictated by society's shifting social norms.


  1. We do judge people to hastily. I really enjoyed reading your post today. I feed my dog raw chicken and bones. The raw diet is the best for dogs. They wouldn't eat it cooked in the wild now would they?

    1. Thanks, Susan. And I agree: they would not eat it cooked in the wild.

  2. I had the similar childhood experiences. Our one dog King roamed around the neighborhood, and back then it was mostly elderly neighbors who were really nice to us. All except one neighbor, who was a jerk scream at us for riding our bikes down the street. We lived in the mountains and in the 80's no one cared if dogs roamed around. All the dogs did, but then sometime in the mid 1990's people started getting weird about it. We had a dog Lady that we adopted, and the first two years we had her no one cared she was off the leash. Our other neighbor also let their dog run off the leash, until one day they decided they did not do that. Only problem is I spotted them doing that all the time.

    I have no problem with dogs running free, but on the other hand I do think neighbors should call their dogs back if their dog chases children. One neighbor would let his dog chase me and thought it was funny. All he had to do was call his dog back. I never imagined calling the pound on him. This man was teaching his dog to chase everyone who walked by on a public street, and to me, that is not being a responsible dog owner.

    1. Hi, Julia. I'm glad to hear you had a childhood with free roaming for both children and dogs. I think those are the best. I wonder how it happened that in the mid 1990s everyone suddenly got weird about it. It mystifies me how the seemingly immutable standards of what is right change in people's minds and many don't even remember that it used to be different. Of course, I do agree that owners are responsible to make sure their dog does not hurt or harass anyone.

    2. In the 1990's more people were moving up the mountains from the city to get away from what they perceived as crime, etc. However, they did not really appreciate what wilderness is, and many wanted to make the mountains more like an urbanized place. Things that had never been a big deal before, like dogs running around, suddenly because a major dilemma. The interesting thing is all the people who moved up there that many have now moved away with the economy going down hill. I do not know if it would be okay to let a dog run off the leash there now, but I would not try after that experience. I love dogs, but I am too traumatized to ever have one myself after that experience. I will just pet other people's dogs.

    3. I see. That happens sometimes when there is a large influx of outsiders into an area all at once. If there are just a few outsiders joining a large group established in the community, they will learn to conform to the rules of the locals. But when many of them come all at once, they can overwhelm the local culture and change it.
      That is too bad that you feel you cannot have a dog because of what happened. You deserve to have a dog of your own, if you want one, as I am sure you would take very good care of it.

    4. Maybe if I lived somewhere like you do a dog would work for me, but I live in an apartment, so it does not seem fair to the dog. I see some people barely walk their dogs, and hen the dogs seem sad. Perhaps one day I will own a dog again if I decide to own land. I just do not see that happening at the moment. I would want to live in a place where I had more open spaces, etc. The issue with a dog barking and the neighbor freaking out about it, even though her own dog barked, also traumatized me to the point I am not sure I would ever want to deal with that kind of drama again. I trust myself, but really do not trust how other people will react to a dog making one peep. Interestingly, there is a dog nearby who barks constantly, and I have never cared.

    5. Hi, Julia. That makes sense. I would not have dogs if I were living in an apartment, either. But it's not really the apartment, so much, that would dictate it, but the people. It's too bad so many city people are that way.