The Granddaughter of Doctor Doolittle

I am a granddaughter of a vet, so in our family, it was always very clear: animals live outside, people live inside. My childhood memories have lots of cats, mitzi and kfitzi and the like, all running through the streets of Haifa, rummaging through our neighborhood’s garbage cans, meowing high-pitched concerts at night. Living at ground level with windows open to a common yard, it happened occasionally that one or two sought a safe haven in the bottom shelf of the linen closet to give birth to a litter. After their discovery and recovery, as was the case whenever we children found a living creature, we gave it milk and got some soft shmates to line up an old crate. And if we were really good and it was really desperate, or the other way around, we would be allowed to leave it right near the front door, outside.
We never had a dog, because with a 3 rooms apartment, where would we put it? Dogs were a lot of work, suitable for those who had private yards, time to walk them, and the gumption to pick up their poop. The dogs I knew were tied to a tree in an orchard, their rope reaching just about the doorstep of the farmhouse at my grandfather’s moshav. They were meant to avert strangers, and they scared me.
Don’t get me wrong: being kind to animals was an important value. My grandfather, always addressed as doctor and highly respected, had, what a better sign of reverence? one of the only two phone lines in that moshav. The area’s agricultural residents would bring their donkeys, mules, horses and once, legend has it, even a circus elephant, to be cared for and cured. They would park their wagons at the dusty roadside, the row of cypress trees planted by my mom as a child already taller than me. He would walk down the brick path with a measured step, bag in hand, talk to the animal, talk to the owner, do some magic to make them both feel better, and send them on their way, trotting along.
The granddaughter of Doctor Doolittle, I knew the rules: animals are out, people are in. This is how I grew up.
My kids, naturally, inherited some of that attitude too. We treat our animals with joy, wonder, appreciation and care, but they are just as much farm animals as pets. When any one of the many rabbits we had, opted to run into the woods, that’s just the way life goes. When the song bird’s cage was left open and it flew out, we wished it a good life somewhere. And when the iguana, on a leash and harness, decided to climb the apple tree, we chuckled at life’s curiosities.
And then Zoe came into our life.
In retrospect, there was some scientific explanation to it: we simply got her a week too early, something about ours and the owner’s schedule. She was only 7 weeks old and missed the last week of basic training with her birth mother, the one about socialization with other dogs. One way or another, while for outsiders, she looked like any other (though much cuter!) golden lab, both she and we knew it: she was not really a dog.
So there was not even a question of where she’d live (inside), where she’d eat (bowl in kitchen, right near the dining table) and where she’d sleep (naturally, not near or under, but in our beds). Many hiking trails were chosen with one question in mind: not how long or how beautiful or how far, but – can we bring her. The 5 seater Camry often fit 5 of us, plus Zoe’s 75lb sprawled all over us. She knew she was part of the family and I think, was quite proud of it. She earned it and deserved it. Sure, she was cute, but she was the best dog one can hope for – kind and friendly and beautiful and joyful, always ready for an adventure, and… well, she was ours.
Earlier this week, she ran out, slipped, fell over and just died. I was there the whole time and still I can’t tell, what happened, did she hit her head too hard, was it a stroke, an aneurism, a… who knows. I find that there is not always comfort in knowing everything. We know she’s not here. The beds are emptier, the table is emptier, the car is emptier, and life, well, life is emptier too.
I never imagined one can get so attached to a dog, but In Hebrew, the word for dog is kelev – literally meaning, like a heart, and Zoe was just that. From her early days, with me, not knowing what to do with such a tiny ball of fluff, taking her to work, showering with her, caring her in my kids’ sling to do grocery shopping, she was part of the family. In time, her “babiness” wore off, and she grew out of her “teen” years of barking (only when we tried to eat or watch a movie– preferably with guests…) into a lovely lady. She had good and wise eyes; she understood people and interactions, approaching and distancing herself as needed; she put up with our nonsense, like dressing her up for Halloween; she knew when we’re going on a walk or a drive, and was quick to get in the back seat, lest she’d miss an outing.
I often tell my kids, it’s hard to raise parents. It was hard for Zoe to raise us too, but through all this, she allowed us an opportunity to be better, to get out of our comfort zone, to care for another, even when inconvenient; not to mention to have a healthy routine of walking twice a day and being outdoors, definitely improve our gumption level, picking up all sorts of things, and understand jokes about dogs and owners we would otherwise never… oh Zoe, we’ll miss you.

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This entry was posted in life and some, סיפורים קצרים and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Granddaughter of Doctor Doolittle

  1. Arleen Burns says:

    Losing a dog is difficult! Sorry for your loss, Michal!

    -Arleen

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. neskama says:

    A most beautiful tribute to Zoe; she raised you all right

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