Israel: a dog’s best friend

Two weeks ago I rescued a dog from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Israel, one of several animal shelters in Tel Aviv. My family always had dogs as pets, and I thought adopting my first puppy would add a dimension of fullness to my fledgling life here in Tel Aviv. The special relationship between my new dog and me is exceeding my expectations; but what I didn’t count on was the whole new world my puppy would introduce to me: dog people!

I’ve been living in my neighborhood (next to Park HaYarkon) for five months. Everyday I’m at the grocery store or getting my fix from Tony Vespa’s pizza. And I’m not a shy person. It may not be very “Israeli” of me, but I’m always smiling at strangers I pass on the street and getting to know the clerks in the stores I interact with everyday. I’m no shrinking violet.

But before Petey came into my life, I guess I was invisible on the street. Because – it’s true what they say – now we are like a magnet pulling every other person over to us. Not just children and young women either – macho gevers, grumpy old people, packs of wild skater-rat teenage boys; I don’t think anyone is immune to Petey’s cuteness powers.

For sure, he is going to think his name is Ehzay Chamood. It’s amazing – we’ll be in the park, and a group of three power-walking, sexy, young women in their cute velour tracksuits will be whipping by us, all of them carrying on separate conversations (loudly, c’mon this is Israel) a mile-a-minute on their cell phones, when all at once (in unison) they spot him and erupt:


…and bend down to greet him with rubbing and kisses. Now if only I could meet a superHunky Israeli man with heart of gold this way… I’m holding out hope that this is how I’m going to meet my future husband.

These exchanges are good for my Hebrew practicing. I’ve got some stock answers down pat – how to say Petey’s a boy, tell how old he is, explain the type of dog he is, answer what his name is. But I usually run into a wall at some point and have to switch over to English. I always feel a little embarrassed about this, so maybe it will give me the extra motivation to step up my Hebrew studies again. Don’t count on it.

Petey is a very friendly pup – to other dogs and people, alike. We’re both making lots of new friends this way. And even though my friend and (shameless plug alert!) the owner of the Happy Dogs dog walking/training/boarding service in Tel Aviv (050-257-7710), the Canadian and brilliant Jeremy Ladner, tells me it’s never safe to take your dog off-leash…when Petey’s playing with a new dog friend and the owner says to me Eh, you want to release them? I go for it. He’s a fearless little pup, even with dogs ten times his size, and he loves to run and wrestle with them. And the proud parents I get to have a little chat with the owner and meet people this way, too. It’s a wonderful and unexpected gift Pete has given me.

You’d never see so many unleashed dogs in Manhattan’s Central Park. But here in Tel Aviv, it’s the norm – a kind of Spring Break, Dogs Gone Wild! haven for them. And they really love it!  Maybe I’m reading into it too much, but this Laissez-faire approach seems to me a kind of reverence, or dignity and respect for them above what I’m used to seeing at home. Make no mistake – though cats roam the streets and yards everywhere, Tel Aviv loves dogs.

It’s fortunate that the number of veterinarians in my neighborhood is similar to the ratio of Starbucks in Manhattan (that would be about three per every few blocks), and he’s already “got a file” at the closest one to our house. No appointment needed, English-speakers welcome, fast and friendly service. Petey and I both approve. Ditto, pet stores. We’re regulars at Roi’s store at the beginning of Yirmeyahu Street. He couldn’t be nicer, and always has great suggestions.

You see, having a pup has not only caused a strong, two-way flow of love to come into my life; it’s also opened the door to a friendly and loving side of Israelis and made it easier for them to flow into my life, too. Thanks, pup!


  1. Pingback: Ehzay Chamood – the Remix. « Gefilte Fish Out of Water

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  3. Mandy

    November 10, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    Cool post… it’s hard to find a good read nowadays!

  4. Scotty P

    November 11, 2009 at 11:05 am

    Thanks, Mandy! Tell your friends, please…

  5. Kelric

    November 19, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Henry likes his name and thinks your dog is cool cuz it’s just like Petey Piranha in Mario’s World…

  6. justine

    November 20, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    Thanks for the post, I completely agree, it really is a good way to meet people. I also just adopted a puppy and am looking for a dog trainer and also a good english speaking vet. Any chance of getting the vets name & number from you?

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  8. Pingback: Lauren's tale of how and why she made aliyah to Israel |

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