Along with the exciting news of the likely appointment of Rabbi Geoffrey Hyman and Rebbetzen Michelle to SWHC, Chutzpahdick understands that – for the first time in our history – the Rabbi's home will reverberate to the sound of ‘woof woof' rather than to the sounds of excited children. However, this thought posed Chutzpahdick some serious questions:
Firstly, will it be halachically OK to walk the dog on Shabbat? Fortunately the answer appears to be an unequivocal ‘yes', where, as usual, one takes their lead from the Rabbis (no pun intended). Halachipedia counsels against carrying an animal in the ‘public domain' (within an eruv would be OK). While the pet may be collared and leashed, it must be clear that you are walking an animal, not carrying a leash (caution: beware drooping leashes, where only a momentary loss in concentration for the unwary will lead to carrying. If in doubt use a dog walker who is halachically trained). Somewhat reassuringly, if within an eruv, all is well when carrying 'poop bags' too.
Secondly, is a 'Jewish' dog required to eat kosher dog food? Reassuringly, we are told that this does not have to be either plain kosher, Kedassia kosher or even Kim Kardashian kosher. The main obligation is to make sure that dog food does not enter the household food chain in error and is free of Chametz at Pesach. However, for those obsessed with even the slightest lingering doubt, Evanger manufactures dog food that has been passed by the Chicago Rabbinical Council (which presumably accounts for the strange odour).
Thirdly, could a first ever 'doggy Barmitzvah' – otherwise known as a 'Barkmitzvah' – be on the cards in the foreseeable future? Whilst Chutzpahdick has no idea if our canine arrival is nearing thirteen, Purim would be a great time to celebrate such an auspicious occasion if such a time is indeed imminent, and the event would surely echo to the cries of 'muzzletov'.
Rather sadly, dogs have suffered from a bad press in the bible (potentially even worse than bad breath), and have been associated with a low and even evil status (Caleb, one of the great Hebrew spies, means 'dog' in Hebrew). This seems unkind both to dogs and to Caleb who surely never deserved such ignominy. Dogs (but strangely not cats) seem to have been mentioned on several occasions in the Old Testament, however it was not until the New Testament when the first dog – called 'Moreover' – was mentioned by name. Here it is stated 'Moreover the dog came and licked his (Lazarus's) sores' (Luke 16). Since Lazarus was in all probability afflicted by leprosy this seems to have been an act of great canine selflessness. Or perhaps extreme desperation. 'Moreover' may even have been the first known canine from Canaan.
Fortunately, since biblical times, our canine friends have begun to enjoy a more positive PR and our relationship with them has evolved into an increasingly symbiotic one. A case has been reported in the medical literature of a dog suddenly acting strangely around its female owner, subsequently for it to be discovered that the woman had a small but barely detectable breast tumour.
Dogs can also be trained to detect and respond to certain conditions in their owners such as unstable hypoglycaemia whereby a sudden drop in blood sugar can lead to loss of consciousness, hospitalisation or worse.
Rupert Sheldrake, an eminent scientist, has recorded cases of dogs who go to wait by the front door at around the time their owner decides to leave work to travel home, as if they are psychically attuned to their owner.
Sylvia Wand's wonderful labrador, Buddy (now sadly deceased), provided many hours of comfort to Southend Hospital patients, and his presence was ample testimony to the beneficial and therapeutic properties which some dogs can provide to humans.
And – finally - we come to the sad subject of bereavement. Chutzpahdick has a friend who lives in Edgeware who – distraught at the loss of her beloved dog – wished to arrange for a Jewish burial ASAP. She contacted Altons Garden Centre along the A127 who have a pet cemetery. They not only promptly arranged for a burial (yes,Kaddish was recited) but a small stone was erected a few months later.
One hopes that, should Rabbi and Rebbetzen Hyman go away on holiday, there will be no shortage of dog loving members of SWHC keen to look after the latest canine addition to the community.
Friday 29th January 2021