Dogs – friend or foe?

Animals

I love dogs. Some of my best friends have been dogs. Dogs are wonderful companions, adorable creatures and endless sources of entertainment. They can be trained to do amazing things. Many people here have dogs and they have a great life, running free all day long. That’s fine with me. I don’t mind barking, shoe stealing or dog poo. I don’t mind them running around in the children’s playground, as long as they’re kid-friendly. I love cute puppies, funny dog videos and other nice dog-related things.

There is only one problem with dogs, and it’s kind of a serious one. They kill things. And the worst thing, the thing that actually makes it a problem, is that their owners are often in denial. People’s dogs are like children to them. They don’t want to hear anything negative about them. I understand that. Really, I do. When I had dogs, I was exactly the same. They were like my babies. Luckily, our dogs never killed anything apart from puncturing footballs. The problem I have is when a dog DOES attack or kill and their owners do nothing to stop them doing it again.

People around here take their dogs everywhere they go. Or rather, the dogs follow them wherever they go. The dogs are always loose – some people don’t even own a leash. So, the dogs also come with them to the pet zoo. The dogs stay outside (most of the time), but they get very excited by all those lovely prey animals running around just behind that fence. They bark, jump, scratch and try to slip inside. It bothers and scares my animals, and it bothers me. People don’t seem to realise what their dogs are capable of. One small mistake by someone, the door held open a second too long, and one of my animals is history. It has happened several times already.

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Rachel, one of my first and favourite chickens, who was killed by a dog.

I think that people don’t want to know that their dogs are dangerous for smaller animals, because it implies that their dogs are “not nice”. Some people are offended when I tell them their dog might grab a chicken. “She would never do that! She’s a nice dog!” Even the best people have told me that. Maybe even especially the best people – they love their dogs so much that they are blinded by their love.

I don’t ever mean to say that your dogs are not nice or not good. They are simply dogs. If a dog grabs and shakes a chicken or a rabbit, they are not being “bad” – it is simply their nature, like cats catch mice and chickens eat bugs. My recognition of what your dog can do is completely separate from my liking or not liking your dog. Being a hunter doesn’t make the dog any less friendly to people or good with your kids. The only thing I am trying to do, is protect my animals.

A few years ago, there was a gang of cat-killing dogs running around in the kibbutz, led by the notorious Cootie, wildlife hunter and cat killer extraordinare. None of those dogs were ever tied, muzzled or restricted in any way, even though their owners knew exactly what their dogs were doing. Protests and pleas of cat owners never made a difference. Even now, dog owners laugh when their dogs chase cats into trees. “Oh, it’s fine, they just like to chase them, they can’t catch them!” Oh yes, they can and frequently do. Cat owners can testify.

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Messi, our cat who was killed by a dog.

Now, Cootie is no longer with us, but her spirit seems to be channeled by Dootchie, a Siberian Husky. Dootchie is an adorably bouncy, fluffy, blue-eyed beauty who, up until now, has been responsible for the deaths of a rabbit, several chickens and guinea fowl and possibly my cat Messi. (The cat was killed by a husky, but not sure which one.) Ironically, this dog is owned by a young veterinarian who lives in the kibbutz. He is perfectly aware of what his dog is capable of and does nothing whatsoever about it. He told me I am overreacting, they are only chickens. And that I should be happy that his dog spends her days patrolling the fence of the pet zoo, waiting for something to escape, because she keeps foxes and feral cats away.

Nothing is quite so infuriating as watching your animals being killed by a domestic dog, knowing that this would not be happening if the dog’s owner had some sense of responsibility. I spent a few extremely tense weeks, fighting with the uncaring vet, finding dead chickens and guinea fowl outside the fence and chasing Dootchie off whenever she showed her face. My father-in-law suggested poison. Until one day, the dog didn’t show up. I was sure she would be back again, but she never returned. Her owners hadn’t tied her or kept her inside or anything. Amazingly – she had just… got the message.

Now, Dootchie and I have a truce. I am nice to her, as long as she doesn’t come near my animals. She understands the truce perfectly. She is just untrained, neglected and desperate for friendship and affection. I realise she came to the pet zoo because I was nice to her. When I stopped being nice to her, she stopped coming. The vet and his wife recently had a baby and the husky is more neglected than ever. I have even played with the idea of offering to adopt her, but realised I did not have the time or the inclination to retrain this dog. I wish someone would take charge of her – she could be an amazing companion.

Also – I don’t like vets. It’s bizarre to me that those people who are supposed to love animals, are so callous and seemingly only care about their animals of choice – dogs, horses or some other big animal. Chickens and rabbits are nothing to them. I have only ever met one vet who wasn’t an arrogant, coldhearted bastard. Sadly, that wonderful man died of a brain tumour. I am still looking for a nice vet who actually loves animals.

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Ariel, the pretty little hen who lovingly hatched out our first guineas and protected them with her life. She was killed by a dog in the line of duty.

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About tarnegolita

Dutch expatriate, mother of 3 boys, freelance translator and pet zoo keeper in a kibbutz in Israel.
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