I've never owned a dog. I've never even owned a goldfish. I grew up in a blissfully tailless household, under the impression that dogs are smelly, drooly creatures (which they are, let's face it.) Don't get me wrong. I love dogs. I think they are super cute, I just never wanted to call one my own.
You marry a woman - you marry her family, so goes the old saying. When you enter a relationship with a girl who owns a dog, you enter a relationship with whatever dog she fancied before you were around to consult. In the case of Itka, it's Misha: a rather massive, black Amstaf and Labrador combination. Misha is one of the kindest creatures on the face of this planet (second only to her owner) but she's a little dumb and definitely drooly. Moreover, having spent her youth as a stray dog, she's way fond of trash. A good way to break the current speed record for a living creature would be to take her miles away from the nearest pile of trash, then set her free. She will dash like a bullet to that pile of trash and start feasting, afraid as ever that this is her last supper.
Now picture me, fagile urban bastard that I am, pulling her out of the trash. I never even pulled a goldfish out of the trash. However, dear readers, I am excited about the owner of this dog and the things that have been hapenning to us. Our shift from best friends to lovers is one of the most moving things that have ever happened to me. If I want it to last, I must become more of a Doolitle. I'm putting my heart into it.
Then last night Itka went out with Misha for a stroll and failed to come back. An hour passed, the dishes were done, and I headed out to look for her. Jaffa at night shouldn't be dangerous for a girl accompanied by an Amstaf, but what do you know.
The danger came from an unexpected direction. As Itka approached me down lamppost lit Lamartin St. I saw that she's accompanied by another dog. "It took me an hour to make him follow me" she complained, "look at him! he's a puppy, three months old, maybe four."
This puppy is about half the size of Misha, which is much, but he's indeed a puppy, a scared puppy. A handsome mutt, he's blessed with a patch of sharpei squeezy wrinkled fur on his forhead, which makes him look both contemplative and extra adorable. His eyes are super-sad, perhaps partially due to an eye infection, I wouldn't know. He squeeks every once in a while when the new company intimidates him, he's to die for, but hold it a minute. "Look," I tell Itka, "I may have to stay at my place tonight until he gets shots and stuff. I don't know if I'm capable of sleeping in the same house with a stray dog." I've only just gotten used to waking up with Misha slumped over me. I know my limits.
Itka promised to spray him gainst ticks and fleas and lock him for the night on the balcony. She's not intending to keep him. A Jaffa apartment can hold up to one canine. "There are lots of stray dogs in jaffa," she explained to me, "but this one has a chance, he's young, good looking, someone will take care of him, so it doesn't make sense to leave him for the neighborhood kids to torment." Later that night, outside a bar coincidentally named "the Cat and the Dog," we met our beloved friend Y. the spy and decided that she would make a wonderful owner.
"I do want a dog," Y. the spy admitted, "But I want a beagle. I've literally been having dreams of owning a beagle."
This clashed with Itka's worldview, "You mean you're intending to buy a dog?"
"What can I do, I'm dying for a beagle."
"You can name him Beagle," I suggested. Y the spy said she'll think about it. Meanwhile Itka and I returned to a house with two dogs. I slept only too well (though you'd be naive to think Beagle stayed on the balcony), then spent breakfast staring transfixed at how they played some kind of a pretend-biting game with each other. Misha was at her finest, perfectly hospitable and kind. She seemed determined to make little Mr. Beagle feel at home. Itka was doing a wonderful job juggling two dogs and a caninophobic boyfriend. There was special harmony at the apartment this morning, smelly, drooly harmony, the best kind.
I'll conclude with a passage from a children's book by the inimitable Yoram Kaniuk. Sometime in the seventies, when living on a relatively rural area outsied Tel-Aviv, his home became a literal zoo, complete with a donkey. In his book "The House in which Cockroaches Reach Ripe Old Age" he describes a girl and her mother who keep adopting animals to the horror of the father. At one point he exclaims: "That's enough! There are fish here, there are cockroaches and mosquitoes, there's Vered the dog, there's Tanchoum the cat with her kitties and grandkitties, to say nothing of the donkey and the hedgehogs and the turtle. Not another dog!"
But later on he's being interviewed on television as the head of the most colorful household in Israel and suddenly the whole menagerie makes him very proud. At the very end he even cries when one of the cockroaches dies.
Beagle found a loving home in Jerusalem and is renamed Che. Thanks to all who offered to adopt him.