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Monday, January 14, 2008

The value of time (part II)

I'd like to echo a few of yesterday's commenters in saying that Zahava and I were extremely touched to read so many wonderful stories - tributes, actually - about the pets you've loved... and lost.  The responsible stewardship each of you described is precisely the kind of balance we have been trying to strike in managing Jordan's needs during her current health crisis against our own needs and responsibilities.

That said, let me make a few things clear that were left deliberately ambiguous.

It may sound corny, but we love Jordan like we love our children, and dote on her every bit as much.  I deliberately avoided writing about our mushy-gushy experiences and family history with her in an attempt to keep the discussion of the decision-making criteria as clinical as possible.  But anyone who has ever had a pet knows that such decisions are rarely made exclusively according to dry clinical considerations. 

Granted, if an animal is hit by a car and is suffering terribly with little or no hope of recovery, the decision is simple: "Dr. Vet, please put my pet out of his/her agony right this very second!"  Some of the more rural readers might simply take the poor suffering animal out back and perform an 'Old Yeller' with a heavy heart and tears in their eyes. 

But when the pet is somewhere in that gray area between perfectly healthy and terminally ill, we tend to naturally think in terms of buying time. 

Let's face it, we were raised in an age of medical miracles.  Where once we had to accept that contracting a serious disease was like stepping off some desert cliff and vanishing into the landscape below like Wile E. Coyote... getting ill in the modern world is more like engaging in an extended tug-war, with death holding the other end of the rope. 

Intellectually we still understand that nobody has ever won (meaning we all die in the end), but with our ability to prolong the game far beyond what our healthiest ancestors used to call 'good long innings', we have become a bit smug about our opponent.

Veterinary medicine has benefited from most of the advances we've seen in the human sciences.  Aside from organ transplants and bypass surgery there is little available to humans that isn't also available (at a cost, of course) to their pets.  And this is why I began yesterday's post with the rhetorical question; "What would you pay for a few extra months, or even a year with a terminally ill loved one?"  You see, once you eliminate all the givens such as your love for a pet and science's ability to possibly heal it, all that remains to be negotiated is the cost.

I know, I know... I hear you out there saying "but what about quality of life?".  Obviously our responsibility to weigh our pet's quality of life is an essential part of loving and caring for them.  Let's face it, if the only thing we were concerned about was selfishly keeping a beloved cat or dog around for as long as possible, we'd be talking to a good taxidermist, not a vet. 

The problem is (as one commenter pointed out) many pets are rather stoic in the face of suffering... and we humans sometimes anthropomorphise our furry companions to the point that we mistake their stoicism for a human-like desperation to live... even in the face of excruciating pain, loss of mobility and incontinence. 

Having grown up with pets, I have come to understand that while they certainly demonstrate a startling capacity for devotion, affection and loyalty... the one thing that endears them to us beyond every other measure is the fact that they rely on us.  Even the most aloof cat looks to its owner for sustenance.  Even the most independent dog still seeks its master's approval and affection a dozen times a day.

But for some reason, when our pets get sick we look into their beseeching eyes and see the words 'help me' when what they are really saying is ' I'm relying on you to do what's best'.  Because above all other considerations, we are the 'alpha dogs'.  Our pets live entirely in the present and defer to us on everything.  If they feel hungry they come to us for food.  When they are cold they come to us for shelter.  When they are feeling insecure they come looking for affection. 

So why wouldn't they also expect us to be take away their pain when they get sick?

All these things (and more) went through our minds before and during our conversation with the vet.  While the financial considerations were weighed and accepted, I knew that so long as the treatment wasn't going to be as painful as the sickness, and that it had a decent chance of giving Jordan another year of quality life... that we would give it a try.

The vet assured us that the side affects wouldn't be anywhere near what human's experience during chemo.  She wouldn't lose her hair.  She shouldn't experience nausea or diarrhea.  She might have a few isolated incidents of incontinence (due to some of the drugs and the high fluid intake with the chemo)... but for the most part she should begin showing signs of improvement right away. 

So yes, we opted for chemo, and the vet's been right... so far (pftu, pftu,pftu).

Jordan is now in her fourth week of treatment.  The tumor has shrunk significantly and her energy level has improved dramatically.  She still sleeps more than she used to, but that seems age appropriate and not necessarily due to either the cancer or the treatment.  Bottom line, for the moment we seem to have a good grip on the rope and are holding our own in the tug-o-war.  But we also know that could change tomorrow... or the day after that. 

Which brings us to another piece of advice from our vet.

After watching the way our kids interact with Jordan and hearing stories of how our youngest (who has sensory issues) has bonded with her, he advised us not to wait until she is gone to think about getting another dog.  He said that after the loss of a beloved pet, no other animal can live up to the fond memories.  He said that even if the chemo does everything it is supposed to, now is the time to think about bringing another pet into the picture.

We have also been told that not only will a puppy give Jordan a new companion, but it will give her the opportunity to help mold a new dog's behavior... something we've watched her do when we've been dog-sitting for young dogs for friends.

Jordan was trained at an early age as a companion dog for an elderly woman.  She is very calm and only barks when she wants to be let in from the yard.  She spends a good part of every night going from room to room checking on each of the sleeping inhabitants and instinctively remains by the bedside of anyone in the house who is sick.  If ever there were a set of behaviors worth teaching a new dog, Jordan possesses them.

A couple of weeks ago Zahava and I drove to Hashmona'im on a Saturday night to the shiva house of a close friend who had just lost his brother.  After staying for an hour we walked over to the house of some other friends who had made aliyah this past summer.  In the course of chatting with them they mentioned that they had just bought a puppy.  She was still too young to bring home, but they gave us all the details. 

Apparently a very reputable kennel that specializes in breeding champion pedigrees had a little 'whoops' a few months back.  A beautiful yellow Labrador bitch had somehow spent a private moment with a very dark German Shepherd stud and... well, the rest, as they say, is history. 

The resulting litter consisted of two yellow males that looked like the mother and two jet black females that favored the father.  Our friends explained that the males were already spoken for, and that they had claimed one of the females a few days ago.  But as far as they knew the other female was still not spoken for.

Hearing the combination of Shepherd and Labrador (the predominant ingredients in Jordan's genetic stew) made us perk up our ears.  I asked for the phone number of the kennel and called immediately, fully expecting to leave a message on an answering machine.  One of the owners answered.  I explained that we were friends of the family who were adopting the female lab/shepherd mix and had heard there might still be another female available... 

I finished talking and held my breath, waiting for the bad news.

The woman on the other end of the phone avoided the inquiry at first and began asking questions of her own;  Had I ever owned a dog... did we have kids... how old are they... where did we live... how big a yard did we have... did we regularly walk our dog... what was the name of our vet?  At some point in the interrogation I felt the mood change and the woman allowed the conversation to drift back towards the puppy.

"Yes", she said, "the female puppy was still available".  I explained that I didn't work anywhere near their location and it might be as much as a week until we could come see the puppy.  Could she 'save' the puppy for us until then?  Without hesitating she said 'no problem... see you on Friday morning".

The week crept by like a snail.  We had a few whispered discussion in bed about the idea of the new puppy, but we were careful not to mention anything to the kids.  We didn't want to get their hopes up in case things didn't work out... and we also weren't 100% certain we were even doing the right thing.

Well, Friday morning finally arrived we told the kids we were going out to run some errands and drove the hour+ to the kennel.  It was in the middle of a small agricultural area and as we drove up the gravel road to the kennel a black Jeep coming the other way stopped alongside us.  The woman behind the wheel rolled down her window and introduced herself as the owner (with whom I'd spoken).  Beside her sat a stunning Black Lab who grinned at us as the woman explained that one of her employees was expecting us and would give us the tour.

As promised, someone was standing outside waiting for us and he immediately brought us inside to see the puppies.  There was the usual din of barking dogs that one encounters at a kennel, but there was a sense of cleanliness, order and competence... and not a hint of neglect.

The puppies were in a private room, and as the door was opened the mother bounded out to greet us.  She was a gorgeous animal with a happy face and gentle manner.  She acted as though we were her long-lost masters.  Far from being territorial or protective, she seemed delighted to have us handle her pups and dutifully groomed whichever pups we weren't holding at the moment.  As we'd imagined, the month-old puppies were exquisite!

We asked to see the father and sensed a moment's hesitation on the part of the employee.  Immediately we wondered what he might be hiding... but when I asked if there was a problem he explained that since the 'incident' where this litter had been conceived, they had put the male dogs in a far section of the kennel that required a bit of rearranging and herding various dogs from the middle holding areas.  But when he saw that we really wanted to meet the father he immediately set about shuttling dogs from place to place.

After a few minutes he waved us through a few rooms and passageways and took us out to a rear holding area.  We walked up to a chain link gate and he introduced us to a smiling German Shepherd with a predominantly black coat (with a little brindle underneath).  The dog didn't bark.  He simply stuck his face through the gap and give me a big wet kiss on the cheek.  While I stood scratching him behind the ears and under the chin, all I could think about was how similar his build was to our Jordan's.

After a few minutes with the friendly father we asked to go back and see the puppies again so we could take some pictures.  We also took some shots of the two female pups together since our friends hadn't managed to do so when they'd picked out their pup.  The only time I've seen that particular expression on Zahava's face has been when she's holding babies.  Seeing that maternal glow told me all I needed to know.


I turned to the young man who'd been showing us around and said "We'll take her".

It will be another 3 or 4 weeks until the pups are old enough to leave their mother, so all we were able to bring home with us were the digital pics and the smell of new puppies.  When we got home Zahava ran downstairs to download the images, and after lunch we called the kids down to the office with a vague "Come downstairs, we want to show you something".

When they saw the cute black puppy on the screen they nearly exploded with happiness.  It seems they too have seen how content Jordan is with a young dog under her charge... and for the rest of the day they were scritching Jordan under the chin and saying "Jordan... you're getting a new puppy!".

So for now, we continue to watch Jordan's progress closely and pray for continued success.  The only problem now seems to be how to make the time 'til we can bring home the puppy pass a bit faster.

Posted by David Bogner on January 14, 2008 | Permalink


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Ohhhh . . . you know, as happy as I am for your kids, and for you and Zahava, I'm happiest for Jordan! Mentoring a puppy will give her something to live for. And that is one lucky puppy you've got there! She doesn't know what a treat she's in for in her new masters.

Awwwwww . . . I have tears in my eyes!

Posted by: Sarah | Jan 14, 2008 1:41:17 PM

Awww! What a beautiful story ! I followed Part 1 and read the comments but I had no idea what to advise. I was never an animal person myself until our daughter persuaded us to adopt a kitten from the garden (don't worry - we got her checked out and vaccinated etc. by the vet). Now I can't imagine being without her. It must be ten times harder for you all, having had Jordan for so long. I'm so pleased for you that things are working out for Jordan and the family (tfu tfu tfu!).

Don't forget to post pictures of Jordan and the new puppy when it arrives!

Posted by: annie | Jan 14, 2008 1:50:05 PM

I'm so happy for you guys. Jordan is so lucky to have you.

Mazal Tov!

Posted by: Baila | Jan 14, 2008 1:55:37 PM

Nice story. Puppies are the best.

BTW, it's Wile E.: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wile_E._Coyote_and_Road_Runner#Premise

Posted by: Benji | Jan 14, 2008 2:40:00 PM

Sarah... This is like an O Henry moment where everyone thinks they are getting the better end of the deal! [sniff]

annie... When everyone is sick and tired of the pictures that will surely become a regular feature here, I'll remind them that you requested them. :-)

Baila... As I said to Sarah, I don't know who is really luckier here. :-)

Benji ... [sigh] there's always one. Look, I haven't had internet access since this morning (not counting my phone). If my wife wants to go in and fix it she can. But don't count on it. :-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jan 14, 2008 2:48:30 PM

It really is one of those smiling through the tears moments isn't it?

Your Jordan will teach the new puppy not only how to interact with the family and other animals, but how and where to be clean, and (cutest of all), how to wrap you all round her little paw.

And there is nothing like a new puppy to re-vitalise a not-as-well-as-she-could-be lady dog.


Posted by: chairwoman | Jan 14, 2008 3:13:48 PM

Congradulations! Thats great to hear about Jordan and her new charge.
Best of luck.

Posted by: Vauban | Jan 14, 2008 3:17:52 PM

Hey, we're talking about a classic character here! Out of respect for our youth (and Mel Blanc), I thought you'd want to know.

Posted by: Benji | Jan 14, 2008 3:21:01 PM

2nd thoughts.

Your new puppy looks so much like our late Ptolomy (GSD/Doberman/Golden Retriever) that it brings tears to my eyes.

But what I actually wanted to talk about is pet insurance. I don't know whether this is available in Israel, but without it, La Fluffita's (my gentle GSD) major surgery last year would have been a bit of a financial shock. Her treatment was in excess of £1000. Goodness alone knows how much that is in Shekels, but I don't notice the smallish monthly payment. I only had to pay the first £40 of the treatment, and the policy price has not increased. Certainly something worth looking at.

Posted by: chairwoman | Jan 14, 2008 3:28:58 PM

Wow. I hope everything works out for the best in the end. I can't wait to meet the new puppy!

Posted by: tnspr569 | Jan 14, 2008 3:57:19 PM

I am sure Jordan will be extremely pleased with her new charge.

Posted by: weese | Jan 14, 2008 4:26:54 PM

She's a cutie... and I'm sure she'll fit right into the insanity, er, I mean, the lovely home you guys have going on there! ;)

Posted by: Val | Jan 14, 2008 4:40:24 PM

Very nice. Good luck to Jordan. Something tells me that the new puppy and Yonah might become the source of some good blog material.

Posted by: Jack | Jan 14, 2008 4:41:41 PM

Benji: thanks for the tip. Wiley now = Wile E.

David: nice surprise, eh?! Don't count on my making the recipe though... link looked AMAZING, but it is not in the cards for today....

Posted by: zahava | Jan 14, 2008 4:47:52 PM

Awww...I have tears in my eyes! So sweet. Mazel Tov on the new addition to your family.

Posted by: SaraK | Jan 14, 2008 5:19:48 PM

"Seeing that maternal glow told me all I needed to know."

Sorry... that was actually the flash! LOL! :-)

(though I am admittedly, totally and hopelessly, smitten with Lulu!)

Posted by: zahava | Jan 14, 2008 5:54:33 PM

I just finally got a chance to read both parts after a busy weekend. The solution sounds great. Growing up, my family always had at least one, and sometimes up to three dogs. Whenever we were down to one, we would start looking around for another. (except the first one from a breeder, and the 4th one which we kept when the 3rd had a litter, all our dogs were from one shelter or another). It always worked well as the older dog enjoyed playing with the newer one. The only thing to watch for is that when the older dog needs a break, especially when they are really just about to pass and tire very easily, sometimes the younger one needs to be separated because they are too energetic and want the older one to keep playing. As my parents are now retired and want to travel more often, their current dog will probably be the last one. It gets harder and harder to find someone to watch him when they come to visit us, go on cruises, etc. I'm hoping my 2 year old daughter will get over her fear of dogs so that when we move to a bigger house with a yard, hopefully we can start with our own set of dogs.

I look forward to reading about the introduction of the puppy to the whole family, and how Jordan is doing!

Posted by: JDMDad | Jan 14, 2008 5:56:58 PM

I was just wondering how you guys were doing today, and was about to drop you a line, when i thought I'd check the blog. I totally agree with your decision re: Jordan (as someone who had her dog as her flowergirl you could guess where I would stand on that). The new puppy looks adorable, and I'm sure she'll fit in just fine with all the Bogners. Refuah shleimah to Jordan.

Posted by: Noa | Jan 14, 2008 6:18:06 PM

A great big kol ha-kavod to you. Please pet Jordan for me, and the new puppy too, when she comes to live with you. I'd love to see her!

Posted by: Rahel | Jan 14, 2008 6:24:17 PM

the rest of the day they were scritching Jordan under the chin and saying "Jordan... you're getting a new puppy!"

Oh my gosh - that is simply the cutest.

Posted by: orieyenta | Jan 14, 2008 7:56:20 PM

Mazel Tov!!! May we only celebrate simchas together. I hear we will be splitting the cost of the Bat Mitzvahs.

Posted by: Mark | Jan 14, 2008 9:06:16 PM

A friend in the States emailed me with muzzle tov! Cute, no?!

Posted by: zahava | Jan 14, 2008 9:08:13 PM

Awww... so cute! I'm so happy for you all... :) What a way to make the best of a situation!

Posted by: chantyshira | Jan 14, 2008 10:14:47 PM

Great news about the puppy! And great advice from your vet. I was tempted to suggest getting a puppy now or very soon based on personal experience, but I thought that might sound insensitive. But it will help all around, both now and down the road. It was for similar reasons that we got our second Vizsla... it was right after Riley's recovery from the first bout with cancer (Koby is now the oldster of the pack at age 9). Riley's seeming reaction when we brought puppy Koby home was, "A puppy! Finally!!! What took you so long???." One of my favorite all-time memories. Even though it seems impossible, your love and awe for Jordan will continue to expand as you observe her passing on her "doggie wisdom" to the next generation. Your puppy doesn't know it yet, but she just hit the number!

I love "Muzzle Tov!"

Posted by: Daphne | Jan 14, 2008 11:03:33 PM

Goo-ood call! Zahava looks *just* like my brightest student this year, a whiz in calculus who invokes working for G-d's glory on every page (upper right-hand corner).

Da kids get to give Jordan the good news. The Dog gets to mentor the pup. The pup gets to insinuate into the fambly.

I can smell the puppy breath of the little woebegone one even now.

ditto "muzzle tov!"

Posted by: Wry Mouth | Jan 15, 2008 10:06:45 AM

Congratulations on the new puppy and very happy to hear that Jordan is doing so well under the treatment. It is such a hard decision to make, so hard to know what the right thing to do is, but it definitely sounds like you've made the right choice with her. Give Jordan a scritch behind the ears for me --and hey, hopefully I can manage to get over there to meet you guys and give Jordan a scritch myself sometime soon.

Posted by: Yaeli | Jan 15, 2008 11:50:22 AM

Yaeli: We would LOVE! the opportunity to meet in person! And rumor has it hot meals aren't a possibility at the moment by you -- we'd also love the opportunity to give you a hot and nourishing meal! Please let us know when you would like to come! And until then, know that we are lavishing extra scritches on Jordan on your behalf!

Posted by: zahava | Jan 15, 2008 5:21:12 PM

I DARE NOT show this post (and picture) to my younger son as he has been wanting a puppy for a long time since we had to put our other dog down a couple years ago. Unfortunately, we are simply too busy to properly train and spend time with a new dog.

I'm very sorry to hear about your dear family pet having cancer. They ARE like family. I think your post was extremely well balanced, taking into consideration both money and the love you have for this family member.

The new puppy is so cute I just want to squeeze him!

You and Zahava are SUCH good and thoughtful parents.

Posted by: Maya | Jan 15, 2008 5:34:43 PM

We had a similar situation - our dog died suddenly and shortly afterwards one of our sons was severely bitten by a neighbor's dog... so we let the subject ride.

We were very happy when the son who had been bitten asked for a dog last year.

Posted by: Ben-David | Jan 15, 2008 7:13:47 PM

Oh no, poor Jordan and poor you, it is heartbreaking. I'm so sorry she's ill. But it's true, chemo in pets dosn't have the devastating side effects it has on humans. Your vet seems to be very competent anyway but look, as long as an animal is pain-free, eating, peeing, pooping and generally bright there's quality of life. I hope she still has a fair amount of time ahead of her but you'll know when it stops, you'll know when it's time to let her go.

The new puppy is adorable, your heart is abt to expand - and did you know, spaying females BEFORE the first heat reduces by abt 98% the chances of mammary tumours (vry nasty and aggressive surgeries, those, very painful recoveries); bfr the 2nd heat it drops to abt 75% and after that there is no effect on mammary cancer BUT, still worth it to reduce the chancs of pyometra. Which I sometimes still pronouce the Hebrew way, btw, much to the delight of my classmates.

I would also like to add, should your commenters read this, that there are many advantages to adopting older animals - you know what sort of personality they have (not everything is changeable ot trainable), they are often already somewhat trained and are certainly housebroken, so it's all cuteness without the aggravation. Plus, they desperately need families. HINT.

(Sorry but you know I couldn't resist this)

Posted by: Lioness | Jan 17, 2008 1:07:30 AM

chairwoman... That's our hope. Jordan is a real mother hen with younger dogs and we're hoping she'll school the new puppy to be like her.

Vauban... Thanks.

Benji... Fair enough, but you have to understand that when I used to watch the show I didn't read. :-)

chairwoman... I know they have such a thin in the US, but I haven't heard of it here. I'll have to ask the vet.

tnspr569... Well, you know where we live. :-)

weese... Here's hoping... :-)

Val... OK, so we're not OCD cases like you and mom. Get over it! :-)

Jack... I never lack for material. :-)

zahava... Thank you sweetie.

SaraK... When are you coming back to meet her?

JDMDad... You can count on it. Thanks.

Noa... You know, they have these new inventions called phones. You should look into it. :-) Seriously, it's nice that you look in on us via the blog, but we haven't seen you guys in forever. Is your son in college yet? ;-)

Rahel... I'm sure you'll get to meet her.

orieyenta... True, it isn't just that we treat Jordan like one of the kids... but the kids treat her like a sib (without the bickering, of course).

Mark... Which in dog years is very soon! :-)

chantyshira... Even when Jordan goes (which will hopefully not be too soon), the kids will learn a hard-but-valuable lesson about how the world works. Being a parent sucks sometimes.

Daphne... It's been a long time since I've had to housebreak a dog. I hope my sanity can stand the strain. :-)

Wry Mouth... Thanks. We all feel like winners around here.

Yaeli... Ditto what zahava said. We have a nice big guest room with it's own bathroom and everything! Anytime you want to have me bring you home from Beer Sheva for dinner and drop you back in the morning at the train we can arrange it. :-)

Maya... Thanks, although you'd be surprised at the kinds of parenting mistakes we regularly make. It's nice to get one right occasionally. :-)

Ben-David... Like getting back on the horse... :-)

Lioness... I was wondering when you'd chime in. :-). Yes, we've already gotten the 'talk' from the vet about when to have the new dog 'fixed'. Being observant Jews we have an additional hurdle (it is against Jewish law to neuter/spay animals) so we'll have to sell her to a non-Jew for a few days in order to have them arrange the procedure. I know... I can hear you rolling your eyes from here. :-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jan 17, 2008 10:24:41 AM

A few months ago we put down our 15 year old Siberian Husky. It was a difficult choice to make, but her health and quality of life were going downhill fast.

The decision was made even more bittersweet because the baby (4 months old at the time) had just started noticing the dog and spent the next few days looking for her. Now at 8 months old, he contents himself to watching our 2 cats.

I've stated I don't want another dog until the baby is 3 years old and so far I've managed to stick to this, but it's so difficult when there are daily posts on Janglo looking for placement for dogs and my teenage daughters are bugging me about getting another dog.

Posted by: Pesky Settler | Jan 17, 2008 12:51:10 PM

what do you mean you can't spay/neuter? Factory farming is alright but spaying isn't? Filling cows with hormones is kosher, Like, hello!!
There's a site in hebrew at
really, not doing it is cruelty.

Posted by: asher | Jan 17, 2008 1:15:11 PM


It's interesting, the question of spaying/neutering seems to be a cultural one.

I used to have an American neighbor who was APPALLED that another resident of our building hadn't spayed her cat. But the cat owner (a French immigrant) was APPALLED at the CRUELTY of forcing an animal to be unable to reproduce, unable to actualize this basic instinct. Her feelings were even more acute because they were talking about a cat, and some cat lovers here feel that the humans want to spay in order to control the cat population -- that is for the convenience of the humans, not out of kindness to the animals.

Not that I talk to so many Israelis about the issue, so I don't know how widespread either side is here, but you should know that for all that you feel the righteous thing to do is to spay, there are people who think that YOU are the cruel one.

Posted by: Sarah | Jan 17, 2008 1:36:20 PM

Pesky Settler... Sounds like it won't be long now. BTW, since you don't have the considerations that we did (i.e. giving an older dog the opportunity to mentor/raise a pup) you should follow lioness' advice and check the shelters for a good 'used dog'. :-)

asher... It always amazes me when I read comments from otherwise level-headed people that show not the slightest hint that they counted to 10 before hitting the 'submit' button. I accept the fact that you are secular, left of center and against most of the stuff I hold dear. Those are your choices and I accept them. But just once I wish you'd just count to ten and re-read your comments through someone else's eyes before submitting them. First off, the site to which you linked deals exclusively with the medical and ethical reasons to spay/neuter animals and does not address the issue of religious prohibition. Just FYI, there is no religious prohibition against factory farming or using drugs/medicines to treat the animals we consume for meat or use for milk. There are religious laws regarding mixing species of plants and when/how they may be harvested. There are also religious laws that deal with how we treat animals that we own, which work for us and which give us meat and milk. But again, by saying 'We do X and Y so it is crazy to say you can't do Z' you are demonstrating either a poor understanding of 'Z' or perhaps a prejudice against the laws related to 'Z' that I mentioned. It is a religious obligation to feed one's animals before you eat... so we feed Jordan first and even giver her the first piece of Challah when we make 'HaMotzei' on shabbat. It is against Jewish law to spay or neuter an animal, so if one feels (as we do) that there are ethical and/or medical reasons to do so, an acceptable solution must be found that does not violate Jewish law. Most religious Jews I know who want to spay/neuter their pets simply sell the animals (for a token sum) to a non-Jew for a couple of days and then buy them back (for an amount at least equal to the cost of the surgery) after the operation. This may seem a silly - maybe even fraudulent - solution (not unlike selling Chametz before the Passover holiday), but since it doesn't hurt you and it fulfills my obligation as an observant Jew... why leave a dismissive, finger wagging comment? Is your need to disparage religious Jews/Judaism so great?

Sarah... Thanks for that, but I don't think your excellent comment succeeded in addressing the root of Asher's objection. Quite simply, it couldn't. Read my reply to Lioness and then read Asher's comment. Did I say anywhere that it was not cruel to spay animals? Did I say I didn't intend to have our pet spayed? Did I in any way shape or form suggest that others not spay/neuter their pets? No. I made the mistake of saying that it was against Jewish Law to do it, and that religious law mandated an additional step be taken so our new puppy could be spayed. Asher objects to religious Judaism, so his knee-jerk reaction to my aside to Lioness was to launch into a tirade about how illogical and cruel Jewish law is. [shakes head]

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jan 17, 2008 2:22:10 PM

but then why do you need to find a way around the prohibition (how useful it is to have non-Jews around when you need them) in order to do a MITZVAH of avoiding Tzaar Baalei Haim? Quite the opposite, you should do it yourself (not literally) and get the credit.

Posted by: asher | Jan 17, 2008 2:55:15 PM

asher... Thanks for clearing that up. I now realize that your comment(s) stem from a lack of understanding of 'Z'. Jewish law (halacha) is not something that one simply sets aside when it seems to defy logic or current trends in science or ethics. Rather, it is incumbent upon us to find a way to live in this logical, highly advanced world while remaining in compliance with Halacha. There are thousands of advances in science and ethics to which Halacha has had to adapt. These advances don't provide an excuse to no longer follow halacha. It simply means that, where possible, a creative solution needs to be found to make use of the advances within a halachic framework. Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jan 17, 2008 3:16:42 PM

Oh bother, I DID roll them! :D That's one I'd never heard of. "Fraudulent" is about the word I'd use, yes, but you know that already (oh let's not even mention my pet one, the ma'alit shabbat.). You know, it makes no sense that there hasn't been a sort of update from the rabbis considering tsa'ar ba'alei chayim. We know better now.

(Psst! What do observant Vets do then? Honestly.)

For everyone's information, just so we know exactly what is being discussed, from a medical perspective it is cruel NOT to spay if you allow your pet access to the street - pregnancies, injuries, FIV, FeLV, PIF... Israel is filled to capacity with unwanted animals already and there are not enough shelters. It is cruel to condemn stray animals to a life on the streets without proper nutrition. It is cruel to have babies be born and die bcs the mother cannot produce enough milk and she herlsef is malnourished and they hav many things wrong with them anyway.It is cruel to condem females to eternal pregnancy states without proper nutrition and care. It is cruel to allow venereal disease to spread. It is cruel to allow females to die of cancer bcs they weren't spayed on time, or die of a uterine infection possibly complicated by peritonitis. It certainly is cruel to throw out male cats bcs they've started marking the house and the pong is atrocious and it could all have been prevented with neutering. A pet is a responsibility for life, much like a child, and it makes me batty to listen to antropomorphising raves, it truly does. We do what is bets for an animal, nor what is best for us. The people who grimace upon hearing abt spaying are also usually the same ones who will postpone euthanasia when the animal is already siffering bcs they place themselves first, and the suffering of their pet weighs less than their wanting to hold on to them. When you show me an animal who worries abt the size of his penis I'll maybe start believing that spaying/neutering is oh so very traumatising. We operate them, we do follow ups, they are absolutely fine without their gonads. And anyone who is not willing to have their pets euthanised if they no longer have any life quality should NOT own pets, btw.

David, this of course was not directed at you, I replied to you first and then read the comments and well, I lived in Israel for 3.5 years and the amount of stray animals and the way they live is appalling, even worse than here. And people everywhere have so many misconceptions abt it that, again, I needed to make this clear.

Posted by: Lioness | Jan 17, 2008 10:53:32 PM

Lioness - most religious vets I know can't find a loophole - so they don't perform the neuter/spaying. In America I know many religious vets have trouble finding work because of this (imagine being a pediatrician and saying you won't check strep throat or ear infections).
Here in Israel there is a bit more understanding - when we got our dog spayed, our vet (who is religious) wouldn't perform the surgery and passes all neutering/spayings on to a non-Jewish colleague. He will do the follow-up care though.

Posted by: Noa | Jan 18, 2008 2:28:15 PM

Boggles the mind. Are they allowed to perform them if there is a threat to the animal's life though?

Posted by: Lioness | Jan 18, 2008 4:22:58 PM

So let's see about halacha. Halacha forbids you to do the right and proper thing (which you are of course to be commended for wanting to do), so you find a loophole to get around the halacha (what you call "a way to live in this logical, highly advanced world while remaining in compliance with Halacha.")(and what I call breaking the rules and pretending that you're not). On the other hand, halacha does not forbid factory farming, GMO's, fur coats, the tobacco industry and more, so it's up to your own conscience/value system how you deal with them. That's why I don't need the halacha, simple as that. If the bad is permitted and the good is forbidden and can only be attained by going round the back, then something is wrong.
When I was younger (so much younger than today) I disagreed with the halachists who didn't know how to deal with anything new apart from saying "HeHadash asura min HaTorah", and now my life has changed in Oh so many ways, I wish that more was forbidden as a braking mechanism against rampant globalization and capitalist greed.
You also wrote quite touchingly about "animals that we own, which work for us and which give us meat and milk." How very altruistic of them. I suppose that rats and chimpanzees in laboratories also volunteer for the greater good. Take a look at the meatrix films
You also wrote that I am "secular, left of center and against most of the stuff I hold dear" at least I'm consistent (predictable, some would say) but what's all this about being (otherwise) level-headed?
By the way, I found myself by force of necessity, about half-a-year ago, in a Tel Aviv coffee-house full of poseurs with lap-tops and more types of coffee than I knew existed, and it was not a pleasant experience, had to rush off back to the periphery and see real people so don't tar me with that brush.

Posted by: asher | Jan 19, 2008 9:38:58 PM

ahser.. OK, we're done here. If I had even a hint that you were interested in discussing any particular topic rationally and within a framework of making even a token effort to see another perspective I would continue. But I have no more patience with your general anti-religious screed. I get that you think adherence to halacha is so last century (if not last millennium). I really do. But your intolerance and hostility for those of us who have chosen to live this quaint lifestyle is just bothersome. There is a big old blogosphere out there full of people with whom you agree. Why would you waste time trying to provoke the rest of us?

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jan 20, 2008 12:04:17 AM


So when I first read this post there weren't any comments... so i wandered back to see if I missed any updates and I find a charred battlefield...

I have had limited exposure to this particular halacha vs. science debate, but I'd like to point out that there are some people who stake out a middle ground by putting their female pets on birth-controll pills. I don't know if this satisfies the Ashers or Lionesses of the world, but it may offer a way to keep a stricter Halachic viewpoint (w/o resorting to "loopholes") as well as decreasing the risks of pregnancy.

Having said that, loopholes play a part in every legal system. Assuming this particular "sale" is a legitimate legal device (and I have no reason to assume otherwise), why would anyone have a problem with it? Especially if it reinforces their world-view...

I'm just saying...

On a totally unrelated note:
Her name is Lulu? Is that Ed-Norton-sleepwalking-Lulu? As in Looooooolooo!!!!!

Posted by: wogo | Jan 20, 2008 4:10:57 PM

Well, the Lionesses of the world would likely sadly shake their heads over such utter ignorance of Reproductive Endocrinology since the damage that placing females on birth control does is rather ugly, hullo cancer and other lovely diseases brought forth by massive and prolonged hormonal exposure, not to mention that male pets can still copulate and contract venereal diseases, fight over females and fall prey to fatal infectious diseases, and cause pregnancies thereby adding to an already vast number of stray animals. So the Lionesses of the world would not really call it "middle ground" but, when put forward as a sensible alternative without adequate research behind it, just plain idiocy.

They would, furthermore, like to add that, be the loopholes as they may be, the Lionesses, find, for their part, such behaviour a tad hypocritical- if the Halachah forbids it and you live by the Halacha then it is indeed forbidden, full stop. So either buck up and say "I'm sorry but we now know better and the Halachah is deficient in this particular subject" and have it done or not at all. As far as the Lionesses of the world are concerned it is of course preferable to have a non-Jew buy said animal etc etc bcs the outcome benefits the animal and the Lionesses are all for that; but, from an ethical perspective, they (Lionesses of the world) do indeed find the process wrong.

Posted by: Lioness | Jan 21, 2008 9:41:43 PM

@ Lioness:

I started writing a lengthy response, but perhaps it would be a good idea to clear something up first...

Based on what you just wrote, it would seem that you think that anyone who tries to lead a Halachic lifestyle is either an idiot or a hypocrite.

Please confirm (or deny).

Posted by: wogo | Jan 22, 2008 8:26:38 AM

Oh Wogo, that is EXACTLY what I said, exactly. I'm so glad you understood. Feel free to carry on without me from now on.

Posted by: Lioness | Jan 22, 2008 3:47:35 PM

Lioness... I feel like I should say something since I certainly have a dog in this 'fight'

Your statement "if the Halachah forbids it and you live by the Halacha then it is indeed forbidden, full stop." is troublesome only in that it displays a lack of understanding of how Halachah works. Jewish law has many components and has 'evolved' (albeit slowly) just behind the crest of modern scientific development. This doesn't mean that a bunch of rabbis get together periodocially and decid that what was forbidden yesterday is now permitted (or the other way arond). Rather, they've had to constantly re-examine the entire body of Jewish law based on what they now know in order to see of there are new ways of interpreting and understanding the laws differently. One example is the use of special phones (and other electronic devices) in Israeli hospitals. There is no question that in order to save a person's life a Jew is allowed to break pretty much any prohibition. But what about performing non-life-saving tasks like changing the dosage on an electronic IV drip... calling the lab to check or order tests... raise a patient's bed? Technically, the answer is no. But... what the Rabbi's came up with was a device that added an extra step between pushing the button on a device (such as a phone) and the actual connection of the circuit (i.e. making a spark). This way, the person is not directly causing the spark. This may seem like a cheat to you, but it is a sincere attempt to allow religious Jews to act in the best interest of a sick patient while adhering to the letter of the law. Those who wish to live a halachic life truly believe that the creator of the world wants us to live according to these laws. We also believe that the creator of the world gave us brains... not only to discover new things, but how to adapt halachah to be able to make use of the new things we discover. If you don't believe as I do, that the creator of the world gave us the Torah and the laws to live by, that is your belief. But if a small portion (meaning religious Jews) of a minuscule percentage(meaning Jews) of the world's population feel that they (and only they) are forbidden to do something, you need to keep that in perspective. G-d didn't say that the entire world's population of dogs and cats need to be left with their reproductive organs intact. He (or She) said that Jews may not perform this operation. That leaves a LOT of wiggle room to do the right thing. Granted, it may be inconvenient for a religious Jew who wants to be a vet, but that is even a smaller group within the small minority of that tiny percentage I mentioned earlier. Perspective is all I'm saying. I love your passion and your conviction. But your conclusions in this case were a tad hurtful.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jan 22, 2008 5:07:34 PM

I spent 20 minutes looking through gmail and hotmail when I rad your comment last night because I could have sworn we discussed this a few years ago but I can't find anything. I want to explain what I meant, I certainly didn't mean to be hurtful or insult anyone. I do understand what Halachah is and my opinions have nothing nothing to do with cats and dogs per se, rather - well, I don't know if you'd like me to talk about it here or via email (do you have them? Did we indeed discuss this?) and I don't want to risk being misunderstood or hogging your blog so let me know.

Posted by: Lioness | Jan 23, 2008 3:19:43 PM

beautiful story.......its really gud

Posted by: dyu | Nov 3, 2008 4:48:35 PM

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