In October of 2011, nearly 6 years ago, I wrote a blog post about why Orthodox people have fewer dogs – and some are downright scared of them – than the non-Orthodox. In part:
1. They have more kids instead of pets. Me, if I ever thought I had the time and mental energy to handle caring for an animal, I’d say to myself: Self! What is stopping you from bringing another child into this world?
2. For kids of Holocaust survivors, dogs were a no-no, as the Germans used them for crowd control, and worse.
3. There are some Halachic issues with caring for a pet on Shabbat and holidays. Yes, yes, I know that they can all be surmounted, but some people would prefer to avoid this issue in the first place.
4. Part of Jewish philosophy is the stressing of the distinction between human and animal. I don’t know if or how that relates, but I sure find it interesting, especially as society as a whole tends to humanize animals and animalize humans. Think Curious George all the way down to the Berenstein Bears, to the zoo telling us we are simply cooler primates. Jewish philosophy disagrees.
5. Due to the above and possibly reasons I’ve never thought of, it has become culturally unusual for Orthodox people to own dogs – which drives its own resistance.
I’m cringing for two reasons: firstly, I hate reading old posts because my writing style has changed and the old one bugs me. Second, I have a dog and am tired of anti-dog bias among those who just don’t know better.
So I’d like to revisit all my reasons and kind of debunk them.
- No. Just no. Kids and pets are totally different. Why did I even compare? Pets enhance kids. Pets are good for kids. Pets are therapeutic. I think more Orthodox kids need dogs and adults too for that matter.
- This is true, but it’s a reason for the ignorance, not an actual reason not to have them.
- This is also true. There are Halachic issues with caring for a pet on Shabbat and holidays, but there are Halachic issues with cooking food and serving it hot and we figure it out. We work around it; it’s not a big deal.
- Meh. Pet owners get the difference. If anything, the more I interact with my dog the more I feel like I understand G-d’s plan in bringing dogs and animals in general into the universe. If anything, before I had a pet I was guessing at what people with pets thought. Yes, losing a pet is traumatic and it hurts. No, it’s not like losing a human.
- True. Culturally unusual and people who want to be usual will care about this. But we can also challenge cultural norms that have no real basis or that mean a large part of our community’s kids are losing out.
Our dog has enhanced our family in so many ways and been a therapeutic influence. In fact I am starting to wonder if our dog is a reincarnated soul with a mission to complete on his journey here. Chabad’s website chabad.org says this:
In a long and fascinating letter, the fourth Lubavitcher rebbe, Rabbi Shmuel, known as the Rebbe Maharash, explains that although some Kabbalists were of the opinion that animals don’t have immortal souls,5 according to the teachings of the Arizal animals do in fact have independent souls, and they do go to heaven.6 The Arizal is generally considered the final arbiter for all Kabbalistic teachings.
I guess you can say I’ve changed. My views have changed. And that is something I’m proud of. Woof.