Updated: June 17, 2012 8:03AM
Q . After our old golden retriever, Gruffly, died a few months ago, most of my friends said I should be happy because my husband and I could come and go freely, but I wasn’t happy. I really missed a dog in the house. Recently, we got a golden retriever puppy and I love being a stay-at-home mom. My friends think I’m crazy for tying myself down yet again. Am I?
A. Crazy like a fox. You seized the “golden” opportunity to make your life happy and full. Yes, it’s hard to explain this to people who believe dependents (dogs, kids) weigh down a life instead of adding purpose and joy.
Q. Recently, I was visiting my sister in New York. We took her dog, Bongo, a small hairy mutt, out for a walk. We were on the street going to the park when we noticed an Orthodox family stop and stare at us. The kids looked scared and clung to their mother’s skirts when Bongo walked by. Is dog aversion customary in Orthodox Judaism?
A. Dogs are foreign creatures in pet-less observant homes. Caring for animals is hard enough when there are so many religious demands in daily ritual. That’s one theory about why many Orthodox Jews do not keep pets.
When the question about whether dogs are considered unclean was posted on a religious blog, a poster who identified himself as a rabbi interprets the Talmud: “The Talmud does say that it is forbidden to keep a pet that will scare other people, and specifically mentions a barking dog. This is but one example of the Torah’s sensitivity to other’s feelings.” Perhaps the attitude toward keeping pets is more about the humans than the animals. Religious beliefs dictate people should be more tuned in to God and other people than the family dog.
Regardless of their religious preference, parents should instill confidence in their kids to be less frightened of the unfamiliar.