When sporadic alarms signaling incoming missiles from Gaza blared in his neighborhood in recent months, Lucky would often freeze in confusion as the human residents of his Moshav Gea home ran to their safe room. But during the past week, in which rocket fire and alarms have become routine for the southern community, the large golden dog jets to the shelter automatically. “He follows us to the shelter, he knows,” Kineret Rozen-Edelman, a teacher at Sha’ar Hanegev Regional High School and Gea resident, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. “He gets up with us and runs to the shelter.”
Rozen-Edelman was speaking with the Post on Monday morning at around 11 a.m., and she was happy to have had a night of relative quiet from 1:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. Since rescuing the one-and-a-half-year-old Lucky from an Ashkelon shelter about a year ago, Rozen-Edelman and her husband have been training the dog to grow accustomed to using the shelter when necessary.
Upon entering the shelter, Lucky tends to run in circles at first and then quickly settles down, and within about 15-20 seconds, both humans and dog hear a boom from outside.
“Then a few seconds after the boom, he sits down,” Rozen-Edelman said.
One problem that Gea faces in particular is that the alarms tend to sound quite often, as the moshav is often in the line of fire for rockets headed toward – and Iron Dome interceptions from – Ashdod, Gan Yavne, Ashkelon, Be’er Tuviya and Kiryat Malachi, she explained.
At the beginning of the latest onslaught, Gea was receiving about 10 or 12 alarms per day, and is now getting about six.
“Ever since the missiles began, [Lucky’s] been very, very clingy,” Rozen-Edelman said, noting that Lucky comes from a tortured past prior to his stay in the animal shelter. “He’s been following us wherever we go, sitting with us.”
Jesse Shalev, who lives with his wife Lillou in Givatayim, has a two-year-old dog named Swarley and a five-year-old cat named Lola, who have now learned to respond to the “relatively soft” alarms that sound in their town during an attack.
“Swarley is quite good at following us if called but Lola is a cat and cats like to hide,” Shalev told the Post.
The situation becomes most difficult when either Shalev or his wife are alone with the animals and a siren goes off.
“Yesterday Lillou was alone and was unable to find Lola for an extended period of time, which caused her to wait out the time in the stairwell instead of reaching the shelter in her allotted 60 seconds,” Shalev said.
Very close to the northern Gazan border, Nofar Gal’s family has four pets – a dog named Pitzy and three cats – in Yad Mordechai.
“Our pets learned long ago that whenever the rocket alarm goes off, they need to run to the safe room, and they do that every time,” Gal said. “It used to be a funny thing for them, kind of a game, but now then just won’t leave the room.”
Pitzy has particularly been affected by the alarms and explosions, perpetually crying and sleeping only in the family’s bed, as well as needing medicine to calm her nerves.
“The situation in the South has been very difficult not only for us humans but also for our pets,” Gal told the Post.
Eti Altman, founder and spokeswoman for the organization Let Animals Live, stressed that the situation for animals in the South has become very difficult, and that no one has devised a “plan B” for animals facing war.
“They don’t know how to speak, how to complain,” she said.
Let Animals Live is currently bringing 30 southern dogs to a shelter in Kfar Truman, but these places are already overcrowded with animals, she explained.
“If people don’t come adopt these animals, we won’t have more room for the ones from the South,” Altman said.
In addition to their displacement, many animals who are in safe locations end up with anxiety when alarms sound, according to Gadi Vitner, spokesman for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Israel, based in Tel Aviv. Alarms, explosion sounds and sirens heavily influence their actions, as they pick up events going on around them very sharply, according to Vitner.
When going to the safe room or shelter, an owner should place a dog on a leash as if he was about to go on a walk, he explained. For cats, people should always make sure their cat travel cases ready and open for easy transportation to a safe room. Should the owners choose to leave their parts of the country for a less tumultuous area, it is important that they bring the animals with them, according to Vitner. Many private animal shelters have also opened their doors to pets facing a turbulent South, he added.
“It is always possible to find a good and responsible solution,” Vitner said. “We must remember that pets are sensitive just like us.”
Pet owners should also prepare food and water in advance, as well as a litter box for cats, in protected spaces, as per instructions from the Israeli Companion Animal Veterinary Association. A dog in particular should not be left alone, as it may injure itself trying to escape from the frightening situation, according to the organization.
Owners must take pains not to be angry or punish uncooperative animals in these situations, and must refrain from giving the pets medicines without consulting veterinarians.
In addition to cats and dogs, rabbits, rodents, ferrets and birds should also be moved to shelters when alarms sound, in their cages or protective boxes, the association said.
Back in Gea, as Rozen-Edelman spoke to the Post on the phone, an alarm blared in the background, interrupting the conservation briefly. With her husband and Lucky, she ran to her safe room, getting there in the allotted 15 seconds of time.
“He has this look confusion,” she said of Lucky. “I hugged him and I told him to sit down.”
About 15 seconds after entering, they heard a boom.
“Right now [Lucky] is sitting on the couch in the safe room,” Rozen-Edelman said.
“He’s embracing the idea of being safe – he’s almost protecting us.”