Following the successful conclusion of her first dog-sitting job, my 13-year-old daughter Merav has been looking for ways to expand her business, especially now that she has extra time due to the two and a half week Pessah vacation that began on Sunday. An article last week in Idiot Aharonot may very well point the way.
During Pessah, observant Jews are required to rid their homes of any hametz - leavened bread and products made of wheat, barley and other flours. But what about food items that are not clearly edible, like an old burned piece of toast or a shampoo that may have some ingredients containing possible hametz? Jewish law explains that if a dog would not eat it, then it is not hametz.
That was the impetus for a new business launched in Jerusalem by the improbably named Frumie R. Pessah. "Not Fit for a Dog - Canine Kosher for Pessah Inspections" pledges to put even the most stringent minds at ease by guaranteeing that one's home is ready for the holiday.
Ms Pessah has trained a team of six dogs who accompany her or one of her staff on pre-Pessah visits to clients homes. The pooches then scour the house sniffing for would-be hametz. If they find any offending leaven, the dogs eat it up, removing any probable cause for holiday concern. If the dogs won't touch a questionable item, it can safely be considered not hametz. Clients can hire up to three dogs to sniff at once, ensuring both a quicker and more thorough search.
"The idea came to me one day when I was catching a plane," Ms Pessah said. "I noticed a security officer with a dog checking for bombs and I thought, finding hametz in the middle of the Seder is no less of a tragedy for the observant Jewish household."
Following every inspection, Not Fit for a Dog grants its own kosher for Pessah "paw-print" seal. Despite the whimsical approach, this is serious stuff: the operation is under the strict supervision of Rabbi Leib Ben Rador of Bnei Bark.
Pricing is based on the number of dogs employed, how many rooms are sniffed, and a per-item fee for "spot checking" where customers can bring specific items down from hard-to-reach cabinets for the dogs to give a once over. This is especially handy for pharmaceuticals and toiletries which some kosher consumers consider in the same category as food. Homeowners with more than one residence receive a discount for volume. Not Fit for a Dog has a partnership with the LiceBusters service in case any of its "employees" pick up inadvertent hitchhikers.
Not Fit for a Dog has two golden retrievers (one purebred), a miniature poodle, a dachshund and two mutts on its staff. The retrievers are most in demand. "They're fast and really know how to search," Ms Pessah explains. The poodle is also popular. "A very smart animal." The dachshund is mostly used in homes with furniture in hard-to-reach places.
Not Fit for a Dog is currently self-financed and business has been booming so far. Next up: an Internet site where it will be possible to make reservations for additional services.
"We're hoping to train the dogs to clean ovens and lick down refrigerators," Ms Pessah says.
What do the dogs do in the long off-season between Pessah holidays? "They go back to their owners, of course," Ms Pessah says, where they are prized for their newly learned manners. "After working with us, these dogs no longer sniff each other's, well, you know. I guess they've developed more refined tastes."
The writer is a regular blogger at www.ThisNormalLife.com.