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Brother and sister Toni and Tinka recently made aliya from Holland. They were personally escorted onto the airplane, their every need was immediately attended to, and they had no complaints about the airline food or in-flight service.
Then again, if they did it would be rather difficult for them to air their views because Toni and Tinka are Cavalier King Charles Spaniels - and puppies at that.
The siblings are settling in well at the canine breeding kennels-cum-absorption center run by Jezreel Valley kibbutznik Yair Shochat at Mishmar Haemek.
For decades, Shochat has bred German Shepherds, Dachshunds and the Cavalier King Charles. He began breeding German Shepherds (Alsatians) in the l960s mostly for use by Israeli security services, and later lowered his sights to smaller canines, becoming the only breeder of Dachshunds and Cavaliers in the country for many years.
"I became involved in breeding the Dachshunds after a couple from the kibbutz asked me to find them a puppy for a pet. A family in Rishon Lezion had a few Dachshunds - at the time, the only ones in the country - and they sold me a puppy," says Shochat.
With no suitable male Dachshund in the country to become suitor to their female, the couple once again turned to Shochat to help their doggie damsel in distress.
Shochat was training German Shepherds on the kibbutz basketball court one day when a vacationing mother of a volunteer from Holland said she was also a dog breeder and trainer.
Upon her return to Holland, she had sent one of her dapper Dachshund gents - and so began the breeding of Dachshunds in the Shochat kennels at Mishmar Haemek 30 years ago.
When the she died, her son Hans Boelaars took over the business. Boelaars, who was also breeding Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, encouraged Shochat to do the same in Israel.
"This breed of dog is strongly associated with the British royal family," says Shochat. Since Boelaars sent the original couple of Cavaliers on aliya, Shochat estimates that 200 Sabra puppies have walked his kennel boards.
At one point he decided to repay Boelaars by sending him one of his male puppies that showed promise. Just how much promise, he should only have known.
"We named the puppy Bambi. He not only became the Dutch champion but appears in competitions all over the world," says Shochat. The name 'Bambi Mishmat Haemek' is registered on his birth certificate. This goes with him everywhere, and I am very happy and extremely proud of his origins."
Three of Bambi's siblings - one brother and two sisters - also became champions of Israel.
These days other kennels breed Cavaliers in Israel. But, he says, nobody can take away from him the years of experience and the generations of dogs bred at his kennels. Some of the dogs in the kennels - built mainly by Shochat himself using - are veteran members of his kibbutz community.
"Some of them didn't breed too well or just didn't sell, but I love them so much that they will be here until the end," he says.
"I even had someone come especially from America to buy a puppy of mine, as over there they have many problems with heart defects because of careless breeding," Shochat explains.
Although his kibbutz treats the kennels as a branch, Shochat, who has worked full time in the kennels since l995, says his aim was not to become profitable but not be a financial burden either and manages to keep his head above economic waters.
Toni and Tinka playfully roll over each other as Shochat turns to ask, "Aren't they beautiful?"
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