Dog at Palmahim Beach .
(photo credit: DOV GREENBLAT)
I am a young Italian who, two years ago, moved to Israel to take up “the next job.” As a non-Jew, when I arrived in Tel Aviv there were many new and surprising things that I discovered, but the one that trumped them all was the love of Tel Avivians for their dogs.
I come from an animal-loving family that always supported my passion for pets. In my childhood I had several dogs and cats, a guinea pig, a duck and a horse. Throughout life I had never encountered very many people who loved animals as much as I did. The sole exception were my fellow horse riders; you have to love horses to get involved in a sport relying so heavily on a relationship with them.
Moving to Tel Aviv and realizing how many people here adopt and take care of dogs was mind-blowing. In Italy people do buy dogs, frequently turning them into fashion accessories. I am confident one could even perform a systematic study identifying the most fashionable breed in any given year. Here, though, restaurants and cafés are dog-friendly and are always happy to accommodate our four-legged friends, providing them with water and sometimes even tasty treats. In Italy things are rather different; establishments often turn away customers with dogs. Customers themselves will sometimes complain about the presence of dogs at a venue (they occasionally complain about children, too).
But there are more striking differences. The infrastructure to care for dogs and provide the tools to keep them as happy as possible in Tel Aviv never ceases to amaze me. Never before had I seen a dog park with a well-kept fence, seats and even a water fountain. The level of care (both by the public and the municipality) is astonishing; the dog park I use most was recently refurbished to improve its functionality. I also find incredible the organization and professionalism that characterize dog trainers/ walkers here. They routinely assist dog owners in building a better relationship with their dogs, and in co-existing in this “urban jungle.” Their service is not a luxury, but rather a widely-used resource.
All the elements described above are strong evidence for the important role dogs play in the life of Tel-Avivians. The people of this city not only opt to adopt four-legged friends, providing them with a warm and deserved home, but also choose to invest time and money in further bettering their lives. Through this support system dogs take on the role of life companions for their owners and families more easily, and to a whole new level than is possible elsewhere.
Thanks to all the dog-friendly infrastructure in Tel Aviv I have been able to adopt the lovely Chuku, making her my friend for life and source of endless affection. I occasionally worry about how much harder our lives will be when we both leave Tel Aviv, chasing my next job. For the time being, however, I can finally say that in Tel Aviv my love for dogs is the norm and no longer an exception.