Kibbutz canine care

For a shampoo and cut, clients high-tail it to Sipur Acher.

kibbutz canine 88 298 (photo credit: Lydia Aisenberg)
kibbutz canine 88 298
(photo credit: Lydia Aisenberg)
More than 30 years after making aliya, Scottish-born Kibbutz Hazorea member Marlene Laufer returned to her pre-aliya profession of canine beautician. That was almost 10 years ago. Today, she has more than 400 canine clients, who regularly come trotting up the path to her kibbutz beauty parlor for a shampoo or haircut, administered with a large dollop of tender loving care. "I always loved dogs and began grooming when I was just 12 years old, helping out in my parents' pet shop in Ibrox," explains Laufer while working on a large critter stretched out on the treatment table going by the name of Pashosh. Pashosh is from Nahalal, a moshav in the Jezreel Valley. His owner dropped him off and said she would be back in an hour to pick him up. I asked what breed this furry fellow was. "Oh, a definite Heinz 57 varieties," replied Laufer, laughing and giving Pashosh a warm hug. "It's more polite than saying 'mutt,'" she chuckled, her Scottish accent - and humor - still pronounced, even though she made aliya more than four decades ago. I was curious to know how old Pashosh was. Laufer promptly pried open his jaw, said he was four or five, and looked him squarely in the eye as she warned him that he needed to see a doggie dentist pronto, and made a note to tell his owner at collection time. Laufer left school when she was 15 and managed to persuade her parents to allow her to go to Germany and live with her father's brother in Cologne, where she worked for a year in a well-known pet shop, learning the heads and tails of the canine beauty profession. Returning to Glasgow, the Habonim movement member rejoined her parents in their shop for another two years before leaving for Israel in l965. "My parents were not at all happy about my making aliya and tried to tempt me to stay in Scotland by promising to set me up in my own canine beauty parlor," explained Laufer, who married kibbutz member Shmuel Laufer, who was born in Uzbekistan and was a child passenger on the ship the Exodus. For the first 15 years after she settled on Hazorea, she tended kibbutz kinder in the baby house and then took care of the older folk in Hazorea, founded in 1936 by German pioneers of the Hashomer Hatzair movement. When the kibbutz became more flexible as far as how members could make their daily bread, Laufer asked to be able to set up what her parents had promised her - a canine beauty parlor she could call her own. Thus was born Sipur Acher, a play on the Hebrew for "a different cut" or "a different tale." The first clients came from the nearby town of Yokneam; but these days, with her reputation spreading through word of mouth, clients are coming from as far away as Jerusalem and Beersheba. "I actually use a special computer program for dog groomers," she said, nodding toward the computer on her worktable. The parlor walls are covered with pictures of dogs carefully cut out from magazines and calendars, forming a mosaic of dogs of all sizes, colors and breeds. Pashosh seems particularly interested in one pin-up gal about level with his eyes, from where he is stretched out. But would a posh-looking poodle be interested in a Heinz 57 varieties from Nahalal? Laufer is working with a small tool that resembles a mini-rake as she grooms Pashosh. With each stroke, a tennis ball-size blob of hair appears, clinging to the rake. "This is called a furminator as opposed to a terminator - which would remove the dog entirely," she quipped. An assortment of colorful bandanas hang on a board, one of which will end up tied around Pashosh's neck when he leaves for home, a sign of his having been to Marlene's beauty parlor across the valley from his regular habitat.