Posted on | June 10, 2009 | By Guest Contributor | 85 Comments
Peleg and I have a dilemma, and we’re asking the Beyond BT community for their input.
Last September I was approaching my car after work, and I noticed a dog romping around, unattached (to a leash) and without a collar and name tag. An old childhood fantasy suddenly reared its head, and I found myself wishing there was no owner and I could take it home. My mother, a Holocaust survivor who had hidden in an oven deep into a wall, had miraculously been spared by a Nazi’s search dog’s search into the oven, and like the dogs in Egypt who remained silent as the Children of Israel escaped, this dog, too, emerged from the oven without so much as a “yip”.
Nevertheless, she remained frightened of dogs all her life and we remained dog-less. The woman whom the dog trotted over to begged me to take the dog home to “foster” since she already owned 2 dogs and she worried that this homeless creature would end up in a “kill pound”. She promised she’d try to find it a permanent home. So I ambivalently accepted the leash, doggie toy, and food she gave me, and I took it home.
Surprisingly, not only was my husband accepting of its temporary presence, he grew so attached to her that we ended up adopting her. Our frum landlord said nothing since there was nothing in the lease saying we couldn’t have pets, but it became clear that not only did they disapprove of the dog, most of our frum neighbors in our Brooklyn neighborhood were at worst scared to death, and at best, somewhat askance at their new neighbor, named Twinkie (Yiddish name Twinkel). The kids were intrigued with her, and some even ventured to pet her. We checked out in our sefer regarding hilchos Shabbos (Shmiras Shabbos by Rabbi Yehoshua Neuwirth) that dogs could be walked even outside an eruv on Shabbos (without the name tag), although cleaning up after her is a problem because we’d have to carry the bag (and its contents). To resolve this issue, my husband goes out after Shabbos and cleans it up.
Now the dilemma: yesterday the landlord came to renew the lease that was up, and was willing to keep the current rent in place, BUT, we have to get rid of the dog, no ifs, ands, or buts. The reason given was her barking whenever anyone enters our two-family house (we’re on the first floor and the landlord is on the second). When I called today to ask if we found a way to get her to stop barking (dog obedience school or something) (he’d never heard of such a concept) he said he’d speak to his brother-in-law (co-owner of the house) and get back to me. Later I ran into the owners’ mother-in-law, who actually lives in the house (the landlords do not), and I proposed the same to her. She hemmed and hawed, kept blaming the dog-ban on complaining neighbors, and then finally blurted out that she was embarrassed to have a dog in the house, that everyone that comes to the house (and gets barked at from behind closed doors) says to her: “You have a dog in the house? Why do you let them?” She continued with FFB finality: “WE (as in REAL frum Jews) don’t have such things, dogs, cats…” When I told her in Europe many Jews owned dogs and cats, she shrugged. I, of course, felt relegated 30 years backwards to BTland, too “prost” to be considered part of the mainstream (B”H my kids are married, otherwise they could never get a shidduch).
So what’s the word out there? Am I halachically out of line? Minhagly out of line? Do we get rid of Twinkie and stay in the apartment? Or do we keep her and take ourselves “chutz la’machaneh” (which translates to an apartment building where pets are allowed, in a reasonably frum neighborhood) but we’ll have to pack all over again and leave some friends behind (which translates to a few blocks away)? Am I now a goy?
Please help. We have to have an answer in a week and a half!