Friday, September 21, 2007

A dispute over a black Labrador dog

Here is a Tel Aviv story that is appropriate for Yom Kippur.

The story begins with an angry, violent confrontation in a local park one Sabbath morning this past spring. Passing through the park on my way to the beach, I saw one of my neighbors talking with a couple whom I didn't recognize.

Forty-five minutes later, on my way home, I noticed that they were still there, and two police officers had joined them. The strangers had a black Labrador retriever on a leash. My neighbor claimed the dog was her family's pet, Bobby, who had been missing for months.

Tempers were high. My neighbor's knees were skinned from having been dragged on the ground when she fought with the strangers over the leash. Each side was talking about bringing charges against the other.

By the time I got there, my neighbor was displaying photo albums containing pictures of the family with Bobby over the years. She had sent one of her children home to fetch the pictures.

My neighbor was in a fighting mood. She said she would file a complaint against one of the officers. She demanded his name and asked, "Why did you call me a crazy woman?"

"Because that's how you were behaving."

A dozen or so people sitting on benches in the park were minding their own business, apparently having tired of the dispute.

In the end, the police let the strangers leave with the dog. They told my neighbor they would file a report on the incident, and she could pursue the matter in court if she wished.

My neighbor went home angry. The next day, she went to police headquarters to get the report. The police would not give her the names of the couple. All they would give her was the strangers' identity numbers. Armed with this information, my neighbor went to the Interior Ministry's population registry and got their names and address. She learned that they live a few blocks away.

At this point, my neighbor sat down and wrote a letter to the strangers. She apologized for her angry behavior toward them.

After the letter was delivered, the man stranger telephoned. He, too, apologized.

The strangers agreed to discuss the matter. They said they had found their dog on a neighborhood street. If the dog turned out to be the real Bobby, the strangers wanted to be reimbursed for 2,000 shekels they had laid out for food and veterinary bills. My neighbor and her husband agreed.

The strangers agreed to take the dog to a veterinarian for an identity test. Bobby had a scar on his neck. When the disputed dog's collar came off, no scar was evident. My neighbors asked the veterinarian to shave the fur from the dog's neck. The scar was there.

Bobby came home. So ends the prelude.

Not long after that, the strangers got in touch with my neighbors and announced that they now have a black Labrador of their own, adopted from the local animal shelter.

The families have all become friends. They dogsit for each other. The former strangers went abroad for a few weeks, and their black Lab came to stay with Bobby and his family. When my neighbors went away for a long weekend, Bobby stayed with the former strangers.

The Yom Kippur connection? This is a time when much of the country is busy with rituals, prayers and theoretical discussion on themes of apologizing and seeking forgiveness. This little story is about what happened in real life when two people actually apologized.

-- Joseph M. Hochstein, Tel Aviv

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