Animals are not included in Israel’s death toll but they are also innocent victims

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Animals are not included in Israel’s death toll but they are also innocent victims

Israel Guide Dogs have been caring for abandoned pets like Bonita, who was shot by Hamas terrorists on camera on 7 October, while others mourn their loss

Brigit Grant is the Jewish News Supplements Editor

Bonita the beauty shot by terrorists
Bonita the beauty shot by terrorists

The team at the Israel Guide Dog Centre know about war. They have clients who have lost their sight in battle or battled with debilitating symptoms of trauma post conflict. But this long established, supremely capable charity was shaken by the events of October 7, as new Co-Chief Executive Officer, Carmel Reiss revealed at the annual reception.

While describing the charity’s struggle to operate as normal amid falling rockets, a much-reduced staff and between 10 and 20 new puppies being born monthly, the emphasis has been on offering immediate help to the country, its’ people and its’ animals.

“The centre’s training vans were used to save more than 400 abandoned dogs who were left behind when owners were evacuated, trapped inside homes or roaming the streets, without food and water.”                              Some of those dogs have been reunited with their families, while others will need rehoming and they are working with local animal charities to ensure that happens.”

Israel Guide Dog’s Noah Kaplan with an abandoned dogs

The drafting of so many soldiers has also impacted on the volunteer puppy raisers scheme which sees puppies placed in homes for a year where they can adjust and learn about life outside the centre.

“Our role is to breed, raise and train the puppies to become Guide or Service dogs supporting Israelis with disabilities,” Carmel continued. “But our kennels are full, many of our puppies have had to be rehomed, and we are still trying to support the remaining puppy-raisers.                                  Even during this war, our work must continue as there need to be enough dogs for PTSD Service, Guide work, and we have already had requests for dogs to help children affected by the atrocities. Sadly these needs will only grow.”

The dogs visiting the injured of October 7 at the hospital

With dogs visiting children, the wounded and evacuees at hostels, hotels, and hospitals, the comfort IGDC brings is essential and few appreciate or expound this more than Eden Taharani.

Eden Taharani and Gemma

Having conquered Instagram and TikTok where she has 62.9K followers, Eden, 24 and her dog Gemma are the definitive poster team for the charity. Partnered for three years, Eden who was born blind spent years dealing with the obstacles in Holon, her hometown before Gemma, her new best friend lead the way .

Arguably she had already found it, having competed on Israel’s X Factor at the age of 17 and now as a model walked the catwalk in Milan. Next time she parades Eden, who married childhood sweetheart Matan Rokach in September, would like to have Gemma by her side and it will happen. Eden believes nothing is off limits – You can find the light – she says – giving us all something to think about.
P.S. Happy, Healthy Chanukah to Martin Segal, the committed and industrious UK Executive Director of Israel Guide Dogs.

Gone, but not forgotten 
Of all the abhorrent scenes in Israel, the shooting of a dog on Kibbutz Be’eri was one of the first many saw. The clip, taken from a GoPro camera attached to a Hamas fighter’s helmet showed a loyal pet bounding out of a house towards the attackers before being struck by a bullet.

Martin Segal, UK Executive Director of Israel Guide Dogs with a puppy that may help a child affected by the atrocities

That the wounded dog then tried to stand to see off the intruders was shot again illustrated the wickedness of the killers who murdered helpless men, women and children. The dog in the footage was Bonita who lost her life during the attack on Kibbutz Sufa as she ran towards the terrorists.  But Bonita had inadvertently diverted their attention away from the house, potentially saving the lives of her family. Family dogs are not included in Israel’s death toll, but they are also innocent victims of the Hamas attacks.

Deborah and beloved Mickey

As her Facebook profile pic, Deborah Mintz has a photo of Mickey, her tiny Pinscher mix who was murdered. Adopted when he was four months old, it was a week before his sixth birthday when he burnt to death on Kibbutz Nirim. Deborah had taken Mickey with her on a visit to see her daughter, Aimee and her new grandson.

Rocket fire forced the family to shelter in the safe room on October 7, but Mickey was so frightened he ran and hid under the couch. “I didn’t have time to get him out,” said Deborah who assumed it was a typical rocket attack; “So I didn’t think twice about leaving him there.”

Mickey had a signature bow tie and lots of outfits because he felt the cold

Afraid of noise and strangers until they won his trust, Mickey always wore a bow tie and clothes in winter (he felt the cold) and could identify a specific colour ball from the rest.        “I miss him,” said Deborah who will never forget his screams as he died with her daughter’s cats, Honey and Ginger when Hamas torched the house.

“They are still inside the boarded house and we aren’t allowed to go.     It breaks my heart to think of them still there.”, Better adjusted to sirens and safe rooms, Aimee’s dog Lemon survived is now with Deborah at her home in Eilat. “She is definitely traumatised too, but I miss my boy.”

Abandoned dogs waiting for owners ot new homes

After the attacks and currently, charity, Let the Animals Live set up a real ‘war room’ at their centre in Kfar Ruth, where they loaded vehicles with food to hand out to animals left behind in the south and then the north where people were evacuated. They also delivered food to goats, donkeys, chickens and other farm animals, who were evacuated from their permanent homes, to a safer place. Let the Animals Live currently has 200 dogs and cats waiting for adoption.

Broken heart 

Owner Dror Bahat and his dog Rider who waits for his return

A final word for Rider who has not stopped searching for his owner Dror Bahat, a kibbutznik from Beit Alfa who was murdered at the music festival. Together for six years after Dror adopted him from a dog pound. “He cared for Rider and nurtured him as if he were his own child,” said  Dror’s father, Idan Bahat.. “They shared a deep bond and Dror loved him dearly. Every day, my wife Ella visits Dror’s grave, and Rider accompanies her, lying beside Dror’s resting place. ”

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