Celebrate Smarter


I read with interest your series of articles on dog ownership and Jewish tradition (“The Puppy Paper,” July 5). Thank you for devoting so much space to a topic that is so fundamental to many readers’ daily lives.

From my perspective, the idea of a “bark mitzvah” is a very odd one.  While few would doubt that the
dogs look adorable in their fancy outfits and kippot, the dogs might think otherwise.  … In place of a “bark mitzvah,” the Pet Blessing Ceremony that Baltimore Hebrew Congregation has hosted on several occasions sounds far more meaningful, not to mention financially sensible. Hundreds of people bring their dogs to the synagogue grounds on the same day, with an entrance fee of a donation to a local animal shelter.

If pet owners wish to celebrate their dogs’ lives, why not do so in a way that would truly benefit pets, as opposed to just their owners? I suggest they take the money they would have put toward “dog cake” and other bark mitzvah accoutrements, and make a donation in their dog’s name to their local animal shelter to help support homeless pets. Alternatively, how about starting a fund that would enable financially strapped owners to get their pets spayed or neutered?

The Jewish values that children can learn from owning pets extend beyond those listed in Maayan Jaffe’s piece (“Canine-A-Hora”), which largely focus on responsibility and daily care for a family pet. Why not teach our children about the problem of pet overpopulation and heighten their awareness of pets that are not as lucky as their own?  While the Humane Society reports that great advances have been made in the last 40 years, some 2.7 million adoptable cats and dogs are still euthanized each year, and only about 25 percent of dogs and cats in American homes came from shelters or rescue agencies.

If given the choice of spending my money on a “bark mitzvah” or saving another animal’s life — t’sar ba’alei chayim — I’d choose the latter.

Valerie Thaler

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