Saving and Sheltering Abandoned Dogs in the Galilee

“Yes, they have filled empty places in my heart,” says Janet Hansen with the tremble of tears in her voice; indeed, they have become her life. And who are they? Known as our four legged friends – “they” are dogs. Although I had heard and read about Janet and the dog shelter she runs at Kibbutz Lahavot HaBashan here in the Upper Galilee, as well as enjoying the friendship of a number of heart-winning adoptees from there, I only met Janet recently.

It was early on a cold winter’s evening when my neighbor phoned, “Barbara, I don’t know what to do – this sweet dog has been outside my door since I got home from work yesterday and all day today. I can’t bring him in because of the cat, but I have fed him and I put out a blanket because he doesn’t want to move from here. I can’t keep him and I think he must belong to someone nearby. Can you come over and see?”

Indeed he was a sweetheart but I did not recognize him as belonging in our neighborhood. We sat down to discuss what could be done and I suggested that she contact the kennels the next day, but as he was coughing slightly we agreed that she would take him to the local vet first thing in the morning also to see if they could trace his background. Some stroking and petting and home I went. A short time after, my neighbor phoned again.

“Barbara – you won’t believe this but I put his photo on my Facebook page and within a few minutes the vet’s assistant phoned to say that Janet was searching for him – and did you realize he is blind?”

Neither of us had considered this possibility; that was why he must have stayed in the vicinity for so long. Ten minutes later Janet arrived in her little van and we took her round to the entrance. As she approached the dog, he began to bark and to whine – calling out to her. “Laddie, Laddie – there you are,” Janet cried out as she ran to pick him up in her arms and to hug, embrace and comfort him. He nuzzled into her neck, his tail wagging. The two of us stood silently by, tears filling our eyes to see such a display of caring. Janet had found him an adoptive home near us but after a few days he had gone looking for Janet and the home he knew, escaping through an open gate.

Janet Hansen is from Calgary, Canada, and who, like so many other young people in the 70s, came to taste kibbutz life in Israel where she found the lifestyle and surroundings of the Galilee special. Even though she left after a few months to continue with her travels these memories stayed with her and brought her back in 1980 to Lahavot HaBashan where she eventually became a member. "In those days", she told me,"stray dogs used to be hunted and shot", and because she could not bear that she began to rescue those she could. She loved nature and thus began her working days in the orange groves. In the meantime not only inside her small home but also outside, her garden slowly filled up with an increasing number of adopted animals, which did not meet with the approval of either her neighbors or the kibbutz committee. After a long period of pleas and discussion she was eventually given permission to use some of the outbuildings in the orange groves and turn them into kennels as long as she made some income. Today the groves no longer exist but the kennels certainly do; they have grown and expanded – but sadly too much, and the income is negligible.

The war in 2006 left many abandoned and homeless animals as people fled from Kiryat Shmona and the neighborhood. Janet, together with a band of selfless volunteers, fed and rescued those abandoned pets and gave shelter to some 200 dogs and a number of stray cats . Now again, due to the present economic slowdown in the area of Kiryat Shmona, more and more dogs are brought into her care. At the moment she and her team of volunteers are struggling to manage with almost 300 dogs. Conditions are minimal as funding also presents a problem. So on December 17 an adoption day was held in the gardens of the small restaurant/pub at Kibbutz Amir. Adoptions there were, but too few. However, hopefully, seeds were planted in the minds and hearts of many attendees who will give in to the pleas of their children. Dr. Raanan Raphaeli and his staff were on hand to give advice to the new owners; Raanan assists Janet with free medical care for the dogs who are all immunized and neutered. Also helping were many of the volunteers without whom Janet would never manage.

Janet and her regular volunteers, of whom there are also not enough, were delighted to get additional assistance from a group of overseas volunteers, mainly from the U.S.A, who are here on a five month volunteer scheme in Kiryat Shmona. School children and youth groups are encouraged to assist with the work but all in all these are not easy days and any help that can be given would be a blessing. So perhaps some of you our readers have an empty space in your hearts to be filled or could give some financial support to assist.

For further details please contact Janet 052 265 7904 or Shimrit 050880 5123.

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About the author

Barbara Abraham-Vazana

Barbara Abraham was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Her studies include: Cours de Civilisation Francais, Sorbonne Paris; Queens University Belfast - B.A; Dundee University - Creative Writing cou...

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