JERUSALEM – In Israel, businesses are taxed, in part, based on the size of their storefronts. This explains why I’m standing in what has to be the world’s most claustrophobic pet supply store.
Even though I’m barely 5’7”, if I stretch my arms out to my sides, my wingspan can almost touch both walls at once. There’s one long, narrow aisle leading from the front door to the back of the store. It can only accommodate one person at a time, and one short tributary near the front of the store that leads behind the checkout counter. On the right side, bags of pet food are stacked about 10 feet high. Above that, a shelf where other goods are stored.
There are a few cages filled with parakeets and bunnies on the left side, but they’re barely noticeable because of the piles of more food and other items stacked up around them from floor to ceiling.
Conveniently, this tight squeeze is right next door to the apartment complex where Varda Linett lives. She’s the Jerusalem animal welfare advocate who’s helping Nutmeg purchase items for the city’s animal shelter, where she’s a longtime volunteer.
“Thankfully, we have a regular supply of food, which we get from a wholesaler at a negotiated rate,” she explains. “What we really need, though, are leashes and collars. You wouldn’t believe how often the animals destroy those.”
So, the shop owner squirms his way between us to get to the racks near the door where those items are displayed.
“We have 800 shekels [roughly 212 US dollars] we can spend today,” I tell him.
He nods, grabs a bag, and begins stuffing it with collars and leashes of all different colors and sizes. When that’s filled, he squeezes his way back to the cash register and tallies up the total. We still have several hundred shekels left.
“Could the shelter use any of those, Varda?” I ask, pointing up to stacks of crates and carriers piled on top of the food bags.
“Oh, yes, actually!” she exclaims.
The shop owner grabs a small ladder and climbs it, so he can reach the crates and pass them down to us.
“Come to think of it,” Varda adds, “we also really need litter boxes for the cats.”
We have enough funds to get some of those for the shelter as well.
After doing some more math, the shop owner announces that we’ve reached our 800-shekel limit.
“OK, now let’s hurry,” says Varda. “We need to get to the shelter before the sun goes down.”
When we arrive, I learn why. The animals, particularly the dogs (many of whom are outside in pens), retire to their beds for the evening. Whenever humans are on the premises, however, a deafening chorus of barking erupts. The dogs get so excited because they believe this – whoever it is – is finally the person who’s going to rescue them.
The dogs, young and old, crowd the gates of their enclosures, desperate for even the briefest moment of attention from this human visitor. They stick their snouts through the fencing and gently lick my hand. It’s their impassioned plea to be the one among the scores of animals in the shelter deserving of being given a permanent home with a loving family.
Heartbreakingly, I cannot give them that. At least not this time around.
But what Nutmeg can do was what we did. We went around to every stall and showed love and affection to as many of the dogs and cats as possible. And we provided the volunteer staff with a modest donation of goods that will serve the animals while they’re living here.
Throughout our tour of the Holy Land this past month, we’ve encountered so many homeless animals, and what struck us most about them was their genuine sweetness and innocence. Our impact on their lives may be minimal for now, but their impact on ours has been enormous.
Nutmeg is proud to have established a new partnership in a new part of the world where animals are in distress. We’re determined to provide even more assistance on our next trip to the region. ETS