Puppies and Soldiers

They might be able to sling guns and yell at elderly Palestinians all day, but when a puppy this cute was involved, it was a bit of a different story.

I drove up to my building with my new friend Eden last Wednesday night, and there was a tiny, adorable puppy hanging around outside my apartment. It wasn't Jelly, the puppy I previously introduced to you, but another puppy. That's right. After months of seeing zero puppies, two puppies came into my life within eleven days of each other. Naturally we asked around, realized she'd die soon if left alone, and took her in.Unsure whether my new guest was carrying any diseases, I took Friday afternoon to get her to the vet who was visiting the Atarot shelter where we adopted Jelly. The trip required my first experience with walking through Qalandia checkpoint, the area's most infamous checkpoint, and the one with the wall painted with graffiti that is featured in the news when they show the wall separating Israel from Palestine.

Usually I go in a car or taxi, but my taxi didn't have clearance to go through Qalandia. However, I was very motivated because this puppy had cried throughout two nights and I was worried he might be sick.

I waited and waited at the first of several prison-like turnstiles, where they have people walk through one by one, yelling, occasionally, through loudspeakers in Hebrew. I'm was holding the puppy in a box because I was afraid that he would poop or throw up in the taxi. It was cold and rainy, and the atmosphere at the checkpoint was filled with a mixture of fear and boredom. A young well-dressed woman translated for me and to asked the soldiers to open the handicap door so I could go through with my box, which was too big to pass through the turnstile. As she went through the tiny turnstile, which was only meant for one person at a time, an older man tried to squeeze in behind her. He had thick yellow fingernails and was playing with his cell phone, as if oblivious to what he was doing. What he was doing was pressing his body against that of the woman who had helped me. I watched as she turned around and spoke some harsh words in Arabic which had him backing up and apologizing for his obviously feigned non-attention.

Finally after several people who'd arrived after me had passed through the turnstile and a brief interrogation, I got to go through.

"What's in the box?" said the boy soldier, who looked like he was around 17. I opened it, and he said. "You are not allowed to bring dogs with you."

So I hold this tiny puppy...

...up to the glass window where the guardians sit. And you could see the two soldiers' little teenage hearts melting. Their eyes showed that they were calculating whether they could live with themselves if they denied this shivering adorable puppy access to health care. I could tell immediately that the answer for both of them was no. They might be able to sling guns and yell at elderly Palestinians all day, but when a puppy this cute was involved, it was a bit of a different story. Seeing this in their eyes kept me standing there as the seconds ticked by.But rules are rules. "I'm sorry. You can't," said the girl soldier, avoiding eye contact with the puppy, and then being drawn back into eye contact by the puppy's tractor-beam cuteness.

The puppy shivered. The two teenagers tilted their heads, thenconsulted each other quietly. The boy turned to me.

"You can't technically bring a dog with you. But," he smiled, "If the puppy followed you across the border, then why would anyone care?"

I sighed with relief. "Put the puppy on the ground, take your box, and just call to her," he whispered quickly.

After they looked at my passport, I set the puppy down and he pranced right across the border with me.

This is the kind of thing that makes me happy, sad and angry. I'm happy because I had a human-canine moment with the guards. But the other emotions are because this event demonstrates the kind of inconvenience and arbitrariness that most people here experience constantly. The Israeli military is filled with teenagers because it's mandatory to give two years of service at that time. Few volunteer to be in the army. They have to. And they really are young... sometimes they seem like kids. They have dangerous, stressful jobs, and they don't know what they are doing. They really don't. At the vet, the manager said that if you simply have a letter saying, "this dog needs health care at this clinic," they let you bring the dog across without a problem.

The happy ending to this puppy story is that, after he spent some time playing with Jelly…

...we found a home for him. One of Charming's co-workers has a home, yard, and family that is perfect for the little puppy, who we took to calling Newby, and who will soon get an official name from his new family.