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How to Raise A Jewish Dog
By Ellis Weiner Barbara Davilman
Little, Brown and CompanyCopyright © 2007 Ellis Weiner and Barbara Davilman
All right reserved.
IntroductionThe simple son asks, "What is all this?"
- Excerpt from traditional Passover Seder text
We started the Boca Raton Theological Seminary (BRTS) in 1988 as an institution for the training of rabbis to serve the Reform- Progressive Trans- Diasporatic Neo-Revisionalist Jewish community. Our first facility, the northeast wing of the Forty Winkzzz Motel, had been closed for renovations for three years when we moved in. (We split the cost with the landlord to make the property usable and got a great deal.) Not only was our staff relatively small in number, consisting of two instructors and three assistants, it was also relatively young. Rabbi Paul, our founder and director, was at that time barely forty, and the other instructors were of course even younger.
In those days, no one lived on-site; everyone, both students and staff, went home at the end of the day. Even so, some of the faculty and staff, and a few students, revealed that they kept dogs as pets and fretted that the animals were unhappy in their masters' absence. Someone finally asked if it would be acceptable to bring dogs to the Seminary during classes.
Now, most theological seminaries discourage or forbid thebringing of pets onto the premises because their presence has a tendency to distract students from their work. But we were - and still are! - young, and progressive, and constantly questing to find new ways to pursue old, traditional goals. We're always on the lookout for creative ways to be a Jew, new ways to be a rabbi, and new ways to train rabbis. So (with little understanding of what we were letting ourselves in for) we said yes.
And, in fact, it worked out very nicely. People brought their dogs in the morning and took them home at night without any negative effect on classes or discussion groups. We even began to believe that the presence of the animals had a positive influence on teachers, staff, and students. And, as will happen when people share important experiences together, we dog owners began to influence one another, to create a common culture.
We traded notes on training and feeding; we learned about exercising and communicating. We combined our knowledge, wisdom, and experience, focusing on techniques that worked and discarding those that didn't.
After a while it began to dawn on us that we were getting pretty good at this.
Inspired by our success, we began to "foster" dogs from the local animal shelter. We took them in, trained them, and "adopted them out" to loving homes for a modest fee. Thus, both the dogs and the Seminary benefited.
Indeed, the dog training program thrived to such an extent that we were able to purchase "the Forty" and refurbish it in accordance with our religious and residential requirements, thus expanding both our dog training and our religious instruction operation. The faculty and staff took up full-time residence in the facility. And then our students began to board there, too.
Not only were we learning and working together; we were now living together. But while in the classroom we were teachers, administrators, and students, at the dog run, or around the pool, we were all just dog owners teaching one another how best to train and care for these marvelous animals.
Soon word spread among the local Boca community that those crazy Rabbis at the BRTS had some skill with animals, and our neighbors - Jewish and Gentile alike - brought their dogs in for a consultation. And so, both to reinforce our bond with the community and to raise much- needed expansion funds, we began to offer dog training classes to the public. You didn't have to be studying for the rabbinate to bring in Rover or Fifi for a day's or a week's worth of classes. You just needed to be open to the unique form of training principles we found ourselves developing.
Our clients referred to it as "the Rabbis' Jewish Dog Training Technique." We simply referred to it as "the Program."
And we noticed a funny thing.
All the techniques we used in our dog training program came from two sources: the things our parents had done in raising us as children and the life strategies we acquired in response to our upbringing.
As soon as we made this discovery, we realized it made perfect sense because all of us at the Seminary were from essentially the same background: middle- or upper- middle- class assimilated Jewish American families. Our childhood experiences were quite similar; our parents' assumptions, their child rearing skills (or, as some said, their "so- called skills"), and the manner in which they related to us as children were almost identical. And the ways each of us adapted and responded to his or her childhood (through the use of psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, group therapy, antidepressants, and so on) were practically indistinguishable.
With so much in common - our personal histories, our outlook with regard to discipline and authority, our shared experiences concerning food, obedience, obligation, punishment, blame, betrayal, guilt, and all the other essential aspects of raising either a child or a dog - it was no wonder we were able to combine our insights into a single coherent, effective program.
This, then, became the Boca Raton Theological Seminary Program for Dog Training and Care. We offer it to our clients and, now, to the reading public because it works. Study its principles, follow its instructions, and the result will not only be a fairly obedient and reasonably well behaved dog, but also a very special bond between you and your pet.
We call it "the bond that lasts a lifetime - and beyond."
Excerpted from How to Raise A Jewish Dog by Ellis Weiner Barbara Davilman Copyright © 2007 by Ellis Weiner and Barbara Davilman. Excerpted by permission.
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