A Trail of Gifts

Before and after a few days of food.

[Note: My apologies. This is the “real” post and the other has been deleted. The first notice went out when someone accidentally clicked the “Publish” button well before the post was readable.]

Marcia and Miriam, our landlady, have befriended a wild dog. In fairness, the animal they’ve taken to would now be better characterized as loud, untrusting and mischievous since Marcia gave her a name, Miriam made the once small hole in the back fence bigger for ease of entry and both ladies have begun to buy her treats and food.

Marcia’s got the food.

Jutta, that’s what Marcia named her for reasons that may never be known, was only days ago just one of many starving, unloved Jerusalem animals, most of them cats, exceptional only in her ability to avoid being seen. But the poor dog began to break our hearts last month as hunger prompted her to take more risks and she began to visit here regularly (with her tail tucked and barely able to walk) looking for something to eat. Though she only appeared at odd intervals and mostly after dark, her comings and goings eventually betrayed a pattern. She came and left the same way each time; in and out through either of two small holes in Miriam’s fence then across the back of the neighboring yard and off to who knows where through another fence-hole somewhere.

Gifts in exchange for food.

One morning, about 2:30 AM, Jutta woke the whole building with an awful, life-changing howl. Miriam got on her knees the next day and unrepaired the back yard fence to make the hole bigger. She built a small hutch to protect the food that she and Marcia agreed to leave for her, though only cat food that first day.

Marcia began to deliver proper dog food twice daily afterward, big portions, and though we never saw her eating, Jutta ate it all. So things seemed to be looking up for her until a second big winter snowstorm hit Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem air was uncommonly cold before, during and after the two-day blizzard and, because we hadn’t been feeding Jutta for long, we began to worry that we might lose her. In the video below you can see the awful conditions she survived and how surprised and pleased we were to find her fresh tracks in the snow after the storm.

Below is a picture of Miriam’s handiwork, taken in better weather. Note the pot-shard marked, “gift from the dog.” It was just the beginning of things.


After the storm passed Jutta ate and ate (unobserved) and rounded out quite nicely. Since then she has begun to allow us to come closer, not exactly running away, but sitting and staring while we’re doling out food. Marcia holds the current neighborhood record for “nearest approach,” estimated at under three feet and Jutta has begun to untuck and wag her tail, a bit, when we come around.

Jutta watching Marcia from a distance as Marcia fills her bowl.

We learned very early that Jutta is no freeloader. In return for food she brings us stuff; mop handles, buckets, dolls, balls, cans, shoes; all of it second-hand, of course, but understandable given her resources.  The experience has not all been fun. Jutta has torn up Miriam’s garden hoses, stolen doormats and, worst of all, she has taken on guarding the building during the wee hours, rousing us and the neighbors several times each night while barking at anything that moves. (And her bark has improved measurably while on her new, steady diet.)

Many of our neighbors aren’t pleased that this big animal is getting louder and bolder but we have found someone outside of Jerusalem with a beautiful home, a good-sized yard and other animals. She, having fallen in love with Jutta’s photos, is up to the task of attempting to domesticate her if we can capture and deliver her before the Jerusalem pound catches her.

Our hope is to eventually gain Jutta’s trust and deliver her to a better life in the Judean hills.Gifts from a wild dog



Author: Cliff Keller

Cliff Keller is an author and blogger who, with his wife, Marcia, made Aliyah to Israel in 2011.

10 thoughts on “A Trail of Gifts”

  1. oh, how a good dog story warms my soul. thanks so much for sharing this wonderful story. It was a balm i much needed right now. Not surprised about Marcia’s connect with Jutta. a dog has that sense to read the heart. i hope her new home works out for her. she is a beauty!


  2. Shalom Marcia and Cliff!

    Jutta has really turned out healthy and beautiful. Hope yall will be able to gain her trust to capture her and get her to a nice home. I just love animals.
    What a snow storm! The snow was so beautiful! Looked so soft.
    So happy yall are enjoying living in God’s Holy Land! I pray for Israel and yall nightly.



  3. Cliff…Thank you posting such a great story. As someone who has rescued many cats, I can relate to both the joy and frustration Jutta brings with her presence. Best wishes to all of you for a happy ending for Jutta in the Judean hills.


  4. Great story and hopefully you will be able to relocate Jutta successfully.
    Quite a beautiful snowfall, looked like 4-5 inches, didn’t know you got that much there. Great to know you are adapting so well and enjoying life in Israel. Blessings, my friend.


  5. Jutta is also learning to share. Well, maybe I should say she is forced to share as her fear of the building cats allows them access to her food. The feisty black cat was chowing down the other day. Jutta noticed but kept her distance. Smart dog!


  6. Oh for the joy of helping one of God’s creatures, great or small. Our farm now has 7 semi domesticated young Cats always near who think Peanut is their best friend and protector. We are just the nice people who bring the food. Great story!


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