Saturday, December 12, 2009

Miky, the Israeli bomb-sniffing dog

Via The New York Times:

Yes, Miky, There Are Rabbis in Montana
Published: December 4, 2009
Helena, MT - In Montana, a rabbi is an unusual sight. So when a Hasidic one walked into the State Capitol last December, with his long beard, black hat and long black coat, a police officer grabbed his bomb-sniffing German shepherd and went to ask the exotic visitor a few questions.

Though there are few Jews in Montana today, there once were many. In the late 19th century, there were thriving Jewish populations in the mining towns, where Jews emigrated to work as butchers, clothiers, jewelers, tailors and the like.


Last year, the rabbinic debate resumed as the hour of lighting neared and 20 or so Jewish Montanans filed into the Capitol.

One woman could be heard reporting, excitedly, that a supermarket in Great Falls would be carrying matzo next Passover; a guy from Missoula was telling everyone that he had just gotten a shipment of pastrami from Katz’s Deli in New York.

The menorah was lighted and Hebrew prayers chanted, while the officer watched from a distance with his dog. He figured he would let it all go down and then move in when the ceremony was done. The dog sat at attention, watching the ceremony with a peculiar expression on its face, a look of intense interest. When the ceremony was over, the officer approached the Hasidic rabbi.

“I’m Officer John Fosket of the Helena Police,” he said. “This is Miky, our security dog. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”

Miky, pronounced Mikey, is in a Diaspora of his own. He was born in an animal shelter in Holland and shipped as a puppy to Israel, where he was trained by the Israeli Defense Forces to sniff out explosives. Then one day, Miky got a plane ticket to America. Rather than spend the standard $20,000 on a bomb dog, the Helena Police Department had shopped around and discovered that it could import a surplus bomb dog from the Israeli forces for the price of the flight. So Miky came to his new home in Helena, to join the police force.

The problem, the officer explained, was that Miky had been trained entirely in Hebrew.

When Officer Fosket got Miky, he was handed a list of a dozen Hebrew commands and expressions, like “Hi’ sha’ er” (stay!), Ch’pess (search!), and “Kelev tov” (good doggy). He made flashcards and tried practicing with Miky. But poor Miky didn’t respond.

Officer Fosket (who is not Jewish) suspected he wasn’t pronouncing the words properly. He tried a Hebrew instructional audio-book from the local library, but no luck. The dog didn’t always understand what he was being ordered to do. Or maybe Miky was just using his owner’s bad pronunciation as an excuse to ignore him. Either way, the policeman needed a rabbi.

And now he had found one. They worked through a few pronunciations, and the rabbi, Chaim Bruk, is now on call to work with Miky and his owner as needed. Officer Fosket has since learned to pronounce the tricky Israeli “ch” sound, and Miky has become a new star on the police force. The two were even brought in by the Secret Service to work a recent presidential visit.

So all is well in the Jewish community here because the Hasidic rabbi is helping the Montana cop speak Hebrew to his dog. It is good news all around. The officer keeps the Capitol safe, and the Hebrew pooch is feeling more at home hearing his native tongue.

But the big winner is the rabbi, a recent arrival from Brooklyn who is working hard (against tough odds) to bring his Lubavitch movement to Montana. He has been scouring the state for anyone who can speak Hebrew, and is elated to have found a German shepherd he can talk to.


SandyCarlson said...

Just a tad provincial in some parts, eh, Mary?

Jan said...

Love this, made me laugh.

Mimi said...

All's well that ends well.

Jamie said...

What a great story. I suppose Miky can look forward to eight days of really good doggy treats.

Lin said...

Great story!

Robin said...

What a fabulous feel-good story. Love it.

amatamari© said...

A story incredibly funny!!!

Felisol said...

Dear teach Mary,
In these ugly days, when one hardly can bear to watch the evening news, I've become a sucker for happy endings.
This story had all the good components. Montana is the state where my granddad stayed for 18 years, and i till have first cousins there. Maybe the people of Montana are a bit square-headed like most Norwegians, but they kind of are my people.
So are the Jews. I'm raised in a Pentecostal Church, and taught that the Jews are God's chosen people.
Many of my uncles and cousins have visited Israel and brought back Menorahs as well as Mezusas.
I've neither been to Montana or Israel, but they're a part of my valuable heritage.
This story was perfect for celebrating 3rd Sunday of Advent for me.
From Felisol

♥ Kathy said...

I lol'd at the last line you wrote :) glad they found each other...Happy Sunday Mary ♥

Lady-Light said...

I saw this story last week around my birthday and thought about posting it--you beat me to it!
You have a very pretty blog home page-love the wallpaper and colors.
Happy Holiday to you.

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