Wednesday, June 28th, 2017...4:27 pm

Yomi: A good dog’s good life

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Raising Yomi the Canaan dog


Yomi was born in our home November 29, 2003.

Her mother Nafti was our daughter’s special dog; her father Barak, an Israel-born Canaan dog, champion in four countries. Right before the Israel Canaan Dog Club of America (ICDCA) National Show, Nafti’s ultrasound showed no pups. Barak won the show, but days later died accidentally. At Nafti’s second ultrasound, the vet was amazed to find two puppies. My miracle Barak puppies.

Yomi, a Canaan dog, an example of a breed that originates in Israel. Yomi’s full name was Mazel Tov Yomi Bat Barak. (Photo: Catherine Orkin Oskow)

I named the black puppy “Lila” and the mostly white pup “Yomi” — registered name: “Mazel Tov Yomi Bat Barak,” which is Hebrew for “Good Luck My Day, Daughter of Lightning.”

Canaan dogs originated in Israel. Archeological evidence depicts similar dogs thousands of years ago; they likely herded and guarded Israelite flocks. Fewer than 2000 exist today. With the limited gene pool, it seemed crucial my two puppies — combining American and recent Israeli bloodlines — be shown and bred, to publicize and help the breed survive. Lila went to great co-owners; we kept Yomi.

Judges loved Yomi’s structure and her personality charmed them. Her black mask looked like it slipped off the side of one eye, a minor flaw, but major cute factor. The judge at the 2004 ICDCA National Show named Yomi “Best of Winners” at seven months — best of all of the dogs not yet champions. She chose an adult champion Best of Breed, but said, “The puppy gave you a run for your money.”

I proudly displayed Yomi’s multi-colored rosettes. But when we went sightseeing and left her alone with Nafti, Yomi — still a mischievous puppy — ate her ribbons! The next day? She pooped confetti.

Yomi finished her championship at 10 months, continuing to become the second-ever female Canaan Dog Grand Champion. She earned titles in conformation, obedience/rally, Canine Good Citizen Advanced, and sheep herding.

We hiked, traveled the country, and Yomi provided companionship during the long hours when I wrote, even inspiring a children’s novel.

Yomi was favorite of our kids and friends. She served as mascot for Adath Jeshurun religious school, starring in an Alef-Bet song and coming one Shabbat to illustrate kindness to animals. She performed tricks in English, Hebrew and hand motion.

Even as an elder dog, Yomi led me to adventure. Last June a young fox shadowed Yomi, inexplicably intrigued by the prick-eared, bushy-tailed dog. An American Kennel Club Gazette column recounts the tale:

The month she turned twelve, we drove to another Canaan Dog National Show. Yomi’s son earned his championship — but Yomi went High in Trial in obedience, winning a gigantic rosette.

I am pleased to report she did not consume that ribbon.

Three generations of Mazel Tov Canaans Dogs in 2017 (l to r): Yomi, age 13-1/2; son Matan; and granddaughter Simi. (Photo: Catherine Orkin Owkow)

Until recently, Yomi acted more youthful than 13. She was happy when her grown-up human kids visited. After they returned to New York and Japan, it seemed Yomi had been holding together until she could say goodbye. She gave Craig and myself a few days to come to grips with the inevitable, enjoying Kosher chicken, sunshine and love.

On Saturday, June 3, Yomi lay with no energy to rise. Her grandpuppy couldn’t understand why Grandma no longer wanted to play.

A fox — bigger than last June — ran through our yard.

When I headed toward the stairs, Yomi rose, adamant to accompany me.

Upstairs, her breathing was labored. I joined her on the floor, stroked and talked to her.

Yomi stood.

“Do you have to go out?”

She stopped before my study, as if she wanted to go lay in there while I worked.

“We’re not doing that now,” I said.

She surprised me by running downstairs.

Instead of exiting the doggy-door, Yomi stood at the window. She stared at the yard where the fox ran earlier, at the field and woods beyond.

Yomi died the next night, June 4, 2017, in Craig’s and my arms; the same arms that brought her into this world.

Animal Rights organizations like PETA promulgate the concept that dog breeders are evil. However responsible breeders test their dogs for genetic diseases, carefully screen buyers, temperament test puppies to place each in its most favorable home, and take back dogs that don’t work out. These dogs do not land in shelters.

Rescuing dogs is laudable. But not every family finds their best match at an animal shelter. If Animal Rights organizations succeed in outlawing breeders, no dogs will have the opportunity to be thoughtfully planned and raised.

Surrounded by caring human family from birth to death, Yomi also grew up with her canine mother and grandmother, and later lived with her son and granddaughter. A life of security, enrichment, human and canine companionship.

The night after Yomi died, Craig and I woke and saw a patch of light on the floor where Yomi often lay. I whispered, “We love you so much, Yomi. But you can run free now.”

Like the fox.

Yomi: A good dog who lived a good life.


Catherine Orkin Oskow is an award-winning writer from Minnesota. Her work can be found on

(American Jewish World, 6.30.17)

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