Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Arabs and Their Animals

It's something I can't quite get my head around. But since we have a now-quite-giant Giant Schnauzer, we see first hand what many Arabs think of animals.

As a general rule, Jordanians dislike dogs. I see a few families with dogs, mostly small ones, in their homes. But it is quite rare. And when you walk around town with a dog as large as Yogi, it's a definite conversation stopper. Stateside, people approach to pet the dog, or ask about the breed. Here, people cross the street to avoid coming in contact with the beast, who is considered unclean - a little like walking with a stray rat on a leash around your local grocery store would be back home, I suppose.

When Yogi was still a puppy, last fall, we took him to a few of the boys' soccer games. Some of the kids wanted to pet him, but most of the local boys would approach in packs, egging each other on to get closer, closer, closer, until one of them would hiss or jump in an attempt to startle the dog. If the dog reacted, they'd scatter before coming back to try again. It was beyond annoying to have to shoo these boys away.

At one game, Yogi was sitting on the ground, minding his own business, when a woman approached. Problem is, the woman was walking backwards, calling out to a friend, unaware that she was getting close to the dog. When she was a mere couple of feet away, she turned around to find the puppy in front of her, and she leapt backwards, yelping (in fear? disgust? it wasn't clear).

So to say they don't like their dogs here is an understatement.

Yogi is currently spending lots of time in our front yard because the boab planted some grass seed out back. This morning, he was sitting by the gate, just watching the world go by, when four Jordanian women came out of the apartment across the street. They were modestly dressed, middle-aged, covered head to toe except for their faces. They looked like nice enough people from a glance. They had parked their car so that my driveway was blocked, which meant they had to approach my gate in order to get back in their car. They were maybe 5 feet away from the dog, who saw them coming and stood, tail wagging expectantly.

The women on the passenger side slid along the edge of the car, trying to stay as far from the dog as possible - this even though he was behind a gate, at some distance. They were clearly afraid.

They got in the car and shut the door. That should have been it, right? Nope. As soon as they felt safe in the car, they rolled down the windows and started meowing and hissing at the dog, trying to upset him just like the little boys at the soccer field used to do.

Why? I understand that some people don't like dogs. I get it. But what would possess a grown woman to deliberately attempt to annoy a dog like that? That's something I'll never understand.

We take Yogi for walks around the neighborhood because we want him to get used to all sorts of situations: different people, different smells, traffic, stray cats. We are mindful of the fact that not everyone is going to like him, but we take him nonetheless. When we eventually bring him home to the States, I suspect he'll be baffled when random strangers approach, just wanting to pet him on the snout. There isn't much danger of that happening here.


Betsy said... [Reply]

If we were to see you on the street, I guarantee you my children would be rushing over to pet your adorable dog. I understand the children hissing at him, but grown women. Ridiculous! I hope you post a picture of Yogi now that he is grown.

Donna said... [Reply]

Betsy, I keep trying to take a good picture, but the dog is all black down to the nose, and the pictures just look like a dark blob. You can't even see his eyes under all of his hair! And then there's the fact that he won't sit still for a portrait. I'll keep trying, though.

MeAndYou said... [Reply]

I've never really liked dogs...particularly large dogs. I can't say I've ever hissed at one though. ?? How interesting...
Of course, I "MOOO" at cows all the time, so maybe that's equally strange. :-)

Vicki said... [Reply]

The boys who tease the dogs are annoying enough, let alone the women. I think there's both fear and disgust towards animals.

There are some great quotes on this webpage, http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/show_tag?name=animals, including:
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."
— Mohandas K. Gandhi

Becca said... [Reply]

aren't cultural differences weird?

Ms Daisy said... [Reply]

That must be super annoying but at least they are not physically harming the dog. I heard that in Kosovo (as well as some other Arab countries) right now they are literally hunting dogs due to the increasing population of tray dogs. They have a period of a week were they let hunters shot dogs (& they get money for each dog they bring back). Sometimes even dogs that are fence in/ have owners. It is outrageous & inhumane! i hope they leave him alone!

Mike said... [Reply]

An interesting article on NPR.org about this same issue in Iran.

Donna said... [Reply]

Love the quote, Vicki.

And thanks for the link to the article, Mike. So sad - I wonder what will become of all of those dogs?

Oh, and MeAndYou? I moo at cows, too. I'm still trying to keep from mooing at camels over here - but what sound does one make when one sees a camel? I'm not quite sure.

ejhickso said... [Reply]

I had a similar situation at my last post in South Asia. Fortunately, moving from downtown to the suburbs helped a bit. Any bright-eyed, healthy looking dog was assumed to be a guard dog, ready to bite at any moment... even when that dog was being walked by a very unassuming woman (me!).

We had sticks thrown at us and guns pointed at the dog (by young members of the army, which had a presence on the streets at that point). For people who weren't afraid, the dog was a novelty, and they would follow me taking photos on their cell phone.

It was tough, for both me and my four legged companion.

Digger said... [Reply]

We had the same experience in Jerusalem. Both Palestinians and Sephardic Jews dislike dogs. One of my friend's dogs because child aggressive because of the kids hissing, yelling, kicking at and throwing sticks at the dogs. I spent the whole tour not letting Noostie go near anyone unless they actually had a dog with them (Ashkenazi Jews do like dogs). Thankfully, she still likes people after that tour...I'm glad we are leaving dog-friendly Virginia for a post where normally reserved people actually warm up to people with dogs.

Kelly Bembry Midura said... [Reply]
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kelly said... [Reply]

Really interesting. I had no idea dogs were so disliked in the middle east. People didn't like them in Zambia, but that was because the dogs didn't like them either--it was common to train guard dogs to bark at black people. Nice, huh?

Emily said... [Reply]

Your blog post is very timely. Here is a story about a proposed ban on dogs in Iran:


Connie said... [Reply]

I don't see much concerning dogs around here. I heard/read about, but did not see for myself, that there was a section of the Cairo zoo specifically for dogs. It allowed people to see and play with animals they couldn't have for themselves. I could see the fear of dogs though. There were a lot of guard dogs there and roaming packs of stray dogs to watch out for. Another thing I noticed though, is that the police and other handlers who had working dogs... really seemed to enjoy having them. Another friend had a huge pack of dogs on her farm and had similar issues with kids hissing and being stupid outside her fences. Ignorance is never pretty...

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