My Labrador Ringo and I often go for walks in the wadi beneath our home. Our home: Ma’ale Adumim, a small city near Jerusalem. It’s circled by Arab villages and the neon green lights which signify mosques, and is smack in the middle of the Judean Desert. When we first moved here from Brooklyn, we couldn’t stop looking out the window. I thought that Ma’ale Adumim was a fairyland, all glaring white stone on a mountain in the stark white desert.
Nomadic Bedouins live in tents among the hills. They often walk their goats beneath the path, leading a donkey behind them, tattered shirts knotted over their heads as a sunguard. They ring bells to guide the goats spreading over the dry and dusty hills.The wildlife in the desert hide themselves well, but occasionally you find small foxes, agamas, or hyraxes.
Agamas come into houses when they’re small. Their colors and texture meld well into the background of Jerusalem stone. Ringo plays with them – I don’t think he understands why part of the wall is moving. He nudges them with his paw. Usually the agama shoots off as though hell (in the form of a huge Lab) is on its tail. If Ringo has decided to trap the poor guy beneath his paw you have to drag him inside before the agama ends up in his stomach.
He loves the gazelles, we both do. I love them for their aristocratic look and movements: their noble raised heads, their soft gentle long white ears, their thin legs, and the graceful ease with which they explore, communicate, and run. They hop as lightly as water bubbling from a spring. As for Ringo, he’s probably fascinated because he’s never managed to catch one, and probably never will.
I always know when there’s a gazelle around because Ringo stops short, dead silent. Then he’s off! He’s fast, much faster than I am. He dashes down the path, his haunches bunching beneath his stomach, his front legs snapping forward. He’s a gorgeous, joyeous creature, and it’s so beautiful to watch him run. But he’s no match for the gazelle!
Maybe the gazelle is scared but he – she? – doesn’t show it. She hops serenely away serenely while Ringo is scrambling ludicrously down the hill. Ringo is bulky; he’s not a pure Lab, and his head and neck are thick. When the gazelle is out of sight and scent Ringo jumps back up the mountain, over the rocks and shrubs, excited and happy. He reaches me and looks up, panting with his goofy grin. He seems absurdly proud of himself, and when we continue along the trail he’s wagging his tail.
Originally published at tovakrakauer.com