What do you do when confronted first thing in the morning with a veritable snowstorm of fluffy white duck feathers sprinkled around the backyard?
My husband and I were stunned. And dismayed, because it was clear there had been violence in our peaceful little corner of the Negev in the night.
Within a short time we tracked down the source -- a dead duck lying pitifully in the parched brown earth of our backyard. Its feathers were matted with blood and dirt, its poor little legs were stretched out and stiff.
A strange sight, to be sure, but one made even weirder because it was without its head. This made no sense.
"It looks almost as if it were shechted (ritually slaughtered)," said my husband thoughtfully. "Look at how it's been gutted."
It did look a little like a split chicken with its feathers still on. We looked around for the head. It was nowhere to be found.
I looked long and hard at our dogs. Sussie, the older and gentler of the two, innocently returned my gaze. Brooklyn, on the other hand, was skulking guiltily among the drooping leaves hanging from the broken branch of our olive tree. She raised her eyes as she lay there, chin on the ground between her two front paws, trying to make herself inconspicuous.
"It doesn't make sense," I said aloud. "Even if she did murder this poor bird, there should be blood on her muzzle, no? Besides," I added with a rising sense of panic, "WHERE IS THE HEAD?"
We searched the backyard, we searched the front yard. We frisked the dogs, we asked the cats. We peered through the chain link fence that protects our backyard from the yawning ravine that meanders behind our house in the wadi below.
No head. "Even if Brooklyn ate it," commented my husband, "there should at least be a beak."
Finally we decided that maybe Brooklyn had found it in the wadi and brought it into the yard. I went down to the desert to investigate further, and on the way stopped off at Raz and Adva's house – the one next to the wadi, with the two dogs, a cat, three chickens, two roosters, a few chicks, and a duck.
"Did you lose a duck?" I asked Raz.
"Why, yes," he responded with a smile. "Did your dog get it?"
My jaw dropped. "I don't know. We think that might be….. Could it be? We didn't see a head…." Confused, my brain whirling with all the possibilities, I wasn't sure where to take the conversation. "We found it in our backyard." I felt bad.
"It might have been a sho'al," he said soothingly. Raz is a very peaceful person. He exudes serenity. He is about half my size, with beryl eyes and caramel dreadlocks down past his shoulders. His wife Adva is twice his size, equally friendly and could be his spiritual twin. Is, in fact. It's a perfect shidduch. Their new baby looks like them both.
"What is a sho'al?" I wondered if it was ferocious enough to rip the head off a duck.
"It is a foxe," said Raz in English. He had to repeat it a couple of times before I realized he meant "fox".
I was doubtful. "Do we have those here?" I had never seen one in our wadi. Dorbans (huge African porcupines), yes. Camels, sheep, goats, dogs, cats, snakes, scorpions…yes. Foxes?
Adva joined us. "Of course we have them," she said impatiently, "but it is also possible your dog got it. But don't worry," she added hastily, seeing my face fall, "it's okay, it really is." She looked sternly at Raz. "I told you not to leave the gate open," she scolded him. He appeared resigned, but with no remorse.
I offered to pay for the duck, or buy them a new one. It's not like a car, I know, but what else could I do? Their duck was now dead in the dust of my backyard, and my dog had done the deed.
"No, no," they both said in unison. "Frankly, I don't care either way," said Adva with a shrug. "I didn't care that he was here, and I don't care that he is not here."
Raz smiled gently. "We didn't buy him. A friend gave him to us. We won't miss him." I thanked them for clearing up the mystery, apologized for my murderous pet, and turned to go.
He called me back, and said reassuringly, "Don't be so sure it was Brooklyn. I still think it was a foxe."