It’s March 14th in 2008 and I was returning from
a brisk walk, when walking toward me I saw my beautiful wife Arlene pushing our
three year old dog Joey, a Bichon Frise, in a wheelchair. Angel, his adopted
sister (our other Bichon) walked on a leash by the side of the wheelchair. When
Arlene stopped to greet me, Angel jumped up on the wheelchair as well. I
chuckled to myself. They looked so cute; each a mirror image of the other.
You ask what’s going on, what’s happening? I’d like to share a story with you:
before I do, let me tell you about some of the animals who were part of our
lives over the years.
“My goal in life is to be as good of a person as my dog already thinks I am”.
“Wow, look at those puppies in the store window. They’re so playful.” I was 12
years old and my heart pounded as I watched the puppies and imagined having my
very own dog. I wanted a puppy so badly, but my Mom and Dad would have nothing
to do with the idea. I can hear my Mom saying, “Yingala, hear me out, a
dog is a dirty creature. It cost money to feed it, it eats and poops and brings
shmutz into the house. You’re Jewish, you don’t need a dog.” I was always
tempted to ask if I could purchase a chicken. I imagined myself saying, “See
Mom, it’s kosher and serves a purpose, what do you say?” I think she’d say we’ll
boil it for Shabbos dinner. I’ll serve chicken fricassee then chicken
soup with a side of kasha varnishkas and kishka. Sonny boy it
makes sense; buy two chickens. I never had the nerve to say that to her.
Mama was a person of conviction, well almost. Six weeks after our neighbor’s dog
gave birth; they asked if I wanted a pup. I said I’d like to show it to my mom
and allow her to make the decision. Puppies have a way of softening the hardest
of hearts and mom smiled and spoke baby talk to him. When I asked the magic
question she said yes, and informed me that it would my responsibility to care
for and train “Major”.
I didn’t know that Major would be a chewer until I returned from school, one
day, and found that he had chewed the plastic cover and a front cushion on the
couch. I used my super intelligence and turned the cushions over. Sunday morning
my Mom began shaking me to wake me up. She began yelling Melvin, Melvin you must
think I’m a terrible balaboosta and that I would never find out what
Major had done. “Melvala, do you think your Mother is stupid?” Major moved out
the very same day. I cried as I returned major to our neighbor.
When Arlene, my besherte, and I first met, she had a dog, a beagle named
Trixie. Trixie did not enjoy being touched or petted and her main enjoyment in
life was eating and pooping. Humans were an irritation to her except for Arlene
who could do anything to her; she would hug and brush Trixie and the dog never
growled. The dog was meshuga; she’d play with Arlene and I’d go to pet
her and she’d nearly bite off my finger. I liked Trixie best when we were in
After we married Trixie would remain with my in-laws and on special occasions
visit us. Her visits didn’t exactly bring me much joy. If I had to choose
between her and poison, the poison would be a better choice. As a loving husband
whatever made Arlene happy also brought me happiness. Arlene wanted a pet so we
purchased a Guinea pig which we named Barney. Barney was a pal and required very
little from me aside from a daily feeding and a loving hugging from Arlene, his
adopted mom. When our first son, Adam was born, Barney left to live with our
cousin. I packed his bag. Barney never returned for a visit, nor did he write.
When my honey was pregnant with our second son we purchased a home on Long
Island, 60 miles from New York City. Once we settled in we had an open house.
About 10 people had already arrived, I opened the door to great our next guest
and noticed a black Irish wolfhound, sitting on our front lawn. “That’s one
beautiful dog,” I exclaimed. “Yes it is,” was his response. As the guests were
leaving I noticed that the fellow that brought the dog was leaving without her.
“Hey, you forgot your dog”, I shouted. “It’s not my dog”, he exclaimed. “But you
agreed with me when I complemented you about your dog” “I just said she was a
beautiful dog however, I didn’t say she was mine”.
Well, that’s how lady entered our lives. I laugh when I think of Lady sleeping
in our bed and pushing me off because she wanted to be closer to Arlene. That
dog almost ruined our marriage. At that time we also had two cats, Serena and
Samantha. I’d wake up to see all five of us in bed. It was at that time that I
nicknamed Arlene the “Humom”.
Our oldest son, Adam, was three at that time and would attempt to hug and kiss
the cats. I can still hear him yelling “Rena, Manta come”. After the first hug
they successfully avoided him.
My allergies began to blossom and after extensive allergy testing I was told
that I was allergic to dog and cat dander. We were forced to find new homes for
our friends. Serena & Samantha, our cats, and Lady were put up for adoption. It
would take 8 years before we chanced adopting another dog. Of course there were
other animals in the house, Parrots, parakeets, snakes, mice, fish, Guinea pigs,
gerbils, ferrets, hamsters, frogs, chameleons, and a huge turtle that we nursed
back to health and released.
We were visiting friends in our old neighborhood one day, and when we arrived we
noticed the children playing with a young beagle.
“I see you’ve adopted a dog”, said I. “Nope, the dog has adopted us; it just
hangs around our home and we feed it. It’s been here for a few months, it’s
never been inside our home.” I watched as Adam and Lewis were drawn to the pup.
As we were leaving the children asked if they could take the dog home. “Nope,
pop’s allergic to dogs”; the boys started crying. As we were leaving in our car,
I noticed the neighborhood children playing with the beagle in the street and
told my boys to call the dog and if the dog jumped in our car we’d take him home
with us just until we found him a permanent home. I never thought that the dog
would leave the children and jump in the car, but 40 miles later I was devising
a plan in my mind of how to survive my allergies if the dog wound up living with
us. He was a sweet beagle and won our hearts. I surely didn’t want to get sick.
As it turned out we couldn’t find him a home and we didn’t have the heart to
take him to the pound. I shared my plan with Arlene-- I would not touch the dog,
now named “Fonzie”, unless I was wearing work gloves and that Fonzie would not
be allowed in our bedroom. We were both in full agreement.
We didn’t know that the Fonze was an explorer, and an escape artist. If someone
accidentally left the doors open he’d use that as an opportunity to begin an
exploration. Asking a seven and ten year old to close the door behind them when
they left the house turned out to be impossible to achieve. Better yet, ask a
dozen children in that age group to close the door behind them and we’d have 24
deaf ears. We became the voices yelling “Close the door, the dog’s going to get
out.” Fonzie, as sweet and gentle as he was, always would “escape”. The first
time it happened we drove around the neighborhood until we found him. All we had
to do was call him and he’d jump into the car. I don’t remember if it was our
older or younger son that arranged for the neighborhood watch. Once the escape
sirens sounded Arlene yelling, “Have you seen Fonzie” 8 to 10 children could be
seen on bicycles dashing off in different directions to bring him home.
Fonzie had the ability to unite a community by merely leaving the house
To be continued.
Ah, Spring is in the air. Eat kosher and have a wonderful Pesach.
Mel (the fat guy)