March 12, 2010  
Hot Dog!!

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”.  ~Author Unknown

“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 separate rooms.

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)

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