In our lives and in our home, we are enamored with animals. My wife, Ellen, and I volunteer at the Humane Society of Huron Valley. I am a volunteer zoo educator at the Toledo (Ohio) Zoo. Our living and dining rooms are full of animal figurines of different sizes and materials that we have collected from our trips and found in small town stores.

But all of these are secondary to the relationships that we have built with the living animals who have shared our home with us. 

And now, for the first time in 23 years, we do not have an animal friend living with us. 

Sadly, a few days before Pesach, we had to say goodbye to our beloved dog, Sami. Sami was 16 years old and obviously in significant discomfort. At first, we had planned to have her undergo an examination under anesthesia to determine what might be the cause of her pain but, as you will read, we realized that was not the best course of action. 

Sami was the third Dobrusin dog. Our first dog, Silky, was actually my “step-dog” as Ellen had adopted her shortly before we met. Silky was a Chocolate Lab-German Short Hair Pointer mix and she was so smart and so loyal. She adapted herself first to my presence and then, with her loving heart, watched as our family grew and she took on the role of protecting our two kids whom she loved. 

After Silky’s death in 2001, we were dog-less for a few months. We knew we would be adopting another rescue, but we weren’t prepared for the sudden decision to bring the beautiful and sweet yellow lab, Benny, into our home. 

I saw Benny during a trip I took to the Humane Society “just to look at dogs”. But, when I saw him, I knew immediately that he was the yellow lab we were thinking we would like to adopt, and he came home a week later. 

Benny was such a gentleman. He just wanted to be a dog. Unlike with Silky, we could leave any food or anything out and he wouldn’t touch it. He remained in the other room while we ate, not asking for any “human food”. He never tried, as Silky had done successfully almost every night, to climb up onto our bed to sleep. Benny was so well behaved and so calm that he loved to go to the local hospice where he was a therapy dog and cheered so many saddened hearts. 

After Benny’s death, we were unsure whether we would adopt another dog. But then, our daughter saw a picture of a dog on a local shelter website, and we liked what we saw. The people from the shelter brought her to our house and she jumped up on the old chair that Benny used to sit on, heaved a great sigh, and closed her eyes. That was all it took. 

Sami was such a wonderful companion for the 13 years she was with us. She grew up from a goofy, clumsy young dog who could slide off the bed with her legs behind her at a 180-degree angle to a mature and later senior dog who was so settled and so comfortable. 

There is a beautiful statement in Pirke Avot, Ethics of the Fathers, which teaches that Shammai taught that a person should greet everyone he or she meets bisayvar paneem yafot,with a cheerful disposition. Sami was the epitome of Shammai’s statement. 

She really didn’t like other dogs, but Sami immediately loved every person she met. She would walk with me down the street with a big smile and it grew bigger when someone would stop and ask to say hi to her. People would always stop me and tell me how happy she looked, and her smile was infectious. 

While she didn’t have dog friends, she made friends throughout the neighborhood. My daily walk would take her by Trader Joe’s where many of the staff knew her and to the lovely pet store (a shout out to the great people at The Pet Emporium) where she would get her treats every day. She had a great friend in one of the other stores and always looked for the mail carrier who gave her such good scratches. 

But, when the walk was over and home was in sight, Sami always raced to get inside and jump back on her sofa. She knew how safe home was for her and she couldn’t wait to get back to the warmth and security of the house. 

Sami started to slow down noticeably a few months ago and as time went along, her smile started to dim. She didn’t pay as much attention to people who came to the house and did not always want to walk. There were some other concerning symptoms which I won’t go into here, but we were watching her very closely. 

We brought her to the vet and arranged for an exploratory procedure which would take place a week after our visit. But, a few days before the planned procedure, I was walking her, and she just did not look right. I looked at her to see what was wrong and she looked back at me and right then, I knew what she was telling me. Ellen was watching from the window and we both, almost simultaneously, came to the same conclusion. 

That evening, after we had called the vet to make an appointment for the next morning, Sami was laying quietly on the sofa. For the past few days, she had been reluctant to have anyone sitting too close to her. But, this night was different. She suddenly did something she hadn’t done in weeks, turning over on her back and looking for a tummy rub. We are sure she understood and was saying thank you. 

The house is not the same. We keep expecting to see Sami looking out the front window waiting for us to get back home. We keep thinking that we her gentle snoring at the end of the bed. We must remind ourselves that we don’t have to account for her two or three daily walks in planning our schedule. 

We love you Sami and we miss you so dearly. We know that your spirit, like those of Silky and Benny, our four cats, Lewy, Jimmy, Ozzie and Spot, and the many rats that our daughter adopted as pets, fills our home with so much more presence than the animal figurines that we can still see. They are all still with us.

Their memory is for a blessing for all they brought to our lives. 

Please also listen to the episode entitled A Special Tribute on my podcast at wrestlinganddreaming.podbean.com 


  1. Reva Bornstein

    I have never been an animal person but slowly am realizing what I missed. I have so much respect for people like you and an Ellen who make the world better because of how you love and treat animals. I hope you will soon find a new dog who. will be so lucky to be a part of your wonderful family.

  2. Sandor Slomovits

    Very heartfelt and touching, Rabbi. I know whereof you speak! Although our two Shelties have been gone for decades, we still talk about them. We have been a cat family for years and still recall and miss the two we’ve lost, and thoroughly enjoy the four we have. During the brief times we’ve been without a pet, our home felt very different.
    Our condolences to you and Ellen. May Sami’s name be a blessing.

  3. Bruce Geffen

    HOMES and I are here to help you through this time of loss, and beyond, Rabbi. Just let us know. You all are very fortunate to have had such great ones to love in your lives.

    All the best!

    Bruce and HOMES

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