Today, August 26, has been designated as National Dog Day and, from my perspective, it is a great day to celebrate.
Like so many others, I love dogs- of all sizes and of all breeds. Like so many others, I can’t resist asking if I can “say hello” to a dog I pass on the street. I volunteer at our local Humane Society as a dog walker and have found over and over again how easy it is to fall in love with a dog at first sight. Truly, as my wife, Ellen, likes to say: “God certainly got dogs right.”
But, as much as I love all dogs, there is a special place in my heart for our dogs.
We have had the privilege of sharing our home with 3 dogs and each brought something so special and so unique to our home.
Our first dog, Silky, was a cross between a Chocolate Lab and a German Short Hair Pointer. She actually was Ellen’s dog as she had adopted her before we met. But, Silky quickly took kindly to me and soon became my dog as well.
Silky was so incredibly smart. She understood so many words that we often had to spell things out if we didn’t want her to react. She was very protective of us and of our kids when they were born. But, she always was very kind and sweet to those she would meet on the street (unless the person was driving a UPS truck- for some reason she couldn’t stand UPS trucks).
She was also very sensitive. She knew when we needed comforting and I will always remember walking into our house when I returned from Boston where I had been sitting shiva for my father. Silky, who by then, was a very old dog who had some trouble walking, picked herself up off the floor, walked over to me and sat next to me, quietly letting me hug her and pet her which was such a comfort. When she died two months later, I cried like I had never cried before in my life.
We will remember her always.
Our second dog was Benny, the yellow Lab. What a gentleman he was! We adopted him from the shelter a week after the 9/11 attacks and he brought such comfort to our family.
Benny was not the brightest dog but he had a heart of gold and, unlike both of our other dogs, didn’t strive to be a person. He was satisfied being a dog, sleeping on the floor, not begging for (or stealing) our food. When our kids’ friends would come over to the house, Benny wanted to be right in the middle of the action, lying in the line of fire of pillow fights or dress-up games.
There are many Benny stories I could tell but I will share one which I have told to very few people. One summer, we took a group from the synagogue to Israel on a two week trip. The first week of the trip had been fantastic but very tiring and on the first Shabbat we spent in Israel, I lied down for an afternoon nap and fell into a very deep sleep. While asleep, I had one of the most intense and realistic dreams that I ever had. I dreamed that I had come home from Israel to visit and stood on our front porch and, in the dream, I started to knock on the door when I suddenly woke up with a start.
It was such a realistic dream that it took me a few moments to remember where I was and clear my head and suddenly, I missed home so much that I picked up the phone to call Ellen at home. When she answered, she asked to me wait a moment and I could hear a lot of commotion. She came back to the phone and told me that, for some reason, Benny was sitting at the front door, wagging his tail, and making sweet, soft barking noises. Ellen told me she couldn’t get Benny away from the front door. She said it was like he saw someone there but there was no one at the door. She couldn’t understand it.
When I told her about the dream I had just had, we both just sat on the phone in silence.
Dogs are so perceptive and our souls are really tied with theirs.
And then, finally, there is our current dog, Sami. After Benny died in 2010, we said we didn’t think we wanted to bring another dog into the house but the house was too quiet and as our daughter said: “It isn’t a Dobrusin house without a dog”.
So, a few months later, we saw Sami on the website for a shelter and fell in love with her at first sight.
Sami is a real “mixed breed”, part beagle, part German shepherd, part lab and all goodness and sweetness. She has calmed down from being the nutty, crazy dog she was when she was younger but she still has a smile that can melt my heart. She doesn’t like other dogs but she has human friends around the neighborhood who know her and love her.
Each morning when she wakes up, Sami thanks us with that loving smile but it is we that should thank her for the love she shows us each day.
So, for me, National Dog Day is a day to celebrate, a day to thank God and the human beings who centuries ago, brought these “wolves” into their homes and hearts and gave us all best friends forever.