It’s 6:30 in the morning, and I can hear my purple running shoes and my red socks with little white hearts calling my name: “Shaindleh, oh, Shaindleh!”
OK, perhaps it’s my dog barking, reminding me it’s time for his potty break and my morning run. Whatever, it’s my wake-up call.
I am ready to go. I take the red, gross grain leash from its hook, rub Ari’s belly and back — not a bad way to wake up; it’s a dog’s life, right? — hook the leash up, and off we go. The heat has not hit its most oppressive number yet; the humidity is not fuzzy-hair high.
When I run, my head clears of worries and opens space for random thoughts and memories. On this particular morning, my mind takes a journey back to my childhood in the Bronx.
When I was a little girl living in the Bronx, a barking dog was not what woke me up to go to school. Either my mom (z”l) woke us, or we woke ourselves. Sometimes we woke each other.
As I recall, no one I knew who lived in an apartment owned a dog. We did have dogs in the Bronx — and I refer here to the four-legged kind — I just didn’t know any on a personal level.
There was one huge dog, a German shepherd, I think, down the Prospect Avenue hill near Tremont in a private residence; it barked whenever anyone walked by. At that time in my young life, I did not know dogs barked to protect their space and their owners. I thought they barked to scare me to death.
Although I was aware he was behind a wooden fence and could not break out, I generally crossed over to walk on the other side of the street, where the shoemaker and the candy store owner could protect me.
My mom and her parents and siblings were all afraid of dogs. Dogs were reminders of the pogroms against the Jews in many areas of Europe and Russia. The military would sic huge and vicious German shepherds on the Jews to scare them or kill them.
The mere sight of a dog would give my mom a chill. Of course, in front of us girls, she appeared not to be affected by the sight of a dog or the sound of the bark.
Yet, somehow, I always wanted a dog of my own. When we had children, we decided to adopt a dog. The children would learn to be responsible for another living being (ha!) and would learn not to be afraid.
Our first puppy, Chien (dog), arrived in a crate after a six-hour train ride. We bought him a beautiful doghouse, painted it and installed indoor/outdoor carpet. I even sewed up a soft, cool-looking blankie.
But after hours of heated discussion on where would be the perfect place for said doghouse, he was too traumatized to get in. His house stood empty as he made himself comfy-cozy in our house.
He eventually joined a gang, ran around the neighborhood and learned bad habits, and when he bit the ankle of the postman, we gave him to a family who thought he was totally adorable.
We’ve had a few dogs over the years. We loved them and gave them special names such as Tippesh (dummy), Shaina (pretty) and Patches.
I did not know a single soul who was allergic to dogs — or cats, for that matter. I did not even know there was such a breed as a hypoallergenic dog.
Then along came our grandbabies, and a whole frightening world opened up. Allergies became the “in” concept, one to be reckoned with.
One day at the airport, I could not believe my eyes. The ugliest dog I’d ever seen was lounging with its owner. I asked what kind of dog it was. I don’t recall the breed, but I do remember hearing, for the first time in my life, “hypoallergenic dog.”
Many months later at my friend Miriam’s home, I was playing with the cutest dog in the universe and heard those words again. Realizing hypo-whatever dogs could be adorable, we set out on a pilgrimage to find a dog my grandbabies could enjoy.
We rescued Ari, who protects our home from stranger danger, brings lots of joy with no fear into our home, and, as it turns out, is a great running partner.
What’s with the Shaindle’s Shpiel on dogs? I have not a clue; blame it on my morning runs.