I often ponder the contrasting moments of the human journey. A person lost a family member only months before a wedding. A hurricane dismantled and destroyed a city. Then its inhabitants repaired broken homes and hearts with communal kindness. A friend was in your life for only a short while but years later you realize why.
Yes. I have experienced all of the above scenarios and much more about which I will write in future blogs. Today I wanted to introduce you to Izzy. My compassionate canine. No, he is not a therapy dog, although I’ve seriously considered taking him to a formal class.
Izzy illuminated a dark, heartbreaking few days that I endured. Rosh Hashanah, which is the Jewish new year, is next week. Izzy forever changed my life three years ago just after this sacred holiday.
Jewish people worldwide wish each other a “Sweet and Happy New Year” on Rosh Hashanah. It has always been one of my favorite holidays—it is joyous and it is reflective. I had another paradoxical, painful life experience. Two people deeply hurt my soul in an irreparable way on the second night of Rosh Hashanah. They’ve done this repeatedly for many years and every time, I forgive them and move forward. But others were present as well that night. The pain I and the others experienced is still indescribable.
I wasn’t going to allow this excruciating episode ruin our holiday. The next day, I told the kids to get dressed. I drove them on a whim to the Humane Society. I realized as I walked in this may depress me more! Whining, whimpering sounds reverberated off the kennel walls. Somber eyes looked at us as if saying, “Pick me! Take me home!”
Our first dog, Rocky, was 8 years old at the time. My husband isn’t as passionate about animals like my daughter and I are. It took us a few years to convince him that our family was not complete without a dog. So this spontaneous field trip was truly to cheer me up. I figured frolicking and playing with pups would be the perfect happy potion.
Three hours later, we were still there. We walked into every room and talked to each animal more times than I can count. The brief mood-lifting visit had turned into an educational, unforgettable afternoon.
I glanced at my phone. It was 6:05 p.m. The man at the desk said, “We are closed now. Did you find any dogs you would like to adopt?” I apologized to him for losing track of time and said, “No, thank you.” (I sighed silently and hoped he couldn’t read my mind. I was relieved that there were only two non-shedding dogs.) Half of our family has allergies so our options were thankfully limited. Or so I thought.
The tall, curly haired man continued. He said, “Did you see the poodle?” Huh? What poodle? Is he crazy? I remembered every breed in every cage.
“We’ve been here for hours—we definitely did not see any animal even resembling a poodle.” The kids nodded vigorously in agreement. It’s now 6:15 p.m. I am having another inner dialogue–I wonder if he’s hallucinating.
He asked us to please wait, and he left the room. We were almost at the exit door. Almost. I laughed with the kids and told them I realized we we’re all hungry. But I didn’t want to be rude to this kind man so we stayed.
I heard my daughter shriek. My son shouted, “Oh my gosh!!!” I turned around and a wiry, white toy poodle ran toward us. He walked up to me, wrapped his thin legs around mine and literally held me. I had my third, quiet self talk. Dara. Stay strong. This pup is staying here. He is not coming with you.
The next thing I know we were escorted to a small room. “Noodle” the poodle—I am not making this up—put his head on my lap. He then did the same thing to my kids. We all looked at each other in awe. And of course my daughter had already formulated her convincing case that could’ve been presented to a jury!
I wearily agreed to call daddy. I said, “Can you please make a quick stop on the way home from the office?” He asks where. I mumble thehumnscity.” (That is NOT a typo. It’s exactly how I said it. I swallowed the words as they stumbled out of my mouth.) He says where? CVS? I said, “No.” And this went on until he finally got it.
After a loud “Whaaaaaaattt?” bleared from the speaker, he said ok. Fine. He walked in about 10 minutes later (for those of you who enjoy math, yes, it’s now approximately half an hour since the facility closed) with a look of agitation mixed with “what the fill-in-the-expletive were you thinking?!”
I brought him back to the room where Noodle had apparently continued to charm my human children. Noodle gracefully pranced toward my husband and hugged him with his legs. He looked at me with utter disbelief. I smiled and watched them connect instantaneously.
Minutes later we were asking about vaccines, background info, and how the adoption process works. We were devastated to learn that Noodle had been in FOUR shelters before this one!! I again wonder if this stop at the Humane Society was going to lift my spirits! My heart hurt for this 11 pound pup.
We came back the next day with Rocky, who is a Bichon poodle. The dogs were required to meet, and they bonded immediately. There was no aggression or dominant behavior. We were not allowed into this area, which was beyond frustrating, so we cheered on the other side of the glass window as the pups sniffed each other.
The kids and my husband said, “Let’s do this.” My meticulous, over-analytical mind momentarily panicked. I called our vet and several friends who’ve rescued animals. I interrogated each patient person. I secretly hoped somebody would tell me this was a crazy idea. But Noodle the poodle became the newest member of our home.
We all decided Noodle’s name was silly. He was four years old, and I worried that too much change would disrupt his world even more. But we just couldn’t imagine years of “Noodle stay. Noodle sit. Noodle time for a walk!”
There are no accidents—I felt yet again I’d experienced a synchronous meeting. The right canine at the right time. I wanted to honor this extraordinary pup with an especially meaningful name. I am not religious but I believe passionately in a higher power. I felt Noodle deserved a name which would forever represent how he healed my heart.
After much discussion, we decided to name him “Itzhak,” which is the Hebrew name for “laughter.” The formal word quickly became Izzy. Friends, family, and often strangers turn to mush when they meet Izzy. Even people who are not animal lovers are smitten in seconds. Izzy unconditionally loves all beings and gives the gift of his human-like embrace.
Every time I snuggle with him, pet his soft fur, and hold him in my lap, he soothes me with calm, peaceful energy. Izzy is a daily reminder that when you’re in the dark, always reach for the light. And in this case? His healing light found me.