Those of you who know me and are reading this know that I am not an overly religious person, but I do adhere to certain basic rules of Kashrut. I don’t eat pork or any pork products, never put cheese on my hamburgers, even though it makes my mouth water to think about it. But, those hamburgers I eat without the melted cheddar aren’t necessarily bought from the kosher butcher either. I grew up on ham and cheese sandwiches and BLT’s, but have not eaten one since 1980.
I do this not so much as a religious conviction, but to stand in solidarity with my people where ever they are on the face of the Earth. It’s just my own political statement of who I am and where I come from. We are not a race, and most polls show that only about 20 percent of Jews attend shul on a regular basis. This leaves us with not much cohesiveness, unless there are other things that bind us as a people. Living this way, gives me a connection. No matter whatever else separates us, a little Kashrut can go a long way.
Not so my dog.
His name is Buddy and he couldn’t care less about Kashrut. You put bacon in front of him and he will gobble it up. He eats just about anything off the street, as long as it’s free. I usually can’t get to him in time to stop him from eating it, not because its pork but because I don’t want him to get sick. Ham, cheese burgers, and an array of bottom dwelling shell fish that someone sloppily dropped on the road. I got to be honest though, crumbs of matzah at Passover, or a bagel and cream cheese are just as desirable to his palate. He doesn’t discriminate.
Well, he’s a dog, for Christ sakes!
When I am about to go to shul on Shabbat, he looks at me with that traif look in his eyes. “Hey dude, bring me back a cheesesteak.”
Sometimes, when my wife tries to sneak in something, leftovers from going out to eat with her friends, it ends up in the refrigerator. A pizza with meat and cheese, or worse, pepperoni, or some kind of egg soufflé thing, with bits of ham in it, anything that is way out of bounds from the style of Kashrut I live by, I hit the roof when I find it. I don’t want it in my refrigerator, I discover it sitting there in its doggie box from the restaurant and my first thought is down the garbage disposal. But, there is buddy, standing there looking at me with those wanting eyes, and that tail lazily waving back and forth, ears forward, standing on all fours…waiting…waiting.
“Don’t do that man, I’ll eat it.” Since he isn’t really Jewish I think what’s the harm, and into his dish it goes, One minute later, it’s in his stomach.
Oh, I still wag my finger at my wife and tell her not to do that again, but Buddy just lies there, paws straight out, ears perked and head up with perfect posture looking like the Sphinx of Egypt telling her, “oh yeah, keep bringin’ that home.”
I got to admit sometimes when I am buying his canned food, along with lamb and vegetables and beef stew doggie style, I will buy turkey and bacon as well. He likes it, and after all he is a goyishe dog.
Buddy always had a hearty appetite. Sure, he ate dry kibble and canned dog food, but his favorites were the goyishe nachas he could find around the neighborhood or in my refrigerator as the case may be.
At least until recently.
Buddy stopped eating about a month ago. He was about to celebrate his fifteenth birthday, and had been afflicted with degenerative myeolopathy, a K9 sort of multiple sclerosis. Well, it got so bad that last week, I had to put him to sleep. As the doctor injected the killing serum, we studied each other, his breathing labored, his head nestled comfortably in the palm of my hand, with those loving eyes, gentle and sweet, and then he was just still. He was gone from this world.
I’m going to miss his goyishe ass with his total neglect of what he ate, whether it was day old bean and cheese burrito he’d find on the side walk or a one bite left cheese burger in a McDonald’s bag, and always, always, saying to me with his eyes, “you are such a goofball, this stuff is good, and I like it and I am going to eat whenever and wherever I can.” I’d pull him away because I would never know whether it would make him sick or not. He’d think I did it because it wasn’t kosher, but I was only looking after his own health. Since he wouldn’t do it, someone had to. But there was always the next walk, the next outside excursion, and the next time when he would find something.
He didn’t have the conviction I have. His conviction was just to get it in his stomach. I toast to him with my glass of Manischevitz not just for his eating habits but for all the joy he brought into our house the last fifteen years while our three kids were growing up. He made us laugh a lot. Yes, he was a goyishe dog, but God damn it, He was our goyishe dog.
Jesus, we got to do something about that wine, ech!