Dovid and Huxley

By Malkie Gordon Hirsch

I’ve always been an animal lover, so it should come as no surprise that my children share that same love. They also share the ability to drive me absolutely nuts by finding various ways to ask me for a pet.

Like my own parents did many years ago, I find myself parroting those same sentiments to them as they did to me: “There are simply too many humans in this house to accommodate a pet.” Then they’d add, “When you’re an adult with a family of your own, you can have a dog, at long last.”

I could go on and add some other things that prevent me from acquiring a pet—having every surface of my house covered in dog hair, for one, doesn’t thrill me. Slobbered couch corners and chewed up shoes is something I’d like to try to avoid. My kids do a good enough job at ruining their shoes at a pace that seems extraordinary. I don’t need a dog to help out in that area.

Having people over who are terrified of animals and having to find a place for a pet that belongs there seems like undue stress that’s avoidable. Needing to find pet sitters if we go away can easily be remedied by not having a pet in the first place.

The “no’s” pop up so quickly that I rarely give myself the opportunity to list the reasons to get a pet—the love and happiness it brings everyone, for example. The therapeutic benefits of having a pet around that a person can’t duplicate.

There’s a reason why half of my block acquired pets during COVID. There’s a reason why I find many empty nesters doing the same. Even my 92-year-old grandmother has a battery-operated stuffed animal dog that barks and whimpers like an actual dog. It’s a toy made specifically for seniors to feel less alone. The research on the therapeutic benefits of being a pet owner or therapy animal owner is extensive.

As much as I enjoy studying different types of research on a plethora of topics in my spare time, my knowledge on these matters didn’t start because my kids presented me with a PowerPoint presentation on why I should purchase a pet. It actually started entirely by accident, as does some of the most welcome surprises in life.

This past summer, I met Shira who, among the 51 women who joined us on the TJJ trip, was our only local Five Towns resident. We reside in different neighborhoods within the Five Towns so I hadn’t met her until this trip, but since then, she’s become a fixture in our home. She comes by for Friday night dinners and joined us on Sukkot. And on one such evening before the school year started, she told us about her dog Huxley.

Now, Huxley isn’t just any ordinary dog. Think more along the lines of a snow white fur ball that at the tender age of 2 is already the size of a small horse. And if you think I’m exaggerating, you’re welcome to come here and meet him for yourself. Huxley tends to evoke different responses from different people. The first thing you’ll take in is his size and come to the conclusion that he’s a menacing dog that would take advantage of his size, but the opposite is true.

Huxley is a sweet, docile dog who has a calm demeanor and a playful side to him. He’s very obedient and listens well to direction. It’s the reason that Huxley became certified to be a therapy dog for those who have suffered traumatic brain injuries. Huxley is definitely one of the busier dogs I’ve met, with his days filled up as a therapy dog, attending elementary schools, and going to dog conventions so he could socialize with other Great Pyrenees like himself.

For us, his appeal lies in what he’s done for Dovid and my other kids. One night, during Shabbos dinner, Shira had mentioned in passing that she had accepted a job in Manhattan and would no longer be around in the afternoon for Huxleys walk. Dovid volunteered to be his dog walker and since the start of school, it has been Dovid’s (paid) after school job. Dovid has an apartment key and he lets himself in to Shira’s apartment and takes Huxley on his afternoon stroll. Or it might be more appropriate to say that Huxley takes Dovid on the afternoon stroll. They take various routes and Dovid is routinely stopped by many who first notice Huxley’s intimidating size. They ask different questions and it engages my son in a way that he’s never encountered. The result of this nightly walk does wonders for both Dovid and Huxley.

Huxley bounds into the apartment excitedly to “tell” Shira all about their walk in his dog ways and Dovid in turn gets into the car and tells me all about the funny things that Huxley did that day. The happiness emanating from him after these walks is something I want to hold onto and bottle for times when life gets tough. In his face, I see pure happiness and love. It’s a serenity I don’t usually have the opportunity to see from him, and I look forward to those car rides as he recounts their walk with a big smile on his face.

Sukkot was the first time I invited Shira to bring Huxley along for the meal, not quite realizing that some of my guests weren’t dog lovers. By the end of the night, we converted those that seemed somewhat anxious around him to letting him take up the entire length and width underneath the sukkah table while he enjoyed the meal leftovers.

Nowadays, when Shira can’t make it to a Shabbos meal, she comes by in the afternoon and Huxley entertains the neighborhood children with Dovid at the helm. He’s sure to shed as much white fur as possible and as annoying as that might be for someone who’d like to keep their vacuum working, as I see signs of Huxley’s visits for many days after, I can’t help but smile with appreciation for how both he and his mother have enhanced our lives since their arrival

Malkie Gordon Hirsch is a native of the Five Towns community, a mom of 5, a writer, and a social media influencer.


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