Just around the corner from my house in Manhattan – on Lexington Avenue between 61st and 62nd Streets – there’s a pet shop where every morning you’ll find five or six of the cutest little puppies frolicking in the window. They’re little tiny balls of fur and they bounce around in the bed of paper and put on a priceless show for every passerby who wants to give them a few seconds.
I sometimes stop for a minute to watch one of the most beautiful sights my eyes have ever seen. I just look at the face of a two- or three-year-old child whose stroller has been pushed up against the pet shop window by a delighted parent.
The look on the face of a child watching a puppy is magic. It’s a look of awe and wonder and love, yes, love, that fills the face of a little child watching a puppy.
Too young to say “I want that,” they have a look of beautiful innocence that I sometimes believe they will never have again in their lives. It’s a look that makes me walk away after a few seconds feeling that all is wonderful in the world. If someone would pipe in a recording of Louis Armstrong singing “What a Wonderful World” next to the pet shop window, I think it would make me cry.
I think of that because everyone I know has a puppy these days. Young marrieds have a “Let’s see if we can deal with a puppy before we have to deal with a baby” puppy. Every empty-nester couple I know has a puppy to get their minds off of their grown children who sometimes forget to call.
I remember when our dog Oreo died, and Judy and I were faced with our first truly empty nest.
“Should we get another dog?” Judy asked.
“Absolutely,” I answered. “In order to stay young, you must always have something annoying under your feet at all times.”
When your kids grow up and leave, you have to switch to a puppy. You have to make sure the puppy behaves, and is housebroken, and you must walk it until both you and the puppy are exhausted. In the end it’s not that different from raising kids, except you don’t have to help with homework or attend those boring, horrible parent-teacher conferences.
I thought about this when Judy revealed we were having an Easter crisis.
Now you must know that no Jew, other than Jesus, loves Easter as much as my wife, the beautiful Judy Licht. For years Judy and my daughter Jodi planned every year’s Easter festivities with as much care as Eisenhower planned the Normandy invasion during World War II. The highlight was the Easter egg hunt, with 20 to 25 tiny kids searching for hidden eggs.
This year we discovered we have a problem: We’re running out of toddlers. All those tiny, adorable three- and four-year-olds have grown up into cute, cell-phone carrying pre-teens who have no desire to hunt for Easter eggs in our backyard.
This is breaking Judy’s heart.
She used to shop for weeks to find the perfect prizes the children could win as a reward for finding the most eggs: the Golden Egg, the Silver Egg, etc. This was great training for the kids, many of whom will someday go into investment banking anyway.
One year, in her enthusiasm to celebrate Easter, Judy decided that each of the kids should end up with a stuffed toy. CVS had a display of stuffed monkeys, rabbits, etc. The prices started at $8.95 and went up.
Judy started to say, “These would be great gifts for …” when I interrupted her with a loud, “NO!! I know where we can get the same stuffed toys for $2 each.”
“Where?” she asked.
“At the wonderful One Stop Pet Shop in Amagansett, where we go to buy a stuffed toy every week for Shlomo,” was my reply.
Now Judy’s voice went up two octaves. “Are you crazy? You want to buy these kids stuffed toys meant for dogs?”
“What’s the difference?” I answered. “A stuffed toy is a stuffed toy. The kids will never know the difference.”
“But an hour after we give Shlomo a stuffed toy he bites into it and all the stuffing comes out,” said Judy.
“That’s because Shlomo takes the stuffed toy in his mouth and then shakes his head fiercely to kill it. That’s the law of the jungle, or at least the law of the Hamptons. Trust me, none of these kids are going to put the stuffed toy in their mouths and shake their heads from side to side to kill it.” My voice trailed off and I muttered, “Maybe one or two of them would, but we’re dealing with baby teeth …”
Well, all this talk about stuffed toys for dogs gave me an idea.
My daughter Jessie and her husband Ben have a 10-month-old pooch named Nacho. Our wonderful friend Gino’s dog is Bailey.
Our friends the Davidsons have a three-month-old puppy named Lucy, who weighs 30 pounds. My daughter Jodi’s dog is also named Lucy. The Hodins have dogs named Zadie and Hugo. The Schleiffs have a sweet dog the size of a Volkswagen named Boo. All in all, I can count about 12 to 15 dogs in our circle, the oldest being my darling Shlomo.
So instead of having kids running around our property, why don’t we have an Easter egg hunt just for dogs? And instead of eggs, let’s hide lamb chops behind bushes, under trees, in flower pots, etc. etc. When I told Judy my idea, she went into shock.
“Instead of children, you want to have dogs, and instead of Easter eggs, the dogs will search for lamb chops?”
“Yes, and I will cook the lamb chops medium well,” I answered.
That’s when Judy reverted back to her Jewish roots.
She called me a schmuck.
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