In the past year, my three siblings have gotten married, leaving me as the only single Shinewald. Feeling a joy for them, but also a personal void, I put down my deposit on an English bulldog and announced that I would be the first father in the family. Soon enough, with the knowledge that I would have a son, naming him would be a family affair.
We started with the traditional:
"What do you think of Spot?"
We were getting no where. Why not try names of potential roll models?
"You know - sit Ubu sit, good dog!"
We were at a standstill.
For a week or two, it seemed that we had firmly decided on "Hulkster" – what better name for such a robust little guy with a bit of an attitude. And, then it hit me like a lightening bolt in a clear blue sky: "Moishe." I don't know why, but the debate ended immediately.
I would run into friends around town:
"How are you?"
"Great? Why ‘great'"?
"Moishe is coming soon?"
"My son, Moishie!"
"What are you talking about?"
"My little guy – English Bulldog puppy. He is coming June 1."
Perplexed or even disturbed, friends would ask, "Why Moishe?"
"Why not? He is a Jewish dog."
Why Moishe? Why not? He is a Jewish dog.
When Moishe arrived on that day in June, he was indeed the meek little mensch that I knew he would be. Missing his birth mother, but eager to please his new father, he would run and play and lick my face. On walks, the tiny ball of fur and jowls would quite literally stop traffic:
"What kind of dog is that, an English Bulldog?"
"No. He's a Jewish Bulldog. Rare breed."
I thought about it a bit more – Moishe was the only Jewish Bulldog and maybe even the only Jewish dog at all. And then one day, my mother burst into the family cottage: "I saw a Dachshund at the park. The kids were calling out, ‘Come on Herschy!'"
Suddenly, I imagined Moishe and Herschy sharing the embarrassment of the four questions and going to Bar Mitzvah classes (which Moishe would start shortly due to the 7:1 dog to human year factor). Later in life, he and Herschy would enjoy a few decades worth of schvitzes at the JCC. I grabbed Moishe's leash and walked for blocks, carrying the reluctant little guy in my arms. At last, we got to the park and there was the Dachshund .
"Excuse me, are you the guys with Herschy?"
I was met with blank stares.
"Your Dachshund -- Herschy, right? You have the Jewish dog, right?"
"Oh, you mean Hershey."
"Yeah, like the chocolate bar"
I was disappointed, but I felt worse for Moishe, who would always be shvitzing alone.
A few weeks later, walking through a suburban neighborhood, I excitedly discovered another opportunity for Moishe to make some friends; he and I happened upon a woman with Hebrew lettering on her shirt, spelling "Yiddish" and she also had a dog with her -- a big brown mixed-breed.
I hustled toward her and ensured that our dogs played.
"What is your dog's name?" she asked.
"Moishe," I replied, rather proudly.
"Moishe! Moishie! Moisheleh!" she exclaimed.
Taken by the moment, I shouted, "Moishe Ben Shmuel!"
"What a cute puppy!"
"Indeed, what is your dog's name?"
Never in my life had I met a Jewish "Ralph" and while I was again disappointed, Moishe seemed to be quite content, sniffing, digging and only needing me. The two of us bonded closely during those first few months and I literally took him everywhere. In a pinch, amid a computer meltdown, I took Moishe to Best Buy as I dashed to the "Geek Squad" for help.
"My computer is not working at all. It just shut down"
"Have you tried plugging in the powercord?" the geek responded.
"Yes, I have tried plugging it in!"
The geek left and when I looked down, a mother and son were playing with Moishe.
"What is your dog's name?" the mother asked.
"Is it a boy or a girl," the boy asked.
His mother interjected, "He's a boy Aaron. His name is Moishe."
Moishe was a standard Jew detector.
And it was true – my trainer?
"Moosh? Maw-shee? Mowsh?"
My real estate agent:
"Moishie is such a little Zaide."
And then, to my astonishment, I actually got a client, name Moshe. I had to train myself not to call Moshe Moishe and was hopeful that we could get through a few calls without incident. Of course, Murphy's Law would dictate that on the one call where Moishe needed to keep quiet, he would start to bark like mad.
"Pardon me or pardon my dog. He is barking in the background."
"What kind of dog do you have?"
"An English bulldog"
"What is his name?"
"Actually, to be honest, uh..... It is Moishe"
"Ever since I was a kid, my teachers, friends, anyone I have met has had a dog with the name Moishe or Moshe – I don't know why. I am a Doctor Doolittle."
It was then that I thought back to my own teachers, my time in Hebrew School and to one Jewish Law class in particular. I remember when a classmate asked our teacher if he needed to feed his new puppy kosher dog food. My teacher responded that she wasn't sure, but that she knew of a Talmudic decision, in which the scholars forbade keeping pets that scare others. I looked down at Moishe and laughed to myself. I was lucky that he turned out the way he did -- it was impossible for anyone to fear my wrinkly Jewish Dog named Moishe.