I write this on International Dog Day, a holiday I had not previously heard of, clearly a creation of social media and some sharp marketers. Unlike the flower, restaurant and barbecue industries, which profit from earlier acts of genius marketing (thank you, Hallmark!), this one doesn’t have an immediate profit angle. Could it be the work of the biscuit industry and the Pup-Peroni sticks, which I already support generously? Or maybe the people who make those ridiculous costumes that, honestly, I tried to put on my dogs for Halloween, but there were never any takers?
To whomever invented International Dog Day, I say thank you.
And perhaps all the dogs looking for homes, and the people who love them, say thank you, too.
My dogs, Molly Estrich and Irving Estrich, are 15 and 13. I lost my beloved Lab, Judy Jarvis Estrich, last year. These are the dogs that have been with me for what feels like much of my life. Surely, a hard part. Then there is my son’s dog, Penny Estrich, a 3-year-old that spends her days here while her parents work. And then there is the puppy my daughter just rescued, 14-week-old Eloise Estrich Kaplan.
These are the dogs that have seen me through the pandemic. I am sure many of you have similar tales.
My dogs remind me every day of the power of unconditional love. No matter what anyone says or does to you, your dogs love you and accept you in a way that we humans sometimes have trouble with.
My dogs remind me, too, of the power of living in the moment. They do not hold a grudge.
I was once so frustrated with Judy for her having eaten my best shoes at a time when I was living on a strict shoe budget that I tied two shoes around her neck (not strangling her, just letting the shoes dangle) for about five minutes. My kids never let me forget it. Judy never seemed to remember.
I don’t know what my Molly lived through before we adopted her. Surely, a puppy mill and rough treatment. But whatever she endured, she has loved my children and me every day for 15 years.
As for Irving, he is a spoiled and grumpy old man, a pug that got torn in half by a stupid man’s pit bull and nearly died, which is certainly a reason to excuse his bad habits including snoring, occasionally peeing inside and barking incessantly at his niece, Penny. I start my day hugging him in bed.
My dogs have also taught me, and my children, the painful face of mortality.
Judy Estrich was named for my dearest friend, Judy Jarvis, a gifted television and radio host who died of lung cancer in 2000. Judy was a black Lab, which says it all. No one has ever loved me like my Judy. When Judy could no longer walk, she crawled to her favorite tree. We made the awful call. We sat around her and held her as she passed. And when Judy Estrich died, it felt like losing Judy Jarvis all over again. But the idea of not having had Judy in our lives for 16 years is far more unbearable than the pain of her loss.
And that, sadly, is the way we teach our children about mortality.
Molly and Irving don’t wake up every day by cataloging what’s wrong; they wake up looking forward to breakfast. And to a nice walk at the beach or around the park with Rosie, my nanny of 30 years, who is dealing with stage 4 cancer; Penny loves Rosie with a passion that is literally keeping her alive. And then they look forward to a nice nap in my room while I work, along with a few snacks before dinner.
Someone once told me that heaven is the place where you are reunited with all the dogs you have lost.
Happy International Dog Day.
To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.