Rabbi Plans to Kill Dogs Because he Can’t be Bothered

Or at least, that’s what he’s trying to do. But I’m not going to let him. And I’m asking for your help.

My grandmother died in March, leaving her rabbi & tenant of the last 15 years as her primary beneficiary. Which makes perfect sense; he was her family. She left him lifetime tenancy in her house, $50k a year that will likely last him the rest of his life, and two small dogs.

When I first spoke to her lawyer, he told me the rabbi was unhappy about having the dogs and that he was worried the rabbi would put them down. At the time, I thought my parents or I could take them. But I’m a freelancer and currently I don’t have a gig. My savings were wiped out when my cat needed an emergency surgery and I already have three rescues. I can’t afford it.

We’ve also learned that my mother needs to have a surgery soon, which will require roughly two months recovery time in which my father will be taking care of her.  My parents can’t take the dogs.

I explained all this to the rabbi a few weeks ago. I pointed out that my grandmother, in her will, specifically left the dogs to him; clearly she expected him to care for them. I thought it was settled at that point.

Yesterday I received an email from the lawyer’s office telling me the rabbi is going to have the dogs put down. They argued with him, trying to convince him to at least take the dogs to a shelter where they’d have a chance. Or put up a notice at the vet’s office saying the dogs were up for adoption. He seems to have agreed.

He also left me a voicemail saying that if I want the dogs put down, he’ll do that but he obviously can’t keep them. He’s trying to put this on me, to salve his conscience, but it’s his responsibility. It’s his choice. He *owes* my grandmother this.

He’s right, though. I won’t let him kill her dogs.

Within two minutes of searching, I found a no-kill shelter not far from the house. The dogs will be going there. But I would much rather find a home for the both of them. Which is why I’m asking for your help. Give this a signal boost. Maybe you know someone who would want them or could offer suggestions.

I’ll post a picture here of the dogs as soon as I can get a hold of one.

The dogs are in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. A mini-dachshund and a terrier mix.


When we bring him home the first day he’s covered in dirt. I carry him past mom and into the bathroom to wash him while Dave runs interference. We weren’t supposed to get a puppy, we were just supposed to look. But really, send Dad and Dave and me out to look at puppies and expect us not to get one? Losing battle, that.

Washing him has the unexpected side effect of arousing mom’s sympathy. Wet bedraggled and bewildered puppy is apparently one of her triggers for mothering.

My brother names him Orion.

Soon enough Orion loves everyone. He spends his first hours with us trying to lick our noses. Our older golden retriever starts drooling uncontrollably; her anxiety response. Eventually she decides Orion’s okay. He’s remarkably tolerant of her drooling on him.

Six months old and Orion is limping. He can barely walk. Both front legs are having problems. Watch a six month old puppy try to play and stumble because his legs won’t hold him.

Osteochondritis Dissecans. Congenital problem with joints and cartilage. Dad calls up the breeder and chews him out about faking the health certs for the parents. The breeder offers to take Orion back, which we all know would be a death sentence. The man would just put him down.

Mom and Dad comb through the budget to find the money for surgery. It will cost 2k, and they can only scrape up 1k. Uncle Stan gives us the rest.

Orion goes in for surgery on both shoulders. He’ll need to stay at the vet for a week after surgery. The receptionist calls to tell us what a wonderful dog he is.

He comes home looking like he’s wearing go-go boots.

He can’t go up the stairs, so Dave brings his sleeping bag downstairs and camps out on the living room floor next to Orion for the next several weeks. Dave is Orion’s person.

Dad and Uncle Stan drive Orion back for a follow-up at the vet. Orion is so terrified, he shakes the entire hour long ride there. Uncle Stan holds him the whole way there. Orion will be the first, possibly the only, one of our dogs Uncle Stan bonds with.

Orion heals and no longer limps. He never stops being a puppy, though, as the years pass. He’ll look at you with complete adoration, like you’re the best thing in the world. Half an hour later you’ll catch him giving the same look to a sprinkler head.

Orion sleeps on Dave’s bed with him every night up until Dave leaves for college six years later. Then he sleeps in Mom and Dad’s room. .By this point neither Dave nor I live at home. Gaia, our older dog, passes away suddenly. No warning. Orion is the only dog now.

Dad and Dave and I get sent off to look at puppies again (you’d think Mom would have learned by now…). We commit to a pup, though she’s still too young to bring home. When we finally bring her, Orion bounces.

Even though he’s six, he acts as young as she is.

The two of them become best friends, curling up to sleep together. Where he goes, she follows. Sienna. She is frightened of everything, and he is her brave older brother. Even though she eventually comes to weight 15 lb more than he does, she always believes he’s bigger.

Mom gets diagnosed with breast cancer. The treatment leaves her bed-ridden for the better part of a year. Orion and Sienna are her constant companions. They’re gentle with her. They know she’s sick, and she’s lonely, and they don’t mind when she needs to cry and hold them. Without them, she would be completely alone most days. For the first time since Bryse died more than 20 years ago, Mom truly bonds with a dog. Orion.

Likewise, Orion doesn’t mind when Dad falls apart and holds onto him and cries. Because Dad won’t let himself cry in front of Mom.

Orion has bonded with every single one of us. Dave, Dad, Mom, Uncle Stan, me. The only one of our dogs to do that.

Dave and I come home for Thanksgiving, and Orion is limping. He can barely use his front legs. But he’s excited to see us. Dad buys a vest with a handle on the top of it for Orion, so we can help take some of the weight off his legs when he goes upstairs. Sometimes Dave just carries him up. Orion is tired, and in pain half the time.

Mom and Dad sit us down. He’s not going to last much longer, they tell us. Which we all knew, but no one wanted to say. So, they tell us, you should probably say your goodbyes now.

We’re all crying. Dave lets me hold him while his shoulders shake. Mom holds Dad’s hand.

We don’t want him to suffer, Dad says. We won’t let what happened to Spock happen to him. No long and painful decline. No dying alone in the veterinary hospital.

Orion makes it to Dave’s birthday. He even makes it to Christmas.

When I arrive, he’s so excited that he gets up and limps over to me. Stumbling. In that time he’s lost even more muscle mass. His left front paw is useless. He can’t go up the stairs.

So Dave gets out his sleeping bag and sleeps on the living room floor.

Dad ups Orion’s pain meds, way past what the vet recommended. But what harm now? When he’s on the pain meds Orion wants to play. When the pain meds wear off, Orion is completely unresponsive.We take pictures. And we make this last week as good as we can.The day after Christmas we spend the morning petting Orion and giving him whatever treats he wants. Uncle Stan comes over and Orion struggles to his feet to go welcome him.

When afternoon comes we walk him out to the car, and he’s wagging his tail and it feels so wrong, because we’re taking him to die. Dave holds him the whole way there.

Orion can’t get out of the car; I carry him. When we get in the door the vet tech helps me carry him the rest of the way.

He’s trembling. We all gather around him, petting him. Each one of us touching him and trying to comfort him. His trembling seems to go away. The vet gives him a sedative.

A few minutes later, when Orion is calm, the vet comes back. It’s an extremely high dose of an anesthetic he tells us. Orion won’t feel anything. His body will twitch, but that’s not him. That’s the body trying to stay alive. He won’t be aware of it.

And it happens just like the vet says.

And Orion is gone.

Sometimes Safety is a Golden Retriever

(I really, really debated whether or not to post this. Then I realized, I’m probably the only one who cares, so why not? I’m going to preface this by saying my father apologized to me. A few years ago, of his own volition, he apologized to me for the way he behaved when I was a child.)

I tried EMDR for the first time the other day. The therapist had me think about a situation that makes me anxious in my life now, that makes me want to run away. And then she asked me to think of another situation when I felt the same way.

So many moments come to mind when she asks me to think of a time I wanted to escape. All of them, all of them, with my parents. The one I settle on, which is no surprise to me, as I’ve settled on it before in my writing, is a fight between my parents. My father is yelling at my mother, I don’t know why. She’s crying and then yelling back, her voice desperate and raw. I’m hiding on the stairway, out of sight near the top. I can’t really see them, just the tops of their heads, an overhead view nearly.

At that moment, the therapist asks “What do you feel?”

“My hands feel small,” I tell her. My hands and arms feel small to me, like the hands and arms of a five year old. It’s the strangest thing.

“What are you thinking?” she asks.

I half laugh, disparagingly, at myself. “I keep repeating the dog’s name in my head, over and over and over.”

“What was the dog’s name?”

“Bryce.” And suddenly I’m crying. I had no idea her name would do that to me. But I feel this rush of grief, tying into a knot at the base of my throat.

“Where is Bryce?”

“Next to me, on the stairs. I have my arm around her.” I pause. “She died when I was five. She was my best friend. She made me feel safe.”

“So she was your best friend, the only one who made you feel safe, the only stable thing in your life…”


“And then she died.”

And suddenly, I understand. When Bryce died, there was no more safety for me. There was no safe place I could go, no one who would always protect me. The one reliable thing in my life was gone. All I had left was the turbulence between my parents. No Bryce to hide with me at the top of the stairs while my parents fought. No Bryce to hold on to.

That was the first time my parents sent me to therapy. When I was five. I was depressed. No, Depressed, with a big D. Because Bryce died and I was alone.

A Sketch of Bryce