Rabbi Wayne Franklin grew up with dogs, but his wife, Anne Franklin, never had a dog. When their daughter Batya started asking her parents for a dog, a family discussion ensued. They spent a year researching breeds before choosing a standard poodle because they are highly intelligent, good with children, hypoallergenic and don’t shed.
In order for the Franklins to get a standard poodle from the breeder, they had to write an essay about why they would be a good family for one of her dogs.
Benjy was their first standard poodle. The Franklins discovered that he was a singer on the first night of Hanukkah, a few months after he joined the family. From then on, he would join in the singing of the Hanukkah blessings, and would sing at every Shabbat and holiday.
Every night when they recited the Shema and V’ahavta as they put Batya to bed, Benjy would come flying up to her bedroom, hop on her bed, stand over her and sing his heart out. When the prayers were done, he would hop down and let her go to sleep.
When Rabbi Franklin and Anne were each sitting shivah for a parent, Benjy would join the minyan and sing along, following the cadence of the prayers. When someone offered him a siddur, Anne said, “He doesn’t need it; he knows it by heart!”
The Franklins had Benjy 12 1/2 years. They were heartbroken when he died. They contacted the breeder from whom they had gotten Benjy the very day he died. Franklin, who is retiring in June after nearly 40 years at Temple Emanu-El, in Providence, said, “We could not stand the thought of having the house empty.”
Ziggy arrived about three weeks later. The Franklins chose his name before they met him. They settled on Ziggy, a diminutive for Sigmund Freud, since he would be accompanying Anne, who is a psychologist, to her office. Her clients light up as he greets them.
“Sometimes, if a client starts to cry, Ziggy senses their emotion and goes over and looks to comfort them. Sometimes they embrace him, and he licks away their tears,” Anne said.
She said she considers Ziggy a little person in a dog suit.
“We love Ziggy, but still miss Benjy. They each had unique personalities, as we were told by the breeder that they would. We feel that there is something very special about poodles,” she said.
Unlike Benjy, Ziggy doesn’t sing. But Anne says, “He is a thinking dog and is very gentle and affectionate. He has a neshamah [soul].
“He also has a special arrangement with the tellers at a bank near my office. When we go for a walk, he puts his face in the window of the drive-through to let the tellers know he’s there – and they send out treats to him in the money drawer. He is like a magnet; people often stop in the middle of the street to admire him, and he runs to greet them.”
Rabbi Franklin added, “Ziggy enjoys attention and can be very insistent. Sometimes he will stick his nose under my arm, or use his snout like a battering ram, to get me to stop typing and pay attention to him. Ziggy knows what he wants and is an effective communicator.”
In closing, when I asked about the joy that both dogs have given them, Anne said, “Our dogs have enriched our lives. They invite us to play with them, to relax with them and to savor the joy of their presence.”
PATRICIA RASKIN, owner of Raskin Resources Productions, is a media host, coach and award-winning radio producer and business owner. She is on the board of directors of Temple Emanu-El.