My grandfather, Pop, was totally against the idea of having a dog in the apartment. He wanted nothing to do with it. My grandmother, on the other hand, pined for an affectionate little companion to sit on her lap. I suspect now that some of this pining had to do with her lifelong sorrow about the loss of a loving little pet when she was a girl.
One of the few stories I remember from her childhood, most of which were fond and anodyne (you’d never suspect, from her cheerful stories, that she grew up in a region where Jews were routinely beaten, robbed, sexually abused) was about a kitten. She was a little girl and she had a beautiful little kitten that loved her and that she adored. She slept with the tiny cat in her arms and woke up, to her horror, next to the tiny corpse of the kitten she had accidentally suffocated in her sleep. A terrible, terrible story, even if we can call it a drop in the bucket next to what happened a few decades later to everyone else she ever loved in that accursed Ukrainian town she came from.
She wanted a Chihuahua, a small dog, perfect for a one bedroom apartment. My mother took her shopping and she found a Chihuahua that she instantly fell in love with. She bought it and named the fawn colored little dog Bunny. Pop, who had made his wishes plainly known, was furious when he got the news. He left the apartment and rode the subways all night long, never coming back the first night Bunny was in the house.
When he got home the next day the little dog approached him and, seeing his resistance, determined (in a way well known to animal lovers) to make him her’s. She sat in front of him asking to come up on his lap. He resisted, but eventually took persistent little Bunny on to his lap. She never left. Everywhere Pop sat, Bunny would be next to him or on his lap. It quickly blossomed into a full fledged love affair.
My grandmother was, understandably, upset by this quick betrayal by her new pet. I recall her, many times, sitting with Bunny on her lap, happily petting the little dog, and my grandfather walking into the room. Bunny would immediately indicate that she wanted to go to Pop. My grandmother would struggle with the little dog “stay, mommy, stay, stay…” she would say as Bunny wriggled out of her grasp and went directly to Pop. He’d shrug and pick Bunny up and my grandmother would fume.
My grandparents slept in twin beds. I don’t need to say which bed Bunny slept in. Pop reported that the tiny dog was a prodigious bed hog. Every time Pop rolled over, the dog would stretch her tiny legs and occupy more and more territory. Pop sometimes found himself pushed to the very edge of his own bed by the luxuriating Chihuahua. I asked him if he pushed her over to make room for himself. He smiled.
“I give her a futz, and she runs,” he reported. Bunny, apparently, didn’t like being farted on any more than the rest of us do.
There is no real reason to add this detail, outside of my lifelong mania for the entire, truthful story, as accurate as I can get it. When Bunny died my grandparents quickly got another Chihuahua. The second puppy was sickly, had terrible diarrhea, and they brought it back after a day or two. They brought home a healthy little male puppy that they named Bunny. Vu den? It was this second Bunny who Pop reported his sleeping war with. What he actually said was “I give him a futz, and he runs!”
The second Bunny loved Pop too. He also liked to get me to chase him around the apartment. He was impossible to catch. Bunny was agile, quick and nimble. He was also small enough to get everywhere. One day I feinted one way and managed to corner him behind an easy chair he couldn’t crawl under. I reached down to pick him up and he sunk his teeth into my hand. I loudly complained (though he didn’t do any damage).
“Sure he bit you, ” Pop piped up, immediately defending the little biting bastard, “I’d bite you too, you trapped him!”
I recall telling Pop I’d prefer to be bitten by him, and his dentures, that Bunny’s teeth were as sharp as needles. He continued to insist that it was my own fault, trying to trap the poor little dog who just wanted to play. How far he’d come from that long night riding the subways in protest of a dog in the apartment!