When I was a little girl, there were things as clear as sunlight, as the sea God had split just for the Jews. One of those things was that dogs were despicable creatures. They were scary and dirty, with teeth like knives, and paws with claws, ripping flesh off bone, the way they’d done to Jews in the Holocaust.
Dogs were impure, unclean and ferocious, their eyes — so dark around the pupils — like those of a demon. Only gentiles liked dogs, taking strange comfort in the animals; good Jews stayed far away.
The first time I came close to a dog was in fourth grade. It was a bright, fall afternoon, and I’d skipped off the school van cheerfully, humming a tune to myself. As I pranced down the block, I looked up at a tree gracefully shaking off its fall leaves,and it was then that I had the fright of my 8-year-old life: I nearly crashed into an old lady and her terrifying dog.
I looked down. I screamed. I dropped my satchel. I ran down the block and around the corner, never once looking back. I ran until I could not breathe, and then I stumbled behind a neighbor’s bush. There I crouched, begging God for mercy. After several moments of silence, I peered out from between the branches. I saw only the bright leaves twirling in the wind. The old lady and her dog were gone.
I ran back home.
The next day, I skipped off the van, nearly just as happily. But I stopped my humming to look cautiously around, just in case.
I was safe. I jumped on the piles of leaves under the old oak tree. I did this with such joy and relish that I never noticed the old lady, or her terrifying dog, until I nearly jumped on the dog’s paw.
I yelped. I stumbled over the fence of our house and rushed up the porch steps. Good heavens, Dear God of the Universe; those things were everywhere.