Over three years ago, I adopted my little rescue dog… a gorgeous red and white cocker spaniel and named him Flynn, befitting his Irish looks. Growing up, the most contact I came with a dog was when my brothers’ girlfriend would ask us to babysit her dog, Noggy. To be frank, he needed no baby sitting… he was the meanest dog and would constantly growl at me and scared the living daylights out of me, especially when he tried to snap at me several times. Yikes!! I did not realize at the time, that he was not a bad dog, but had bad training.
My husband grew up with dogs all his life and always loved animals in the home. In fact, he never bought an animal, but rescued them… like really, from the street. My husband, Mervin has some kind of calling for animals, because they would just gravitate to him and show up in his room. He had large bay windows with no blinds, and so birds would regularly fly in and out and he would care for them. Cats and dogs would just wander into his house and would find a safe haven in Mervins’ room. So when my son suggested that we get him a dog, being that my husband was so hands on with dogs, I obliged.
My 13 yr. old son is an only child who has no perspective on living with siblings, nor the responsibility to siblings. like friendships, fights, loyalty and so on. So to balance out the house, I decided to go for “dog therapy.”
We figured that having a dog in the house would be good for my son. He would walk the dog, clean up after him and feed him, all the while cultivating a responsibility of having a little animal brother to look after. WRONG assumption! What happened was that this little godly creature with his human face, particularly his expressive eyes screamed to me, “Take me, Love me, Hug me!” Flynn became my baby. I thought that Flynn would be another sibling for my son, when in fact Flynn became my toddler who needed all my attention and who would reciprocate with hugs and kisses continuously. That’s a better deal that my teenage “I don’t want to be seen with you Mom” son.
Flynn and I developed a very special relationship…. more to me than anyone else in our home. He was such a skittish and scared animal due to being neglected and abused before being found by Manhattan Rescue. We would take very long walks in the park, and at home he would follow me like a shadow. When I sat down, he would hop on me and just want to snuggle. No matter what kind of day I was having… Flynn was only too happy to be there with me with his tail wagging and happy disposition.
Then it was about two years ago, that my husband and I were sitting around the Sabbath table for dinner with a free range roasted chicken that I had an epiphany. Looking at this chicken in its full form with the legs and everything…. made me think of Flynn. How can I eat an animal and live with an animal??? Suddenly eating this chicken became extremely unappetizing, and I just could not eat it.
I turned to my husband and said to him, “How can we eat this chicken and live with an animal?” My conscience raced with questions: Why is acceptable to eat this chicken and take the life of an animal for our consumption, especially when we have so many vegetarian choices?? Further discussing this with my husband and flooding us both with the moral and ethical Jewish views of meat consumption…. like is it really a blessing to eat meat for the Sabbath meal? We even went over the many vegetarian options available to us. You see, as it stood already, during the week we only ate vegetarian meals, it was only for the Sabbath where I cooked a flesh meal.
I happened to be a creative cook, so why not harness that creativity to make hearty, fulfilling and spicy vegetarian dishes. And so, my husband and I agreed that we did not need to eat meat anymore and it was that turning point… that Sabbath, the day where everything is supposed come to a halt so we can think about the things that are really important that we made the decision together to become vegetarian.