“Hey—who’s that?  She’s short!” my father cried when I first walked in his front door with the new 12-pound mutt Pumpernickel trotting happily behind me.

My dad, you understand, was short too.  It’s in the Menasche genes (or jeans).  I mean, my Aunt Mary was a head shorter than my father, and my father in his old age was a head shorter than I am (30 years of dentistry did NOT help his posture—or his height).  And I am only 5’4”. 

So it’s a short family.  We look up a lot.  We exchange glances and sardonic comments when tall people enter our domain.  For example, when I told my father about my new 6’4” boyfriend, he said: “That’s obscene; there needs to be an upper limit to these things.”

“Be nice,” I warned him.  “No tall jokes, please.”

“Would I do that? I don’t discriminate against people for being too tall,” he returned, dead-pan.  Then: “When I stand up to shake his hand, just tell him I’m sitting down.”

As it turned out, when Dad met my new 6’4” boyfriend he acted politely and graciously.  He only started in with the one-liners the moment after the tall person in question had gone from the premises.  “Ah, the Have’s,” my father stated, sighing dramatically, “and the Have-nots!”

You see the theme.  My mother was once, long long ago, engaged to a TALL blond man named Murray.  My father followed in Murray’s oversized footprints.  “Murray was dashing,” my father liked to quip, always in my mother’s presence, “but I had nice eyes.”

But I digress: back to the dog.

Pumpernickel is even shorter than Aunt Mary.  Pumpernickel trotted into my parents’ house, white-tipped tail wagging, all love and cuteness—and my father’s face lit up.  “She’s short, but she’s awfully cute,” he beamed.  And so began the never-ending litany of dog comments, observations, metaphors, descriptions, jokes, and imitations.

I guess we also have OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) in the Menasche genes…

Pumpernickel is now 8; we adopted her at age 1.  This means that the dog witnessed the joy of my father’s humor and exuberance, then his decline into illness and depression and death.  But in the meantime…oh, in the meantime:

 

“How come her expression never changes?  She’s got kind of a poker face.”

“I can’t pet you all day, Pumpernickel; I’m a married man.”

“Hi, Pumpernickel!  Where’s Rye and Sourdough?”

“Pumpernickel is a good listener.  She doesn’t talk much.”

“Pumpernickel doesn’t know she’s a dog; nobody told her.”

“Why do you have such a long name for such a short dog?”

“She’s dreaming about chicken.  Pumpernickel, too much chicken is no good.  You need variety.”

“Pumpernickel, you’re getting fat; you need to go on Weight Watchers.”

“Pumpernickel’s a lady; she’s dainty-like.”

“Pumpernickel’s so cute I wanna eat her with a slice of cheese.”

“Pumpernickel shakes a lot; she’s the sensitive type.”

AND, let us not forget the caption for the attached photo:

“Why are her paws bent like that?”

 

Later on, when my father was bed-ridden, the dog would jump up onto his bed (against my mother’s rules) and lay her head on my father’s hand.  Of course this dog didn’t care that he was fading away.  She didn’t mind that the room was dark, the ambiance sad.  She gave him all of her shortness and cuteness, and he gave it back.

“Take care of Pumpernickel,” he told me quite a few times.  “She’s a special dog.”

He’d already told me many times to take care of his grandson, a fellow scientist and humorist and the apple of his eye.  But Dad had to mention the dog.  Again.

And though he hadn’t asked me to take care of his wife, my mother, I promised that too.  I understood that some things can be said, and some can’t. 

My dog, Pumpernickel, helped him express so many things.  Like: “Isn’t life funny?” and “I notice everything” and “Life never gets boring” and “I will be a good sport, even when I’m trying to ‘kick the bucket.’”

Pumpernickel helped him say, “I love to laugh, I love to tease, I love my family.”

Imitating the dog gave my father permission to play.  Imitating the dog kept him young.

His imitating the dog, even toward the end, gave us all courage and strength and perspective.

It also gave us some awesome memories and ridiculously funny photos.

I’m so glad that Pumpernickel is short…  

Comments

SuzanneJacobs June 28, 2013 @10:26 pm
 

DETROIT The Detroit Red Wings accomplished their No. 1 goal of this offseason by agreeing to a new deal with Pavel Datsyuk. Datsyuk and the Red Wings agreed on a three-year contract Tuesday, two days before his 35th birthday, to keep the Russian superstar with the franchise through the 2016-17 season. "We're obviously thrilled to extend the contract of the best two-way player in the National Hockey League," Red Wings general manager Ken Holland. "This deal ensures that Pavel will be in Detroit for the next four years. His accomplishments over the past 11 seasons demonstrate what a truly dynamic player he is. His work ethic is second to none." Datsyuk can't sign the contract until July 5 because he was entering the last year of his current deal. Soon after the season ended with a Game 7 loss in the second round at Chicago, Datsyuk said he wanted to stay with the Red Wings instead of returning home to play in Russia following the 2013-14 season. The center led Detroit with 15 goals and 49 points in the 48-game, lockout-shortened season. He was tied for third on the team with nine points in the postseason, which ended in the second round against Chicago. He helped the http://www.agoshow.net/Yankees-2-Derek-Jeter-White-2010-All-Star-Jerseys-55/ - Yankees 2 Derek Jeter White 2010 All Star Jerseys Red Wings win the Stanley Cup in 2002 as a rookie and again in 2008. Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall led the team during a rebuilding season well enough that the franchise extended its postseason streak to 22, eliminated the second-seeded Anaheim Ducks and led the top-seeded Blackhawks 3-1 before losing the series. "We feel we have a tremendous leadership group moving forward in Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Kronwall," Holland said. Detroit drafted Datsyuk in the sixth round, 171st overall, in 1998 and he made his NHL debut during the 2001-02 season and showed right away he was a steal. The four-time All-Star and one-time MVP finalist has 255 goals and 767 points during a career in which he has led a talented team in scoring six times. Datsyuk is sixth on the franchise's all-time scoring list, trailing Gordie Howe, Steve Yzerman, Alex Delvecchio, Nicklas Lidstrom and Sergei Fedorov. Lidstrom's jersey will head to the storied rafters of Joe Louis Arena next season and Datsyuk's will too after he hangs up his skates. As one of the game's all-time great defensive forwards, he has won the Selke Trophy three times. The 5-foot-11, 194-pound Datsyuk took the puck away from an opponent 56 times this season, tying for the league lead. And as one of the gentlemen of the physical sport, he has won the Lady Byng http://www.agoshow.net/Twins-33-Justin-Morneau-red-2010-All-Star-Jerseys-54/ - Twins 33 Justin Morneau red 2010 All Star Jerseys Trophy four times. Few have been better at dangling a puck or snatching one away, a skill Datsyuk has said he learned as a kid. "In Russia, we had tough times. Only one puck," he said. "I always wanted the puck, so I learn how to keep it and make space and get puck when other guy has it." Follow Larry Lage on Twitter: http://twitter.com/larrylage

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