When I look at this photo, at this time, now April, 2020, I remember back to a day in April, 1971 some 49 years ago, 7 jubilee cycles as outlined in the Torah, in fact, the silver jubilee, to the day I woke up, like any other day, and later that day brought one fine dog home, who in short order became a deeply loved member of the family. He fit right in.
How did this happen? I believe it was a Saturday afternoon, and in my profound isolation, my teenage angst and loneliness, I wandered off, taking a long walk as I was apt to do. This day, I sat on the high school lawn. I was talking with one or two people, not sure who, and I had not been there long when enter Heidi Jurka, that’s Jurka as with a Y, spelled Jurka, pronounced Yurka. Heidi floated in like some angel of G-d, an instrument of change, of cause and effect, to transform one thing into another. I can’t say I knew Heidi well, but I knew her well enough to know that she was easy going, self-confident, with a flashing, knowing smile. She had empathy and situational awareness. Heidi knew how to read any interaction and rightly assess whether it was for good, or not. These are excellent skills for a life of good, or for danger avoidance and survival. Heidi had her head together. Heidi also had a car.
We spoke briefly, and somehow it came up that I was wanting to get a dog. Our family had always had a dog, and now she was passed away. Our bird died, our dog died, my sister, Aileen, got married and moved away, my brother had graduated college and was long gone. My dad always worked long hours. The house was quiet. I had always spent a lot of time alone, and I was okay with that, but I figured having a dog to hang with would be a good thing. My parents had said no to this request. With that, Heidi jumped up and announced, “lets’ go get one”. It was like a Shakespearean rallying cry, as in some way the answer to this burst of exuberance and energy had to be “yes” and it was. Just like that we were off in her car. I had no idea where we were going. After a bit, I asked her and Heidi said we should go to Ossining, to the pet store in Arcadia Shopping Center. Sounded like a good plan.
As I recall, we hardly spoke on the way. A couple of times I glanced over at Heidi and she looked calm, with a hint of a smile.
We arrived at the pet store, and everything moved fast from there. In my experience, often when you are trying to get something done, either things fall in to place, one thing flows into another, or, every step of the way is a challenge, and requires thought and effort. This time it was like the former. We entered, were greeted, said we wanted to get a dog. They indicated something like we had come to the right place. We wandered over, saw two or three dog crates and there was this little guy, scruffy with a beard, mostly black with white markings and a long tail. He saw us and seemed to be listening moving his eyes only, following the conversation. The crate was unlocked and he emerged looking quietly happy, hoping not to blow this chance. He interacted beautifully. The pet shop owner praised him. Okay, how much to bring him home? $15. Somehow, I had a little money on me. I may well have gotten a few dollars from Heidi. It could be that I owe her money now. I asked what kind of dog this was, and with a smile, the staff told me it was an “Ossining Retriever”. Like that we were off, heading back to my house.
From there, things unfolded in an unusual fashion. It was very unusual, but my mother was away. I think she had been visiting relatives out of state. My dad was at work. Most unusual, just as we got home, my brother showed up unannounced, not sure why, but he was there, a big dog lover. Heidi smiled and quickly left, like an angel whose mission was complete. The dog was quite happy to run around the yard. His hind quarter was a little stiff and misshapen, even at the time I figured it was from laying around too much in the clink, as my mother called it. In the days and weeks ahead that was quickly corrected, and he became healthy and robust. Bruce, my brother asked what his name would be. The name “Henry” popped into my head, and we both liked that. We called to him, and he seemed to get the name fast. He always, or nearly always, came when called. He wanted to be good.
Somehow, not sure how, but either we had some dog biscuits on hand, or my brother had some dog food with him, but all needs were met, quickly and seamlessly. My dad arrived home from work and was very surprised to see Henry. At first, he was a little put off, but quickly seemed cautiously okay with this. Maybe he wanted a dog too. He did not want the dog on the furniture. I was good with that, and he never even tried. In short, Henry was good as gold. He had a happy go lucky temperament, smart, fun loving, confident. He was vocal, and actually seemed to talk. People used to ask, “did he really just say that?” He smiled, yes, he smiled.
Rest in peace dear friend.