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Passover for Dogs

 

I think the role of dogs in Passover has been woefully neglected. Cricket and Butterfly are my family, and they deserve a prominent role in such an important holiday, but I’m not sure what that role should be.

Butterfly and Cricket are ready for anything!

Butterfly and Cricket are ready for anything!

Leading up to Passover, there is an official search for leavened bread, or chametz, throughout the house, because you’re not supposed to eat, or even own, leavened bread for the weeklong holiday. When I was a kid, our dogs were very helpful with searching for old crackers under my brother’s bed, or half eaten candy bars in my book bag, or left over dog food in the corners of the kitchen. And then they would help with the ritual cleaning, done by candle light, where we would dump a handful of bread crumbs on the pristine floor and say a blessing as we swept it up, and the dog would lick the floor clean.

Dina, surveying the kitchen floor.

Dina, surveying the kitchen floor.

Samson, chewing on something more tasty

Samson, chewing on something more tasty, my brother

Delilah, intimidating the bread out of the house.

Delilah, intimidating the bread out of the house.

I may have to reinstitute this ritual, if only to clean up the kibble trail Butterfly has left throughout the apartment.

My favorite part of Passover is the Seder itself. All of the stories and songs make me feel like I’m living inside of a story book and travelling back in time. But the Seder is, first and foremost, all about the food.

When you think about it, the Seder is organized as a series of small plates. First you eat a piece of matzo, then a nibble of raw horse radish. Then you make a sandwich out of matzo and horseradish and sweet apple and nut charoset. It’s a tasting menu that gradually builds. And all the way through there’s the wine. This would be Cricket’s idea of a good time. She’s always been a fan of small plates, and wine.

Just a little sip.

Just a little sip

and a taste.

and a taste.

Generally the next course at our house was a hard boiled egg, to represent life, with some salt water to represent the tears that are inevitable in life. Then gefilte fish, for sweetness, with some horseradish on top, to toughen you back up. Then matzoh ball soup with chicken and carrots and onions, just because. And then the rest of the meal came at once, with brisket or chicken or steak, a vegetable or two, some sweet potato tzimmes. And then for desert, a nondairy flourless chocolate cake, Ring Jells, and macaroons.

Every dog we ever had made it a habit to stretch out under the table during the meal, to catch anything that dropped.

We brought Cricket with us to my brother’s Passover Seder one year, before Butterfly arrived on the scene. Cricket was actually a good distraction for the kids, since we didn’t eat dinner until 10:30 at night. The kids were antsy and grumpy with the lateness of the hour, and it was a relief for them to sit under the table with Cricket, and murmur to her, and feel like she could understand them.

I think Cricket would have been very helpful with the search for the Afikomen, if she’d been invited to participate. There’s a custom to break the middle piece of matzoh and hide half of it somewhere in the house. The children search for it like a treasure hunt and get a reward if they find it. At my brother’s house it was an every-man-for-himself blood sport, but I would have loved if Cricket could have participated as part of a team, with some chopped liver smeared across the matzoh, so she could really use her skills to help her human cousins. She would have been especially happy to share in the reward, which, for her, would have been the chopped liver.

I’d really like for Butterfly to experience a Seder. It’s not that I believe she would understand the words, but the story is all about the escape from slavery to freedom: this year we are slaves in Egypt, but next year we will be free in Jerusalem. And Butterfly knows that story. She lived in a puppy mill for eight years, and now she is home, where she belongs. There should be songs for her to sing, to express the pain of her journey, and the happiness of the now. I’d like to sing those songs with her and celebrate that miracle. And maybe find some kosher for Passover chicken treats for her to eat between songs.

Butterfly has a lot to sing about!

Butterfly has a lot to say!

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About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

115 responses »

  1. Love the connection between slaves now, free later, and the puppy mills…very nice.

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  2. I love that you feel your dogs should be honored. They are after all valued members of a family.

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  3. Rachel, I think you have the beginnings of a fine haggadah there! Why not connect the stories of Exodus with the stories of our animals, and also with our own stories of escape from “narrow places” (the Hebrew word for Egypt means “narrow place”).

    I didn’t realize that Butterfly was a puppy mill refugee – my Gabi was, too. I just ache when I think about it. I’m so glad they have happy homes now.

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    • My Rabbi was telling us how his daughters, being the youngest people at the family seder, get to tell their own version of the passover story. One year there was the feminist poetry/it’s all a patriarchal quagmire story, and one year there was the fashion history of passover story. So, I figure, Butterfly should get a turn!

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      • I agree! And really, on a more serious note, telling the story via Butterfly’s story reminds us that we need to be mindful that we not be Pharaoh in someone else’s story, by buying goods from companies with bad policies or yes, by buying puppy mill puppies.

  4. Reblogged this on CrashCourse.

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  5. Great read,with a very detailed and vivid description of the ritualistic and symbolic meal.
    All the dog references involving in the story are so effectively and charmingly presented !
    Thank you for your informative and timely post 🙂

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  6. I’m not religious but I’ve been brought up Christian (not that either of my parents actually believe it) and my sister is religious so we celebrate Christmas. And I think involving your pets in traditions, religious or not, is a great idea. Max (my dog) can get quite unsettled when there is a change of routine. Getting him involved helps with his confusion and keeps him happy even if he doesn’t understand what we are celebrating.

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  7. Rachel–this is so beautiful. Those puppy faces….of course they should be able to participate.

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  8. I think this is a lovely contemplation, thank you.

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  9. Great photos of the family! Butterfly’s photo alone put a grin on my face… 🙂

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  10. hello rachel its dennis the vizsla dog hay let me just say i am totaly in fayvor of enny tradishun wot involvs sweeping yummy crums onto the floor!!! ok bye

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  11. What a wonderful story! 😀

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  12. What a beautiful story, Rachel. I love the part where you say Butterfly is home where she belongs. So very true. Big hugs and kisses to your girls for me. 🙂

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    • Thank you! Cricket has been having an attack of the crazies today (not unusual for her) and Butterfly went up to her and sniffed in her ear to try and calm her down. i think Butterfly was born to be Cricket’s sister, and found her way to me just so she could reach Cricket.

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  13. Whatever you do in the celebration, just keep that Mogen David flowing to wash down what I eat.I love holidays-anyone’s holiday. My next one is April 18, Independence Day in Zimbabwe.

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  14. A friend bought a small pillow for me with the following saying, “For a balanced life, you need a dog to adore you and a cat to ignore you.” I have a precious little dog and three cats. I’s say I have an over balanced life and I love it. My animals are my kids.

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  15. This is a wonderful piece, Rachel. Pesach is indeed a time to consider all kinds of liberation, and the peoples and animals currently enslaved who can hope one day to be happy and free once again. We Dickens Dogs look for chametz on a regular basis underneath the dog mixer tub, so would love to help Cricket and Butterfly in your preparations. Have a lovely holiday week with your family.

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  16. the best Spring cleaning.. Shalom

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  17. I like your way to celebrate a passover seder, it’s so great to include all members of the family.

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  18. This is a wonderful post, Rachel. I’m retweeting it, if you don’t mind. More people need to read and enjoy it, as did I.

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  19. I love traditions. Nice to have a peek into yours.

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  20. From the chametz search, throughout the sitting under the table to catch whatever the people may drop and comfort the children, via maybe? a special addition to the seder in the form of a freedom story or song about Butterfly, ending with some kosher for Passover chicken treats… Sound to me like a lot of good ideas to include your sweet dogs in the seder!

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  21. It all sounds so wonderful. Its lovely that your dogs are included. Moke.

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  22. thank you for sharing your family passover seder story

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  23. I enjoyed your story, and I absolutely LOVED the final photo, which brought a big smile to my face!

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  24. Your post was truly beautiful. Although I have many Jewish friends, no one has ever explained what the seder is all about. As for Butterfly, what a face. I’m in love!

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    • Thank you! Butterfly’s repertoire of expressions has grown immensely over the past year and a half. I think she spends a lot of time studying her sister and picking out the most effective looks.

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  25. Perhaps the Man could be included since he is a rescue dog from the pound and now a much loved friend. Passover starts today in Australia (14th April – 22nd April) Have been reading an article on whether or not the Last Supper was actually a Passover Seder – very interesting.I hope you, Grandma, Cricket and Butterfly have a wonderful week.

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    • Both Chienne and the man are invited to join in! Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether people are having a Seder or just eating and drinking a lot. I choose to believe that someone in the world is having a Seder at any given moment on any given day.

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  26. Cricket and Butterfly are so cute! 🙂

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  27. What a wonderful description of an important holiday I usually overlook! Thank you so very much – and I think Butterfly and Cricket should be invited to participate at whatever level they can muster up. Casa de Canterbury is pretty much non-religious these days so it’s a welcome change to hear someone talk of traditions still embraced. Bless you and your house.

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  28. What a lovely post. I am not Jewish, so was very interested in your traditions. Our dogs would love to participate; Darby just because there is food involved, and Banjo was a puppy mill rescue too. Thank you!

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  29. As always, I enjoyed this post….Also like the way you write and your gentle humor.

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  30. Lovely post. Beautiful pictures and a wonderful, thoughtful story.

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  31. Wonderful piece. Rich, deep, funny and sweet. Enjoy the holiday.

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  32. Thank you for this delightful post! I enjoy the spirituality and your inclusion of the dogs. It makes great sense! I love this idea. And the photos are wonderful. Blessings, Gina

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  33. Cannot tell you how much I love this post! Perhaps this year they can howl the 4 questions? 🙂

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  34. Very nice story. I always thought “Matzo” would be an excellent name for a Maltese.

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  35. I have a confession to make; I have used all of my dogs as undercover vacuum cleaners, especially underneath the dinner table. 😀

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  36. do you actually give them wine? and it doesn’t hurt them?? I am terrified of my dogs accidentally getting into my wine because of how toxic grapes and raisins are for dogs.

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  37. I love it. My dog and I will join you for the next Passover. We had a lovely Seder this year, but no one included the puppies. Great blog. Thank you.

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  38. Thank you! Leaving aside your excellent pictures, I have learned so much from this!

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  39. This is so cute, and the scanning of the floors for food, post meal, is typical…it makes me smile when mine do it. Thanks for the like of my ‘award’s’ post…:)

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  40. “I’d really like for Butterfly to experience a Seder. It’s not that I believe she would understand the words, but the story is all about the escape from slavery to freedom: this year we are slaves in Egypt, but next year we will be free in Jerusalem. And Butterfly knows that story. She lived in a puppy mill for eight years, and now she is home, where she belongs. There should be songs for her to sing, to express the pain of her journey, and the happiness of the now. I’d like to sing those songs with her and celebrate that miracle. And maybe find some kosher for Passover chicken treats for her to eat between songs.” – I absolutely loved this paragraph! It speaks on many dimensions for me. Thanks, Rachel!

    Reply
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