People choose pet dogs in many ways, but our dog chose us. He belonged to neighbors who lived upstairs in our apartment building. He was allowed free range, and spent much time outdoors. One Saturday, he happened to meet our father , who was coming home from synagogue services. The dog followed him, and managed to sneak into our apartment behind him. We would pick him up (not without regret) and return him to his owner. This went on week after week until our neighbor finally said, "Look, you might as well keep him. He obviously knows where he wants to live."
He really did adore her and wanted to protect her. She had a serious heart condition and was often bedridden. At those times, he would not leave her side. We had to keep him from growling and attacking the doctor when he came. (In those days, doctors still make house calls...)
But even after Momma accepted him and grew fond of him, there was still a religious issue. We were taught that you cannot have a dog in the room when you make a blessing over wine or bread, or recite the Grace after meals. I don't know how Poppa managed it, but all he had to do was hold up the Kiddush cup, and Whitey would saunter out of the room. Or Poppa would say in Hebrew, "Go!" and Whitey would calmly obey, and didn't seem to bear a grudge. Of course, we praised him lavishly.
He lived with us for years. As a teenager, I was an insomniac. So I would get up in the middle of the night and, taking Whitey with me, go for long walks until I was relaxed and sleepy again. The streets were empty and serene. Imagine taking such walks today. By the way, my family never found out.
Whitey was exceptionally intelligent, as well. He always seemed to sense when we were going to bathe him. He would hide under a bed, and we had to drag him out. I remember that we bathed him in the washtub, adding what was called "bluing" to the rinse water. It was used to keep white laundry pristine.
We thought that Whitey would be with us forever. But World War II intervened. My sister, Edith, had married Harry, and she was pregnant. They could not find an apartment that would accept children. So they moved in with us, and were warmly welcomed. There were seven of us, and two bedrooms.