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Cricket’s Bat Mitzvah

            Cricket will turn thirteen later this summer, and I have been wondering how best to mark this monumental birthday. For humans of the Jewish persuasion, thirteen means it’s time for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, to mark the onset of adolescence (Orthodox Jewish girls may have a Bat Mitzvah at age twelve instead). But, what about for a Jewish dog?

Cricket at (almost) thirteen

To be honest, thirteen seems too young for a transition into adulthood, at least for humans. A hundred years ago, kids might have left school at thirteen and gone out to work, but now that’s not even legal, and certainly not practical. But we’ve kept the Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebrations at the onset of puberty, or thereabouts, because…tradition. And because it would be impossible to convince kids to stay in Hebrew school for even more years before they can have their big party.

But dogs, even Jewish dogs, are a different story. If anything, the age of thirteen would mark old age, rather than the first steps into adulthood. And a lot of dogs don’t make it to thirteen, especially the larger breeds. I don’t understand how a religion that has rituals for almost everything, has missed the opportunity to designate lifecycle events for our pets, so I’m stuck with this somewhat inappropriate and misleading event that has come to be called, at least on social media, the Bark Mitzvah.

“Is that a celebration of barking?!”

            When we first brought Cricket home, twelve and three-quarter years ago, I looked up Cockapoos on an aging chart and it said she could live eighteen to twenty years. Dina, my Labrador mix, had lived a miraculous sixteen years, twice as long as the Doberman who had preceded her. But twenty? That’s more like a cat!

“Hey! I’m not a cat!”

At almost thirteen, Cricket is showing signs of aging, with a little cloudiness in her eyes and a habit of hearing things that aren’t there, and a tiny bit of slowing down (though not much). But she has amassed an enormous amount of knowledge in her thirteen years, and many useful skills: she can beg, and guilt, and manipulate; she can bully and wheedle and whine; she can love and cuddle and sniff like a scientist; she could have been a gardener or an archeologist or a detective very easily, if we lived in a world that allowed dogs to go to school, and she has always been the de-facto Sherriff at our home. She has also been a surprisingly effective big sister, to Butterfly, and now to Ellie, who both needed mentoring in how to be dogs after growing up under less than ideal conditions as breeding mamas. Cricket has even learned how to offer comfort, rather than just to receive it, and can, on very rare occasions, even share food with her loved ones (though she would rather not).

“Cricket never shares food. Never.”

            There’s no escaping that thirteen is old age for a dog, but maybe that’s what we could celebrate with Cricket’s Bat Mitzvah. She has accomplished an enormous amount and now she is graduating into the last third of her life; finally becoming the wise old crone she has always wanted to be.

“I am very wise, it’s true.”

I don’t think Cricket is prepared for the rigors of a traditional Bat Mitzvah, though. She understands quite a few words in Hebrew, but she has trouble with articulation, and her sense of melody is iffy (though she is, at this very moment, singing the song of her people. I think I can make out the words “chicken” and “I want”). And, really, no one with any sense would ever let Cricket into the sanctuary or anywhere near a Sefer Torah (the holy scroll, kept in the sanctuary, that Bar and Bat Mitzvah kids dread having to read from at their services). But that actually works out well this year, since all of the Bar and Bat Mitzvah services at my synagogue are being streamed, while we can’t attend in person. Maybe Cricket’s Bat Mitzvah could be in our backyard, with the support of the big Paw Paw tree (also turning thirteen this year, coincidentally). They could have a service of their own, to mark their individual, and complex, journeys to their current stages of life. A very short service.

“Grandma, how did Mister Paw Paw get so much taller than me? Rude.”

            The fact is, Cricket could care less about having a Bat Mitzvah to celebrate her accomplishments, and her quirks, or to set a hopeful tone as she marches into her senior years. She just wants the food. So I will have to stock up on chicken treats and liver and all of the other good stuff she loves to eat. In moderation, of course, because I want her senior years to last a very long time.

“Did you say food?”

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

            Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

About rachelmankowitz

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

110 responses »

  1. Aw, love this. Made me laugh. Isn’t it simply wonderful the way that animals enrich our lives? Whether it’s a Bat or a Bark Mitzvah, I would get the treats and definitely find a way to celebrate. 🌈 🌷💖

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  2. faithfamilyweaving

    Just precious! Give Cricket (and Ellie) a hug and tell her the senior season of life isn’t so bad. Especially the wisdom part. Although, I prefer Tootsie Rolls to chicken treats. But, I’m also a human.❤️

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  3. Unless Cricket likes them, I recommend skipping the paper hats. I put a paper hat on rescue dog Lily 4 years ago and she still hasn’t forgiven me.

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  4. This post lifed my spirits today. I had never heard of a Bark Mitzah, but I love it. G-d willing she will have many more happy, healthy years with moderated special treats.

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  5. Haha, I know most seniors care about what’s for dinner!

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  6. Awwww… CRICKET!!!!! ❤️❤️❤️

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  7. Needed that post today. Bark Mitzva. Might catch on and male puppies could go through a mul ritual.

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  8. I love the idea of the celebration for Cricket. When did you start this blog and how did you decide on the title? If she was here she could go every October to be blessed by our Franciscan Friars. Not a Bark Mitzvah, but pretty good recognition.

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  9. I just adore Cricket. The first dog I actually remember having was a Cairn Terrier named Cricket, so that name has a special place in my heart. Also, Maverick says to tell you that Gracie’s Doggie Delights are the bomb diggity – he said it, I didn’t, I don’t know where he picks up this kind of language! Happy Bark Mitzvah, Cricket! And may you make 20 years and beyond!

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  10. I can really relate: we too have a thirteen (at least we think, she was a foundling) who would love to celebrate with a chicken dinner. She is, we think, a Poma-huahua (Pomeranian-chihuahua). It is always worth celebrating the love and joy that our dogs bring into our lives…always with chicken of course.

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  11. Crickets is too cute. Will you dress her up?

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  12. Cricket is beautiful and maybe a small celebration marking her entry into senior years would be appropriate – I’m sure she would approve of the food!

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  13. Happy Bark Mitzvah Cricket! (If you really only want the food, I can take some of your presents off of your paws for you. – Toby)

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  14. At thirteen, Cricket deserves all the best love and treats! Happy (early) birthday, Miss Cricket!

    Honestly, where would we be without our beloved canine companions?

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  15. I hope Cricket’s Bark Mitzvah goes well with good food and frolicking.

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  16. Rabbis and scholars are going to have to compose a new ritual. Not that Cricket can’t enjoy a Bark Mitzvah now, as I trust she will. Since you know so well what she likes (and doesn’t), this should be a grand experience. Maybe her barks and whines are sometimes from the Torah (taking care of that requirement). I’m going to guess there’s not going to be dancing at the party, especially from Cricket. Unless she is a dancer!

    Mazel tov, Cricket! And bon courage, Rachel.

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  17. Love the idea of a Bark Mitzvah. Scrub the ceremony and get straight to the treats!

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  18. Great, fun post – just what I needed! Thank you!

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  19. Bark Mitzvah—what a perfect description!

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  20. Ooh, that sounds like a terrific excuse to get extra food!

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  21. Cricket sounds like a very wise old lady, and a wonderful companion. She definitely deserves some treats and a party. 😊

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  22. Well done to Cricket on reaching such a canine milestone. I can only hope that Ollie lives that long too.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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  23. Happy Birthday to the inimitable Cricket – the winner and final champion of all dogs who love their treats! I love the idea of a Bark Mitzvah – a tradition that might need a gentle push from you. Actually, I think we all could use a bit of a party to gather us for the final thirds of our lives so go for it with your girl.
    May she live on and well with you and her granny for many years to come.

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  24. Happy (almost) birthday Cricket. Love the idea of a Bark Mitzvah and a doggy party!!
    Maggie is 15 and dogs of her breed can live to 17 or 18, so she is doing very well. On the chart I use, she’s about 83 in human years, and for a small dog like Cricket, it would be around 68.
    Great post and photos of the girls as always. Take care.

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  25. Congrats Cricket, You are on the Threshold of adulthood. I hope to get there one day myself. 🤓

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  26. I have a feeling she will be fine without a major celebration and just enjoy the chicken treats and liver. Mazel Tov Cricket.

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  27. Us and our dogs say Happy Birthday and mazel tov to Cricket.

    A good dog can make an ordinary life extraordinary.

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  28. Rachel, I am in the process of reading your book and loving it. You are such a talented writer. Will be sharing it with family and friends. Happy Birthday to Cricket!

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  29. Happy Birthday to Cricket and hope she has a great Bat Mitzvah or Bark Mitzvah. My Cat is 13 years and a few months and on Sept 12 she will turn 14.
    Thanks for sharing.

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  30. The only think my 13 year old dog cares about is food. When that stops I know her end will be near. Let’s enjoy them for as long as we can even when they become senile and deaf. Love your post.

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  31. Happy Birthday, Cricket! Mazel tov! ❤ ❤ ❤

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  32. What a cute post! I like the idea of a Bark Mitzvah.

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  33. Happy Birthday, Cricket ❤ and Mr. Paw Paw too 🙂

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  34. Zoe, our Cockapoo and my heart dog, lived to be 18. Cricket reminds me of her.

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  35. Happy birthday, Cricket!!

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  36. Happy almost bat mitzvah and Happy Birthday, Cricket. We hope you get lots and lots of yummies for the joyous ocassions. XOX Xena and Lucy

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  37. Okay, I couldn’t resist – How about a “Bark Mitzvah?” 😉

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  38. My terrier Dev would love to attend Cricket’s bark mitzvah via Zoom!

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  39. Hope Cricket Mitzvah enjoyed her Happy Birthday !! 💕

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  40. 🐶🍗🍗🍗🍗🎂🎁🎈🎊

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  41. So adorable. Thanks for sharing–I always love your writing.

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  42. Cricket is very cute…. Wonderful expressions on her face! I have one cat who loves to eat too. She would happily eat all of the food in her bowl AND everything in her brother’s bowl too, if we let her.. 🙂

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  43. Wishing Cricket a fab birthday & many more to follow. What a great dog.

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  44. Love it! My dog is 13, too! I am not Jewish so she has not had a Bat Mitvah, but if I were Jewish, she definitely would have one! As a Catholic dog she does get the priest to bless her on the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. Dogs are God’s creatures, too!

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  45. Aww, I love this! Bark Mitzvah! I laughed out loud! Cricket is sooo cute! (And obviously in total charge of everything). We have a miniature golden doodle we adore. Her name is Maggie, and she just turned nine. Our lives revolve around our family, and Maggie. The look on Cricket’s face is so much like our Maggie. I’m always wondering what she’s thinking, especially when I sing to her, up close. Loved your post! Bark Mitzvah! Hahahahaha!!! Love it!!

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  46. Heartwarming and humorous! Good job in taking such good care of that sweet girl with the winning smile and character! Thirteen is a good age, even for a small dog. Thanks for sharing this with all of us who don’t benefit by actually having her in our lives! God bless.

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  47. this is just so cute. and the Bark Mitzvah! cricket is such a lucky dog to have you.

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  48. thanks for your great writing! I too learned much for Annie Lamott, and Natalie Goldberg. I didn’t begin writing until after 50 years old. Each book is a fresh big challenge, but I’m starting, so that’s what counts!! Write on!

    Reply

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