I never had a pet, except for a fish that we named Maroc. Maroc was an amazing goldfish that lived six years, which is a pretty long time to live for a 25-cent goldfish. Other than Maroc, we didn’t have any pets.

Why didn’t we have pets? For one thing, my mother has a lot of allergies—and dogs and cats come with fur. The other thing was that my childhood home was not suitable for pets. There were rooms where nobody entered, rugs on which nobody stepped, objets d’art that nobody could touch; you get the picture. I never had any friends over, and my home was not even conducive to kids, let alone animals.

I never had any friends over, and my home was not even conducive to kids, let alone animalsSo imagine my surprise when my mother, at the age of 66 (she should live and be well!), called me to tell me that my parents got a dog. Not only did they get a dog, but they love the dog.

Now, I’m not the jealous type. I never was. I always had—and have—everything that I could possibly want, and I could clearly see that whatever wasn’t mine didn’t correspond to me. So it was strange, the lump I felt in my throat, the burning in my cheeks, the emotion that overtook me, as I spoke with my mother. I realized what this was. This was that feeling, that emotion. This was what they called . . . jealousy! “Mommy,” I told her. “I was never jealous of Aaron (my brother), never jealous of Mark (my stepfather), never jealous of anyone or anything. But Mommy, I’m jealous of the dog!” Yes, I, a 33-year-old mother of three, am jealous of a dog—which has a name, by the way: Simcha (happiness)!

“Don’t worry,” she laughed, “you have nothing to be jealous of.”

I’m not so sure about that. You should hear the way my mother talks about this dog. My mother and Mark, they love this dog.

We had another conversation about Simcha a few days later. My parents are coming to visit us in the spring. They are looking forward to the visit, they tell me. We haven’t seen them in a year and a half, but there is one concern. That’s right, you guessed it: Simcha. What will be with Simcha? Do they take him, or leave him with a dogsitter at home? I, who have three children, but who never had a pet, can’t relate to the dilemma. “You haven’t seen your grandchildren in over a year, and you are hesitant to come because you don’t want to leave the dog?” I asked in disbelief.

My mother’s answer: “Elana, I love the dog. He makes me happy. He loves me. When I come home, he’s so happy to see me . . .”

That last sentence got to my heart, “When I come home, he’s so happy to see me . . .”

Was this the first time that my mother felt welcomed and greeted with sincere happiness?Was this the first time that my mother felt welcomed and greeted with sincere happiness? Can I ever remember, as a child, being excited as my mother walked in the door? Do I remember, as a child, being greeted with happiness and excitement as I came home from school?

Our Sages teach us in Ethics of Our Fathers to “receive every human being with a cheerful and pleasant countenance” (teaching of Shammai, Avot 1:15), and to “receive every human being with gladness” (teaching of Rabbi Yishmael, ibid. 3:12).

How did Simcha know? Who was Simcha’s rabbi, and was he attending one of those wonderful Torah classes?

As a kallah (bridal) teacher, one of the first things I tell a bride in preparation for her married life is, “Always greet your husband with a smile when he walks in the door!” It’s one of those fundamentals. What I forget to add—but, thanks to Simcha, now won’t—is, “Always greet everyone with a smile and cheerful face!” Let your smile be the first thing that a child sees when they come home from school; let it be the first thing your spouse comes home to, whether it be from work or from the supermarket; and let sincere gladness be the first thing that a person encounters when they meet you. Imagine the simchah (joy) that you can create just by following the sages’ (and Simcha’s) advice!