In my humble opinion

What's in a name?

Posted 7/5/23

As many of you know, I lost my amazing dog, Dharma, on April 17 of this year—and my world was shattered.

First, let me express my heartfelt thanks for the calls, texts, cards and notes …

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In my humble opinion

What's in a name?


As many of you know, I lost my amazing dog, Dharma, on April 17 of this year—and my world was shattered.

First, let me express my heartfelt thanks for the calls, texts, cards and notes that flooded my inbox and still arrive daily as word continues to spread. Dharma the Wonder Dog was truly one of a kind, and as I am of “a certain age,” I was firm in my belief that she would be my last canine companion.

Over the years, folks frequently asked what her name meant, and how I came up with it. While there are several interpretations of the word dharma, she was born while I was studying Buddhist principles at the magnificent Kadampa World Peace Temple in Glen Spey, NY, and naming her was based on the concept that in Buddhism, dharma means “cosmic law and order”—something I still strive to understand.

There was a time when I honestly believed that Dharma would outlive me, so I had no frame of reference for what life without her might look like. And then it happened. I’m certain that my shrink was able to book an exotic cruise based solely on the number of hours spent helping me unravel the conundrum. “Can you live without a dog at your side?” Dr. X asked repeatedly. “What about finding another?” he would ask. “One who will help you like Dharma did, body, mind and spirit?”

“No, no, no” I protested. “I can’t go through losing another. And no dog could top Dharma and her incredible spirit. I can’t I won’t I… ” My voice trailed off during our fourth post-Dharma session, prompting Dr. X to ask what I was thinking.

“Never say never,” my mom was fond of saying. “If I keep saying no,” I responded, “then I’m committing to spending the rest of my life lonely, angry, bitter and sad. That doesn’t sound good, does it? Not to mention my health,” I added. “Dharma was a huge help in that department, too.”

“I understand,” the good doctor said. “Now what?”

It was then that Diane Moshe reached out. “I have a litter coming,” she wrote, having heard about Dharma and my grief. “You need a dog,” she said. “I’m tempted to lend you one of mine until the pups are born!”

Thus began a long, long conversation between Diane and myself. We’d never met, but her reputation as one of the finest Havanese breeders is well established. In fact, I’d referred people to her over the years, when asked where they could find an amazing dog like Dharma. “You can’t,” I’d say, “but you can come darn close. I’ve heard that Paz Amor Havanese ( ) is one of the best in the world.”

Although she is not one to brag, Moshe could if she so desired. “Peace Love Havanese” her website informs me, “are the sweetest, cutest and best tempered Havanese dogs anywhere. Raising pups is a huge responsibility that I do not take lightly. These amazing dogs will live with you for many years to come. Providing the best quality puppy for health, temperament & cuteness is what I strive to do.”

I’ve had incredible dogs during my life, and am no stranger to rescues, all of whom deserve a loving home. But the Havanese are special (IMHO) in many ways, including their reputation as “velcro dogs”—well suited to be trained from puppyhood as companion animals who can assist their humans with all sorts of issues, including health concerns.

Between Dr. X, Moshe, (a veritable stranger) and my gut instinct telling me I was doing the right thing, I acquiesced. When Diane emailed me a picture of the pups born on the 27th of April, I took one look at the redhead and said “Her. I want her. She’s adorable. She looks like Gidget,” I said. “Remember Gidget?”

“Oh, I love Sally Field,” Moshe responded. “She’s yours. This makes me happy. Let the healing begin.”

As the weeks went by, Diane sent pics and videos daily, and my resolve to name my new puppy Gidget (so darn cute!) grew stronger, so I looked it up.

 “For more than 60 years, Gidget has endured as a sunny spirit of endless summers and girl can-doism,” I read in a 2021 Vanity Fair article written by Donald Liebenson.

“Frederick Kohner, a screenwriter writing his first novel, was inspired by his own daughter Kathy, who to this day enjoys an odd sort of celebrity.” What? Who knew?

Kohner’s 1957 novel, “Gidget, the little girl with big ideas,” recounted the adventures of his real-life daughter, who was determined to join the all-boys club of surfing, paving the way for future females who would go on to give the guys a run for their money in competitive surfing competitions, and still do to this day. I’m unsure if she had a boyfriend named Moondoggie, but it’s a fact that her pals gave Kathy Zuckerman the adorable nickname Gidget, which still conjures up all things sun, sand and surf.

I discovered that Sandra Dee was the first Gidget in the 1959 film, and that others include Deborah Walley (“Gidget Goes Hawaiian”), Cindy Carol (“Gidget Goes to Rome”), Karen Valentine (“Gidget Grows Up”), plus a couple of made-for-TV movies, (like “Gidget Gets Married”) in the ‘70s. But it’s Sally Field’s “Gidget” that left an indelible mark on my generation, and now—there’s a new girl in town.

 You’ll all meet her soon, but she’s only nine weeks old—those puppy teeth are razor-sharp!—so it’ll be a minute. I’m pretty sure Dharma sent her to me in the form of Diane Moshe, so I might not say “never” again.

Next up: “Gidget Goes to the Catskills.”  Follow her adventures on Facebook and Instagram (@That Dog Named Gidget) and wish me luck. I’m gonna need it.

Gidget; Peace, Love Havanese; Kadampa NY; Sally Field; Dharma the Wonder Dog; Kathy Zuckerman


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