The photographer and onetime actor was very close to his father, Bronx-born Hyman Lazarus Fox. After his dad died in 1989, “I was in a deep depression and didn’t know what to do,” Ira says. He’d never had a pet before, but for some reason thought he would get a dog.
He happened to cross paths one day with a dog rescue group. Even then, shelters and rescue groups were overflowing with unwanted Pit Bulls, so this group was actively trying to place pet Pits. “I wasn’t looking for that breed,” Ira recalls, “but they said he would fit nicely into a small apartment and that he had a great disposition — he was very shy, and not aggressive at all with other dogs.”
So he adopted a Pittie. “I came to name him Lazarus after my father’s middle name. Dad was another rough, tough cream puff, if you know what I mean. I thought the name was appropriate, even though it got a few laughs and strange looks from people!”
Twenty years ago, I lived in the same apartment building as Lazarus and Ira Fox. That dog, and his grand biblical name, would come to have a big impact on me.
“For Papa, make him a scholar; for Mama, make him rich as a king,” goes the song “Matchmaker” from Fiddler on the Roof. Lazarus Fox was gifted with many attractive attributes to recommend him to any discriminating yenta. This generous, loving, extremely outgoing dog had the thoughtful, wrinkly brow of a rabbi and a sweet habit of standing up to give the nearest human a heartfelt hug. In affectionate kisses, he was richer than a king. Plus, he was — to quote “Matchmaker” again — “as handsome as anything.”
Laz and I went for many walks together; he was delightful company.
As for his being not aggressive at all with other dogs, I can vouch for that from firsthand experience — Lazarus Fox was ever the gentleman around my very first Pit Bull, Daisy, who was one dominant bitch!
Daisy changed my life; she gets full credit for making a writer out of me. But I might’ve never met my muse had it not been for Lazarus Fox, who inspired me to get a rescued Pit. As I’ve said before, that brawny brindle blockhead opened my eyes to just how wonderful Pit Bulls can be — that they are indeed, in the words of the late Sen. Robert Byrd, “creatures of God.”
Lazarus Fox put me on the road to pet parenthood. In tribute, I gave his epic handle to one of my rescued boys (who turned out to be not Jewish, but Spanish; that’s another story). Did Lazarus Fox also put his owner on the path to parenthood? “I’d like to think so!” Ira says.
Twenty years ago, Ira took pictures of his pet Pit; these days, his favorite model is his seven-year-old daughter and her Tibetan terrier Oskar. Ira met his wife 10 years ago while on assignment shooting a wedding, and the rest is Fox family history. Would you believe their girl’s name is … Julia?
Has a dog ever inspired you to become a parent, to a fur kid or a human child? Please share in the comments!