My daughter Gracie is an only child, so getting a dog when she was seven years old, it just made sense. The sign on the window of The Barking Lot, a local pet groomer, announced GOLDEN RETRIEVER PUPPIES FOR SALE”. Just so happened, we were ready for a puppy, a companion for Gracie.
The puppies were at a home in Brookfield and I went there by myself to check them out. It was mayhem, little golden streaking fur balls, chasing each other and having true canine fun. Except one pup, he calmly walked over to me and dropped a little ball at my feet. I picked him up and he instantly snuggled against my neck. Oh God, I was hooked, this little guy, in all this craziness, wanted me…he picked me that morning so many years ago. And by the way, he was the runt of the litter and so I even got a discount!
I brought Mickey home a few days later. The picture, it is the first minutes of Gracie and Mickey meeting one another. Those first days, armed with my copy of THE MONKS OF NEW SKEET, THE ART OF RAISING A PUPPY, I was going to train this dog to be the perfect canine family companion. I had many rules, no barking, no chewing and he was in his cage according to the schedule in the book. Mickey was to live only in the family room and he was to relieve himself in the Poo Poo Palace corner of the yard. I was a psycho, dog training Nazi.
Well, he didn’t flunk out of obedience school, but he wasn’t a star pupil. He chewed, barked and pulled his way through puppy hood. He wasn’t very well mannered; his greeting would knock you down. But yet, this dog of ours, has a heart of gold. Our family fell fast in love. Mickey was an ambassador of dogs, if you didn’t like him, he would win you over in time with his charm and sweetness. My mother has never liked a dog in her life, but she coos to Mickey. The neighbor children that were afraid of dogs, Mickey caught their snowballs at the bus stop and soon they were fans, too.
We are crazy in expressing our love for Mickey. He has his own theme song, yes, he does. We all break into the chorus if one of us starts to sing to him. He in turn, lights up and prances to the stanzas. He now owns the couch, sleeps by the foot of our bed and holds court under the dining room table. Table scraps are expected; especially steak and he can make you feel very guilty if you don’t share. He loves toys, rawhide bones and a good brushing.
He keeps a routine like an old lady, a cookie after he goes outside, a nice long morning nap in the sun and a romp around the yard, early afternoon. That routine, that presence is the most comforting part of my day. He follows me around the house like a shadow. I talk to my dog, tell him about good things, troubles and he listens with total attentiveness. I can also speak for him and tell folks what he is thinking. I’m his bidder, his negotiator and his overall spokesperson.
Recently, we were in Pet Smart shopping for dog food. The woman behind me in the line reached down to pet Mick. “Oh my… what is his name she asked?” “Mickey”, I replied. Her eyes filled with tears as she hugged his furry face and said to me, “Our golden was a Mickey, too.”
And in that moment, it hit me. Mickey just turned nine years old this past month and time is marching on. He sleeps quite a bit more and he tires quickly. When did the gold fur on his nose turn so white? You take it for granted they will always be there. The thought that one day, he won’t be, well, it is just devastating to me. I push this out of my mind, just like the thought that Gracie will be leaving home in the near future.
And so is life, what is so precious and important is to be cherished. When the changes come, I’ll count the years, each one a true blessing and be thankful that I shared my home, my family and my heart with Mickey.