AUTHOR'S NOTE: This article is, obviously, a tribute to our pup Micky. But it is also a tribute to all the wonderful people who rescue dogs, foster dogs, and do all the hard work of connecting them up with their new families. A couple of days ago, Jane exchanged texts with Susan Dunlap, the woman who, fifteen years ago, connected us with Micky. Jane has kept her informed about Micky over the years, but wanted to be sure that Micky's rescuer saw this article and would know how much happiness she had brought to all three of us. We thanked her, but we also want to thank all the other people — so many of them friends of ours here in the neighborhood — who do this every day.
Jane Gennarelli’s pup, Micky, was a fixture here in the neighborhood for almost fifteen years. There were people who knew Micky by name, but didn’t know Jane’s name and didn’t know mine.
But now he’s gone. We said goodbye to him in early April, just short of his fifteenth birthday.
I’m surprised at how much I still miss him.
Micky was a handsome dog. He was lean and athletic. In coloration, he was black and white — a stark black and a brilliant white — with some tan accents, for example, on the underside of his tail, inside his ears, and in the form of a small tan eyebrow over his right eye. He had other accents, too: He had different-colored eyes, one brown and one blue, and he had one ear that flopped just slightly. Throughout his life, he kept a somewhat puppyish face that made him look younger than he was.
A DNA test we got years ago suggested he was part Chow Chow, part American Staffordshire Terrier, and part Australian Kelpie. If I remember correctly, there was some Catahoula Leopard Dog in the mix, too. We could see everything except the Chow Chow.
It didn’t really matter. We thought of him as the sole example of his own, one-dog breed.
Micky was lean and athletic
Micky understood the concept of wrapped gifts, and there were few things he enjoyed more than unwrapping one. We always made sure we had wrapped gifts for his birthday and for Christmas.
We did learn, however, that we couldn’t put presents out in advance of an event.
One year Jane received a box full of wrapped Christmas gifts from her family, several of them intended for Micky. They arrived a week ahead of the holiday, so Jane arranged them all in a nice display on a table in her living room.
Within five minutes, Micky had stationed himself next to the table, looking up at the gifts, and whimpering. He wanted to open his gifts now.
Jane had to pack them away in a closet.
Micky loved to play games.
One of my favorites (and his) was hide-and-seek. I would tell Micky to ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ in the living room while I went into another room to hide behind a piece of furniture or a door.
I would shout ‘Where’s Micky?’ and he would rush off to hunt for me. He searched all the places I had hidden before.
Also, for a reason known only to him, he looked in all the wastebaskets.
When he found me, he dipped into a quick play bow and then rushed away to tell Jane that he had won the game.
Once he reached adolescence, Micky wasn’t an especially cuddly dog. He liked to stay close, but he wasn’t a hugger.
At the same time, he was very sensitive to how we felt, especially if one of us was sick or in a down mood.
One of my favorite recollections has to do with the World Series. Jane grew up in New York, a Mets fan, and I became a Royals fan while living in Kansas City. Back in 2015 the Royals and the Mets came together in the World Series. Initially, Jane and I thought that we wouldn’t much care which team won. We had spent the season together watching both teams, and we enjoyed them both.
However, as the series progressed, it got tougher to not care, and it eventually became clear that we each wanted ‘our’ team to win.
Ultimately, my Royals won and Jane’s Mets lost.
The next day, Jane was in a bleak mood. She was at my place, sitting on the couch and working on her laptop. Micky — not a small dog at almost fifty pounds — climbed up onto the sofa and onto the back cushion behind Jane. He draped his front legs over her shoulders and laid his head next to hers. He stayed there for a long time, and every now and then he nudged her with his nose.
Fireworks scared Micky. Not just ‘scared’. Terrified.
One year, just after New Years, the three of us were out walking together. We had just started and were maybe two blocks from home when someone nearby set off fireworks.
Micky immediately turned back toward home, his body lowered like he was avoiding gunfire, and began to run, pulling me along behind him
Jane was recovering from a sprained ankle, and she couldn’t keep up. When Micky and I got to the apartment complex, Micky led me inside, to the courtyard, and headed for the stairs leading up to my place. Jane, limping, was still a block away.
That’s when Micky looked over his shoulder and realized we had lost her.
In spite of his fear, he turned around to head back and find her.
I could almost hear him:
“Save yourself, Uncle Jim, I’m going back for Mom.”
It was fifteen years ago. in July, that Jane adopted Micky. He had been rescued by a vet and then turned over to a rescue organization for adoption. Jane had grown up with a dog, and she’d had another in college. When she decided to adopt, she realized that she would need backup for times when she traveled or was sick.
So she asked me if I’d play that role.
I’d never had a dog, so I didn’t think very hard about it. I just shrugged and said ‘sure’. It’s not like Jane traveled or got sick that much. My commitment would be minimal.
We picked him up from the rescue organization at an adoption event held at a PetSmart.
It took me less than twenty-four hours to fall in love with him.
WALKS AND COFFEE BARS
As soon as he was old enough, we began taking Micky for long walks. Early on, we chose the routes. As Micky got older and began to have preferences, we let him choose.
His routes almost always involved a stop at a coffee bar.
Micky loved coffee bars, especially the ones that gave him whipped cream and dog treats. He had favorites — like Halcyon in Blue Star and the sidewalk cafe at the Gunter Hotel on Houston Street. Over the years, there were about five places he’d repeatedly visit. He liked to mix them up. He never took us to the same place two days in a row.
Once when Jane was visiting her family back east and I was walking him alone, Micky led me to Halcyon early in the morning. We got my coffee and his treats, and we sat outside for a while. Without Jane for conversation, I got bored pretty quickly, so I got up, and we left.
Micky, of course, was still in the lead, and he apparently considered the visit too short. He led me down the parking lot alongside Blue Star Brewing, turned right, walked past the front of the brew pub to the alley and turned right again. We then walked down the alley, out to Alamo Street, and took another right, and suddenly he was leading me back up the steps to Halcyon.
He had led me around the block, and I guess he thought I might not notice.
I bought another coffee and sat down.
MUSIC AND PEOPLE
One-on-one, Micky was a shy dog. He didn’t particularly like to meet people. When approached, he would hide behind me or Jane.
On the other hand, he loved crowds, and he loved loud music. Whenever we took him to a public event with people and music, it was nearly impossible to get him to leave.
So he wouldn't have to miss the walks he loved, we got Micky a wagon
Micky really aged well through his first dozen-plus years.
He had energy. He always looked puppyish. His coat was healthy. He stayed trim, and he never developed a gray muzzle or elbow patches.
But eventually we saw the signs of aging. They weren’t in his appearance — even at age fourteen, people often guessed his age at somewhere between two and six — but his back legs began to fail him, particularly the one on his left side.
Sometimes he fell. He couldn’t walk long distances anymore. He had trouble with the stairs.
We bought a harness with a handle, so we could give him a little assistance when he needed it — on the stairs, for example.
Sometimes we’d misjudge how long a walk he could handle, and he’d have trouble making it home. In those cases, I’d bend down, grab the handle, and give him a little help, walking alongside him.
Micky, however, didn’t seem to attribute his improved walking to the harness. Or if he did, he considered it irrelevant. Because in those situations he usually wasn’t satisfied that he could walk more easily. He frequently decided that he had regained the ability to run. And that’s what he would do: He’d run the last block or two home, with me running alongside, bent over and providing the lift he needed. And laughing
For most of his life, when Micky visited my place, he liked to spend part of his time napping on my bed. There came a point, however, when he could no longer hop up onto it, so he began using the couch instead.
I knew there would be a time when he couldn’t get up on the couch, either, so I bought him an expensive dog bed that matched the firmness of my mattress. I figured he’d start using it when he could no longer manage to climb onto the couch.
I even spent time teaching him that the bed was his.
But Micky was a better teacher. He taught us how to help him get onto the couch.
When he could no longer manage climbing onto the couch on his own, he began to put his front paws up on it, jump ineffectively a couple of times, and then look over his shoulder, until one of us came over and gave him a butt boost.
The dog bed never got used
AS LONG AS THERE WAS JOY
In his last month or two, Micky couldn’t walk more than a block; usually just half a block. And he fell a lot, sometimes needing our help to get back on his feet.
We took him to the vet, who told us Micky’s time was limited, but he also assured us that Micky wasn’t in pain.
It’s a tough decision to make, letting your pup go. We knew that a lot of things had become hard for Micky. In addition to his mobility issues, he had become incontinent. Most of his life, he had been extraordinarily picky about the spots he was willing to use to relieve himself. He could walk for half an hour to find the perfect spot. And now he had lost control.
But he seemed to muddle through, and — most importantly — at least once each day, we saw him experience joy.
Micky’s dinner was always a special event. Jane and I ate together most nights, and Micky ate after we had finished. Jane always spent five or ten minutes preparing Micky’s meal. He got kibble, crushed meds and supplements, some kind of extra treat, like cheese or chicken, and then a quarter cup or so of chicken broth over everything.
Jane prepared this while standing at the island in my kitchen. Meanwhile, I was sitting twenty feet away in the living room. Micky stood next to Jane, watching her, getting more and more excited. And five or six times during that prep, he’d come bounding out to me, in joy and excitement, and even jump up on me sometimes. For that ten minute period every day, the years melted away. He could not only walk, he could bound. And there was nothing he wanted more than to share his excitement with me.
Jane and I decided that, as long as he could experience joy, we would do what it took to keep him going. I’d carry him up and down the stairs. We’d clean up accidents. We’d lift him when he fell.
But finally one day he lost interest in his dinner, and he needed help to stand up.
It was time to say goodbye.
Saying goodbye is tough, but we had both prepared for it. I had thought through what that last trip to the vet would be like. I was ready.
What I had not prepared for was the aftermath.
I hadn’t really grasped the idea that someday Micky wouldn’t be here. That someday I wouldn’t be able to boost him up onto the couch. I wouldn’t see his joy as he ran out from the kitchen to tell me that he was getting chicken for dinner.
That he would, quite simply, be gone.
There is one thing for which both Jane and I are thankful: During Micky’s lifetime, we never took him for granted, not for a single day. We recognized every day how important he was to us. There were so many things he did that made us smile, that made us laugh, that gave us joy. And we valued those things while they were happening. As I told Jane on multiple occasions, there was nothing I had experienced in my life that brought me as much pure, uncomplicated, laugh-out-loud, daily joy as Micky.
And we like to think he knew that.
Jim Feuerstein is co-editor of LNF Weekly; he also designs and manages the website.
As an adult, Micky liked to spend time with us. And we liked to spend time with him.
Some photos from Micky's early years
As he aged, walking became harder.
You might also like...
Micky always enjoyed a big party with loud music. We shot this video intending to show the new Yanaguana Garden to out-of-town friends, but it ended up being all about Micky.