I was ugly as a child. So ugly in fact, that most of the other neighborhood children gave me a wide berth and pretty much left me alone. In an effort to get me out of the house, my Grandmother would often give me leftover dinner bones to attract the dogs that roamed freely in the neighborhood, in the hopes it would give me someone to play with. One of the only dogs that would even come close by for a free snack was a neighbor’s retired racing greyhound named Casey.
Casey and I became close friends, best friends actually, as we had a lot in common. Casey was sort of beat up and kind of funny looking too, with deep scars and a mangled ear. He also didn’t have a lot of friends, and we made quite a spectacle roaming through the neighborhood.
Our relationship grew to the point that we were pretty much inseparable, and remained that way for a number of years. Eventually I moved away and promised to write, but I never did. We lost contact, I got new friends, and Casey likely started getting his bones from another neighbor because dogs are pretty flippant and easily swayed when it comes to free treats. I never forgot about Casey, but I never saw another racing greyhound.
I grew up, developed a career, got married and had children. Every once in awhile, thoughts of Casey would come to me, but they would be gone just as quickly as they had arrived. I had related the story of Casey to the Boss at some point in our lives together, but for the life of me, I can not remember when or why.
Work had taken us to South Carolina, and one day, as the Boss was watching TV, she saw a story about retired racing greyhounds available for adoption. Remembering my story of Casey, and knowing that the easiest way to get something she wants is to make it my idea, she very casually mentioned that you could adopt a retired racing greyhound right in our area. I was on the phone to the adoption group the very next day.
Mickey came into our lives on Thanksgiving 2005. Fate or some higher power must have chosen Mickey for us, as out of the dozens of hounds available, she was the one I was attracted to immediately. In fact, I prefer male dogs, but something about her captured my attention and I was smitten. She was tall and lean with a striking pose and a long beautiful tail. The day we took her home, she settled in like she had always been there, and our bond was strong right from the beginning.
Mickey was born on February 7, 2002, and actually shared her birthday with the Princess. She was born WVs McDowell, and competed in over 90 races under that name. She was a good runner, and graduated all the way to A class, which is the best a racing dog can hope for. One day however, Mickey decided that she just didn’t want to race any more and when the starter box opened, she just stood there and refused to run. She never ran another race.
Mickey was not an ordinary dog. She had these little quarks and unique mannerisms that you just don’t see in other dogs. In the first weeks we had her home, she developed a habit of stealing things from us and taking them to her bed. Shoes, purses, books, and even pillows were all fair game. She never damaged anything, she just seemed to want our personal objects for herself and horded them like an old hobo. It got to the point where when leaving the house, we no longer looked for footwear by the door, but rather went straight to Mickey’s bed. I once found a very expensive watch and the Boss’s wedding rings among her “stash”. She was a master thief that could steal food from counters in the blink of an eye. She once stole an entire meal right off the table while we were sitting there without getting caught. She was also a master escape artist, and once got through three layers of security to run the neighborhood. She was a deep passionate singer, and would howl with all her heart if you got her going, and she could kill a stuffed animal like nobody’s business.
Due to immigration issues and work, Mickey and I spent many months alone together. She was the one constant companion in my life. She had these huge deep brown eyes that looked right into your soul, and no matter what she had done, it was impossible to be upset with her. She was my heart dog, the K9 version of a soul mate, and I loved her dearly.
Mickey was almost perfect in every way. She was friendly and out going, and would literally pull me across the street to visit children. Toddlers were her favorite, and if she were allowed, would kiss them with gusto. Her personality made it possible for us to take in other troubled dogs, as she was able to keep them in line, while showing them how to behave in a home and how to enjoy human interaction. She was dainty and lady like, and would accept a treat with perfect manners, and she always insisted on jumping up with a paw on each shoulder to plant a kiss on every person she met. I was greeted in this manner every single day of all the years she was with us, whether I had been gone or hours or simply minutes. She insisted on sleeping with us, and I often found myself with lack of covers, lack of space, and lack of sleep, but her comfort for a bit of cold or a few hours sleep was a pretty good trade I thought.
The only issue Mickey had, if you can call it an issue, was a deathly fear of thunder. Even before us humans could hear the rumbles, Mickey would start to pace and whine when a storm approached. When the thunder grew intense, Mickey would start to shake, pant, and tremble all over. Her trembles were so severe that you could actually hear the vibrations of her muscles, and she would often cower in the bathroom. No soft gentle words would soothe her fears, and no amount of petting or gentle hugs could comfort her. We worked with Mickey throughout her entire time with us, and even tried calming drugs, but no mater how much of the medication we took, her fear persisted.
In late March Mickey had some stomach issues. We took her in for some tests, and she showed signs of a digestive tract infection. We gave her a medication to take care of that, but she had a very bad reaction and we nearly lost her. We switched to a different medication, and she improved.
Her tummy issues resurfaced in the middle of May. She became very ill, and we again ran tests and thought the infection had returned. We started on a different course of medication, but it didn’t seem to have any effect. We returned to the vet for x-rays and an ultrasound to try and get to the bottom of what was ailing her, and discovered a large and aggressive tumor. By the time we made the discovery, her liver had swollen to about four times the normal size and was compressing other vital organs. By the evening of the diagnosis, she was clearly in distress and was crashing fast. The next day, Mickey was barely able to walk, and was struggling to breathe. The spark had gone from her eyes, and she looked so so tired. She was fading away from us, and we were powerless to stop her. We made an emergency appointment and put her to rest.
Mickey passed in our arms. When the injection was given, we held her tight and we cried. We spoke encouraging words, and told her how much we loved her through deep sobs and a river of tears. Moments before she drew her final breath, it seemed that she knew we were there and she was at peace.
When she passed she was with us, she was pain free, and she was beautiful. In the end, she died just like she lived.
Having to put Mickey to sleep is the hardest thing I have ever done. I cried for days, and I am still deeply sorry for loosing her. Being with her when she passed was a very traumatic experience, but it was the last final gift we could give to her in return for the years of unconditional love, the joy, and the companionship she gave us.
Hopefully, she is now running free with the angels that passed before her, and stealing all the shoes and pillows she can. There will never be another dog like Mickey, and we are incredibly lucky and eternally grateful for having her come into our lives.
2/7/2002 – 5/24/2011