Fifteen years ago I brought a puppy home.
As I drove away from the kennel he sat in the seat next to me, whimpering. I made sure I ran my hand over him all the way home to reassure him that it was going to be OK.
When we got home I carried him in and placed him on the floor. His first introduction was to my sister’s 200-pound mastiff, Theodore. To say that our new friend stopped dead in his tracks and cowered between my legs is an understatement. He looked at me, then Theo, and actually wagged his little tail. They would become fast friends, with Theo sometimes carrying him around the yard in his sloppy mouth. It was hilarious and always messy.
Later that day I decided to take a nap. The new puppy immediately climbed up on my back and closed his eyes. It was something he would do for the rest of his life. If he couldn’t sleep on your back, he pushed your legs apart and lay down with his nose embarrassingly placed in your crotch — falling fast asleep.
At first he didn’t have a name. Then I decided to call him Sam. Everyone screamed ... ”Sam?! Are you kidding us? He is definitely not a Sam.”
Well, when we discovered he had a birth mark that resembled Mickey Mouse, he instantly became Mickey. The name stuck and he loved it.
Those first few years were an amazing journey with what a young Jack Russell will do and get into. To say that Mickey was the smartest — and fastest — dog I have ever known doesn’t do justice to the word smart. My gosh, that boy could actually think through problems. His one speed was warp speed, and we always laughed because he would literally be running by and fall asleep on the run ... sliding along dead tired.
My first experience with his genius was his attempts to get up on my high bed. As I lay there, he would sit looking up and considering the complex engineering problem of getting up on a bed that was five times as high as what he reached at his shoulder. One day I refused to lift him up and he made a disastrous attempt to leap to my side. Slamming himself against the edge, he fell back and just sat down to think the problem through. He backed up, barked and ran for it again. With a mighty leap he made it just so that his paws clutched the edge. He hung there for a minute and, in slow motion, slid down to the floor. I couldn’t contain myself and was laughing so hard that I almost missed him looking at the bed, considering the problem and then giving me that famous MickaLook. I put a trunk at the end of the bed and he was up there in a flash. He looked at me, gave me a small growl, came over next to me and laid down between my legs and fell asleep. I knew I was in trouble. He was just 4 months old.
It is about this time that his future Mom came into the picture. And, to this day, I think that the only reason she went out with me was her love of Mickey. Not soon after we started dating, Jodie and I moved the entire clan to a bigger home and the adventure took on a whole new perspective.
At the new home I enjoyed watching Mickey explore the huge yard. He could often be seen dragging a huge branch up to the doggy door. Or chasing a soccer ball that had sailed over from the nearby school (more on that later). The first time it happened, my sister, Kathe, and I were sitting in the den watching him run from place to place. We saw him proudly carrying the biggest tree branch that we had ever seen him carry. He brought it the dog door and promptly discovered there was no way this piece of lumber would fit. He dropped it, looked at the branch, then the dog door. Getting up, he went through the dog door and turned around, stuck his head out, grabbed the end of the branch and pulled it through. “My God,” Kathe said, “you are doomed!”
It was one adventure after another. But one day we almost lost this beautiful spirit. You see, he discovered scorpions.
It seems his curiosity got the better of him and the one he tangled with nailed him right in the nose. After running into the house, he cowered in pain in a corner. Luckily Jodie found him and, realizing something had bitten him, correctly surmised it was a scorpion. She called the vet, who said all that could be done was to keep him cool. Jodie immediately filled up a bathtub with cold water, got in with him and literally stayed up all night running cold water over his body and talking gently to him to keep him alive. It worked. He survived. And from that point on, Jodie and Mickey were bonded beyond what anyone else experienced.
Of course, whenever Mickey saw a scorpion ... he gave it a wide birth. But he was now Jodie’s shadow.
We moved again and downsized.
Now came Scooter. Jodie wanted a playmate for Mickey so off we went to the same breeder, and a beautiful white bundle of fur no bigger than a softcover book chose Jodie. She eventually came home to join the crew. But she didn’t have a name ... yet.
Mickey was definitely not too keen on this fur ball joining us. He made it quite clear to her that she was an interloper and would be barely tolerated. But, like all of us, she wrapped her beautiful soul around Mickey’s heart and they would become inseparable.
She still had no name.
One day, Mickey was chasing her through the house. It was obvious that he was only running at half speed but she was going hell bent. Her back legs were passing up her front paws ... she was scooting! On that day she became Scooter, and the Scooter and Mickey partnership was born. It was a relationship in which Mickey would retrieve the balls or toys and Scooter would relieve him of them and proudly present them to anyone who threw them ... as if she had done all the work! He had fallen in love with her. It was a love that would last to the last day of his life.
Mickey absolutely loved playing soccer ... to the point that the kids in San Diego would ask for Mickey to play with them. He would actually pass the ball to them as they ran down the field. His true love was swimming and there were many a hot summer day that he and Scooter spent the entire time in the pool chasing hard balls around.
Mickey loved my father — to the point that whenever my dad came to visit, Mickey spent the entire time sitting in his lap. My dad would fake his grimace but he loved Mickey and I would often catch him nuzzling our boy.
And now time has gotten the best of him, as it will with all of us at some point. With his eyes and ears gone, and his bladder not far behind, we made the painful decision to send him to the Jack Russell wing of doggie heaven.
He will go down in history as one of the smartest, funniest, most loving dogs ever. He will be sorely missed by all of us. But especially by his devoted sister, Scooter. At 13, Scooter just came through bladder stone surgery with flying colors. Her playful spirit is back and, with proper meds for joint pain, we hope she lives comfortably for years to come.
Mickey ... we love you and ache with the pain of missing your bright light in our lives. May God rest his soul. Enjoy Dad’s lap in Heaven, my boy ... I’ll see you soon.
— Santa Barbara resident Daniel Petry is the CEO and founding partner of Petry Direct Inc., a 20-year-old management firm that specializes in content production and marketing management.