It has been a big year for me and Mickey. I realized, reading Fiona's letter, that my relationship with my dog compares to her relationship with hers in the following sense: he "has been the most consistent relationship of my adult life, and that is just a fact. We’ve lived in numerous houses, and jumped a few makeshift families, but it’s always really been the two of us."
I'm going to break this into two separate posts because as I've been writing, I realize this is a topic with enough material to divide into two sections. This is part one: life with Mickey.
This is Mickey when we first adopted him over six years ago, in the summer of 2006.
My college roommate and best friend, Claudia, and I adopted Mickey when he was about three months old from a foster home affiliated with Love 4 Canines rescue organization (via Petfinder, which I really can't recommend highly enough -- Claudia and I had a great experience finding our future dog with this online tool).
Mickey was one of a litter of four or five Chihuahua mix puppies up for adoption, and when we went to meet him, the crate where he was being kept with his brothers and sisters exploded with puppies when the little door opened. There were cute wriggling bodies everywhere, but Mickey made a beeline for my lap. I'd beaten Claudia to the adoption place, and I called her to see if she was close to arriving. She said she was almost there, and I told her, "I think we've found our dog."
We took Mickey home the very same day. I overdrew my bank account to pay the $400 adoption fee (I had just graduated college and my first "real job" paycheck hadn't come through yet, but I knew there was no way we weren't going to take Mickey with us). He was so sweet and mellow during the car ride home and the trip to Petco to buy the necessities for our new pup, and Claudia and I marveled at how lucky we were to have chosen such a well-behaved puppy. It turns out he'd just been tired from the excitement of the day and revealed his energy and puppy-like enthusiasm shortly thereafter. But we'd already fallen in love.
Mickey's first bath in the apartment that Claudia and I shared in Huntington Beach -- Mickey's first home.
It took almost a year for Mickey to be fully, 100% potty-trained (a fact of which I am still embarrassed), and he ended up being a little sick when we first brought him home from foster care; he had an ear infection and some internal parasites, but the vet took care of the issues right away. We quickly leash-trained him and as soon as he was potty-trained well enough not to relieve himself in our beds, that's where he slept with us; he often alternated between me and Claudia throughout the night or on various days during the week.
We decided right away that whenever the time came for Claudia and I to move out (we'd been living together for five years but figured we wouldn't be roommates for the rest of Mickey's life), Mickey would go with me. When we adopted him as a puppy, Claudia was still in college and I'd landed a secure, stable job while she was working long restaurant hours, so based on those variables we decided that Mickey would be my dog when the time came. Until then, though, he had "two moms" (and our friends teased us about our "life partner" status with our "child").
Claudia and I lived in that apartment in Huntington Beach for another four years, when I started looking for a new job outside of Orange County and she was applying to graduate school in Arizona. It was incredibly sad to leave; not only was it Mickey's first home, but Claudia and I had lived together for almost eight years at that point and it felt like "the end of an era." Think Monica and Rachel from Friends.
Our last night in our apartment in Huntington Beach.
So, Mickey came with me. I moved into a "temporary" apartment in Huntington while I kept looking for work and Claudia moved to Arizona. After a couple of months I got a job in Los Angeles and moved to Hollywood.
This was Mickey's second move in one year. Around the same time, I noticed a cloudiness in Mickey's eyes and, remembering my parents' dog's glaucoma and the similar cloudy appearance, I panicked and took Mickey to the emergency vet. I was referred to an animal eye clinic and they confirmed that Mickey, at the age of four, had developed cataracts. They recommended surgery for him (upwards of $4,000) to remove the cataracts, but Mickey was adjusting pretty well (despite a few quirky changes in his personality, but he was always kind of a quirky dog anyway). I got a second opinion and the new veterinary eye doctor said she didn't think surgery was necessary since Mickey was functioning so well with his reduced vision (he wasn't completely blind and could still get around, though the new apartment was an adjustment since he didn't know "the lay of the land" yet).
In February 2012, Mickey and I moved out of Hollywood and into Monterey Park with my boyfriend and his dog and cat. Another adjustment period, especially with the steep, curved stairs -- it took Mickey a few months to get comfortable with getting upstairs and downstairs without prodding, encouragement, or just plain being carried around.
In October 2012, we moved again. I started focusing on photography as my full-time gig (I'd been balancing it with my office job for a couple of years before that) and, unfortunately and very sadly, living with my then-boyfriend wasn't all I'd hoped it would be. So Mickey and I packed our bags and here we are, in the fifth home Mickey's inhabited in the six years of his life.
Sweet Mickey in April 2012 (in home #4).
Come back tomorrow for my Christmas letter to Mickey and a peek at the "Letter to My Dog" book.