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."
So, I decided to break this into two separate posts. Yesterday, I gave you a little history about Mickey, my six-year-old Chihuahua/terrier mix here.
Today is part II: a letter to Mickey.
Mickey under the Christmas tree, December 2012.
Before I get started, I want to issue a disclaimer that if you don't have a dog, or you don't feel like you have a particularly strong bond with your dog, this all might sound a little silly. But I am comforted knowing I am not the only one who feels as though Mickey is a member of my family, as close to a child as I can get without having human children, and that there is this book (among many, many others) devoted to expressing the love people feel for their canine companions.
I don't really know where to begin. We've teased you this year for being grumpy; I even bought you a "Bah Humbug" ornament for the Christmas tree this year. I hope you know that it's all in jest and that you know how much I love you.
I know it probably hasn't been easy for you to get shuffled around so much the last couple of years. I don't really love it myself, but as a girl in my twenties, I supposed I'm subject to a few relocations before I decide where I really want to be -- physically, emotionally, mentally. Even though you don't have much choice in the matter, I appreciate you being there with me, along for the ride. It means more to me than I'll ever be able to express to you.
I think you are a misunderstood pup; you've always been a little quirky, with strange moments of aggression toward random neighbors or new friends. I think there are some people in my life who would characterize you as a "bad dog" because of this. But I genuinely believe you're just misunderstood, and if nothing else, I blame myself for not spending the time to better understand where you're coming from. Maybe I'm a bad dog owner, but I hope not, and I do try to give you the best. You can't see very well anymore (some days are worse than others), you're not familiar with cats and thus feel the need to growl at the one we're currently living with, and you just want to protect me and your domain (an instinct probably aggravated by the fact that your domain has changed so frequently in the last two years).
I think you're a special dog. The people who are lucky and patient enough to gain your trust and love are rewarded with snuggles, kisses, and a waggly tail.
I love that you are a snugglebug. I find it difficult to fall asleep if you're not nestled under the sheets against my legs, curled up, the warmth radiating from your little twenty-pound body. I especially love when you sneak up to the crook of my arm, your chest in my armpit and your chin on my shoulder. I can hear your breath in my ear and feel you twitch as you dream. I love that when my feet are cold, I can put my toes under you for a quick warm-up and you don't object by moving away.
I love that even though your puppy fuzz gave way to coarser terrier fur, I can still see the cow spots on your belly, and that the fur behind your ears and under your chin is still downy-soft. I love that I can still spy the white line down your face even though much of the fur on your snout has turned gray and white since the time when you were a puppy, when most of your sweet face was black.
I love that just one of your ears stands straight up so that you're perpetually lopsided. When you were a puppy, both of your ears were floppy and Claudia and I were so dismayed when they both straightened up as you grew older. But now you're half-and-half, which is weird, and I love it.
I love the way your entire body snakes side to side with unparalleled enthusiasm when I come home from anywhere, even if it was just to the garage to do some laundry or out to the car to fetch something I forgot. Your tail wags so fast it's a blur, your ears are pressed back, and you fight so hard to suppress the urge to jump because you know you're not supposed to, but you get too excited, hop up, and wrap your skinny paws around my leg.
I love that you know the words "walk" and "beach" and "treat" and get so excited when I ask you if you want to take a walk. I'm sorry we don't live near the beach anymore; I know you used to love the dog beach, with all the sand to dig in (and chase and bite, when mama Claud would kick it into the air for you).
Even though it hurts, I somewhat secretly love that you paw at me when you want attention, or want to be held. It's not the best habit but I think it's really adorable when you do it. I love that you want to sit in my lap while I'm at my computer, even though it makes my legs fall asleep and I usually have to shoo you into your bed next to the desk.
You're a strange specimen who can misbehave and act crazy, but you're also a sweet creature with unconditional love for me, a love I've never known before and one I doubt I'll ever know again. It occurs to me now and then what it might feel like when you have to leave me someday, and I always push this unbidden thought from my head because it's just too awful to consider.
Like Janet to Fiona, you have been the most consistent relationship of my adult life. You're always happy to see me, and all you ever really want is to be petted and loved. And to lick my face and burrow under the sheets. And you know what? I kind of like that you're a little strange, because it makes our bond even more special.
I hope that for Christmas, and every other day, you know that I love you and that I love being your mama. I feel so lucky that I get to be with you every day. You're my Mickey-Moose and my sweet boy, and I want you to be happy. I hope you are happy. I love you.