Jennifer Bisbing • Writer • Editor

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My tribute to Mick

Now, this is an incomplete tale since I met Mick when he was already sporting a gray beard. If he were human people would say he’s got great hair. He’s a little short, doesn’t talk much, headstrong but friendly, choosey about his playmates, has a quirky sense of humor, charming, but he has some intimacy issues.

Mick is nearly blind and has selective hearing, but his nose can find the smallest spec of chocolate or a Starbuck’s pastry crumb on a crowded sidewalk. I have learned over the years to reroute our walks when certain inedible trash was involved, since he will remember its exact location hours later or even the next morning. Now about his walking style, this goes back to his powerful nose. He is usually content with one lap around the block, three to four times a day, at a turtle’s pace. He smells everything—I mean everything. He has his favorite landmark poles and patches of grass, but everything in between is his personal scavenger hunt. In the fall the lure of rotten foliage is irresistible. Did I forget to mention he never speaks? I had not heard him bark other than a rumble in his sleep in over three years, until under the influence of pain killers.

When he awakes, he sneezes like a little girl—a sound my ex-boyfriend would mimic exactly to cheer me up when I was in Mick-withdrawal.

Back to that good hair, he regularly fools the other dog walkers—they usually mistake him for a puppy. He is certainly proud of this and it is possibly one reason why he walks with his head down hiding his gray chin. Because of his pace I have always called him old man, though he resembles a miniature black bear much more than a man.

To be fair, regarding his moseying, years back he was good for a half-block sprint in which he always stopped and looked back as if to taunt me to race him. But once he reached his fence line, a halt. Mastering the art of stalling, his steps got even closer together. Though Mick always lead when we were outside, inside he would follow you everywhere. Up, down, up and down, round and round in the kitchen—he was a great companion at my feet as I wrote at the dining room table.

Mick is from a family of six, when I house-sit the normally full house is usually silent, just the clinking of his metal name tags, the flopping stove vent, the light rumble under the heated floors, and that scary clank of the sump pump. By the middle of my stay, he starts searching for his clan—when he sees small children on our walk he tugs at the leash until he reaches the strangers and then scowls at me as if to ask, “What have you done with my people?” His dirty looks have always put me in my place—he reminds me that I am here to serve him­—I am his dog walker, and he will determine the pace.

I can’t forget to mention him chasing me around the big kitchen island. A nightly game of catch me if you can—I have your treat. Recently, this started to look more like a slow conga line, but he was always good for one full lap if I kept up my absurd dancing.

I must say thank you Mick, you brought me nothing but sheer joy even if your morning rustling was usually hours before sunrise.

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