A Dog Named Mouse

Friday,  June 4th, 2010.

Just another day …

The Dow Jones Industrial average lost over 300 points, falling below 10,000 … In Bozeman, the high was 64 degrees, with intermittent showers – not an atypical forecast for early June … Tensions ran high in the Gulf of Mexico, as oil continued to flow out of a ruptured BP well …

Just another day …

… Except that it was also the day we put down our 14-year old dog, Mouse.

Puppy fever

I was never a dog person.

It’s not that I didn’t like dogs, it’s just that we never had any in our house when I was in my formative years. Cats? Yes, there were a few over the years. But dogs? None.

I don’t remember ever being afraid of dogs growing up – unless you count that one time in 5th grade when a dog, displeased with my accuracy in throwing a newspaper onto its owner’s porch, took off after me. As I recall the incident, the vicious beast chased me for two blocks. In reality, the dog probably never left his owner’s property, but I’ll never know … I didn’t look back until I had run for two blocks.

Yes, I was around dogs in my youth, but I just didn’t see the fascination and devotion people had to their pets.

Fast forward almost 25 years.

It’s now 1995, and my bride of less than a year declares that she wants a dog. She already had cats in place when I met her, and I had adjusted to having three cats (not to mention two teenagers) in my life. But a dog? I was skeptical of the idea, but one does not argue with one’s newlywed, does one?

Ever the researcher, Lee went out in search of the perfect family pet. She eventually decided that a Keeshond would be the right dog for our family.

[For those of you have never heard of the breed, below is a picture of our dog Mouse (April, 2010).

This man's best friend
This man’s best friend


Lee found a breeder in nearby Livingston, and she set off with our son, Adam, to pick out a puppy. They came home with a little ball of fur inappropriately named Michelangelo by the breeder (Each puppy in the litter had been named after a member of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) . Our puppy, a female, was no Michelangelo. Our newest family member was quickly renamed Micki.

Little Micki, like all Keeshonds, loved her humans, and bonded quickly with her Alpha human, Lee. Micki also got along fine with me, the cats, as well as Heidi and Adam.

All was well in our little corner of the world.

Then, one day, a little over a year later, Lee received an email from a Keeshond rescue website. It seemed that there was a Keeshond at the local humane society, and the rescue website folks asked Lee to check out the dog, who had been picked up by a local animal control officer. Lee, innocently enough, suggested we take Micki down to the shelter with us, “Just to see how well this dog gets along with other dogs”, she said.

I never realized I was being set up.

It took only a few minutes for us to be convinced that this dog was coming home with us. Yes, he had been abused, abandoned, and was, by any reasonable measure, a mess. About a year old, he was not house-trained, flinched when you tried to pet him, and he had not been socialized to properly behave around other dogs or, for that matter, with humans.

Still, he had a great smile, and he had a twinkle in his eye that told us he had a good heart.

This dog had not been given a chance early in his life – he just needed a good home.

There was no need for Lee to contact the rescue network with information about this Keeshond – this little messed up dog came home with us.

Named “Bear”, this emaciated little dog was roughly half the size of Micki. The name “Bear” didn’t fit … but “Mouse” did.

So, yes, our two dogs were named “Micki” and “Mouse”.

 Mouse and Me

I had never been “owned” by a pet before. Cats tolerate you, but they don’t really see humans as having much in the way of redeeming qualities other than to provide food and shelter. Dogs, on the other hand, have a singular devotion to their humans that really surprised me. Micki was Lee’s dog from day one. True enough, Micki played with me, obeyed me, and looked to me for treats, but she was always Lee’s dog.

Mouse didn’t have much in the way of a choice in picking his human. Lee was taken. I was the Beta human, but Mouse didn’t mind being stuck with the second banana – he was very content to be the Beta dog. He was just glad to have a pack to call his own.

Over the years, Mouse adjusted to our family. He was quickly house-trained, was taught by Micki how to socialize with humans and dogs, and quietly became a permanent fixture in our home. Mouse would still run away if given the chance, but on those occasions when he did get off leash, we knew where to find him … at the nearby Baskin-Robbins. This was one spoiled dog, and he did love his ice cream.

Mouse showing his CU allegiance
Mouse showing his CU allegiance

What Mouse loved more than anything else, though, was going for walks. Twice a day – three times a day on weekends – we went on our walks. The longer the better was Mouse’s mantra. Mouse seemed to believe he was some sort of scout, always on the lookout for any indication that there was a new dog in the neighborhood, or that some foolish human had dropped some remnant of food and had deemed it unworthy of rescue.

We went on so many walks over the years that, in my head, I came up with the idea for a book: “10,000 walks:  Life lessons learned from a dog named Mouse”. A great title, but with my “other” book, CU at the Game, taking up most of my free time, it will likely remain just a title.

Our pack remained a unit for about ten years. Then, in 2005, we lost Micki to cancer. She was 11. The loss hit Lee and I hard, but Micki’s absence was even harder on Mouse. We did get a new Keeshond puppy, Maggie, a few months later, but it took some time for Maggie to assume the alpha role Mouse wanted no part of. Mouse eventually got his spirit back, and made it all the way to age 14.

Last Day

Labor Day weekend, 2009, Lee and I were in Boulder for the CU/CSU game, and Mouse had a tough time in our absence. Losing his sight and hearing bit by bit over the years, Mouse started getting confused when he was taken out of his routine. We did have a house-sitter come and stay with Maggie and Mouse, in an attempt to keep things as normal as possible. Still, for some reason, that long weekend was too hard on Mouse. The vet gave us some medicine to give him, and we were able to get Mouse back on track. But it was now clear that Mouse’s days were numbered.

So as not to have Maggie go through what Mouse had – the absence of a companion – we made arrangements to get a new puppy. The litter was due that January, meaning that we would be able to pick up our new dog in March. It didn’t seem likely at the time that Mouse would be around that long, but at least we knew that there was a day certain when Maggie would have her new beta.

But Mouse was still around when the puppy was born in January. He was still around when the new puppy – a male we named Murphy – came home with us in March.

We decided to let Mouse, in essence, tell us when it was time. He still had an appetite, was still getting along with the other dogs, and still very much enjoyed his walks. Lee and I decided that when those factors changed, we knew it would be time.

We made it to Memorial Day weekend.

It was then that it became clear to me that it was time. That Monday, Mouse didn’t want to go for his long walk. He was starting to have trouble getting up stairs. He was starting to become surly around the other dogs.

It was time.

Our vet graciously agreed to come to the house Friday afternoon in order to make it as easy on Mouse as we could.

With a heavy heart, I decided to make that Friday as good a day as I could for Mouse. He came with me to the office (I have a fenced in area behind the office we put in just for the dogs). We went to the bank drive thru – to get a treat – and then to … of course … Baskin Robbins. When we got home, we took as long a walk as I thought Mouse could handle.

When the vet came, the process was handled quickly and quietly.

Mouse died about 4:00 p.m. on Friday, June 4, 2010. His last moments were spent in my arms. I stroked his mane, whispering in his ear a reminder that he was, in fact, a good dog.

A very good dog.

This abandoned puppy, a dog someone else didn’t believe to be worthy of their time or love, deserved nothing less.

Rest in peace, old friend.

14 yr old Mouse (front), 4 yr old Maggie, 4 month old Murphy - May 2010

Mouse (foreground), Maggie, and Murphy (April, 2010)

21 Replies to “A Dog Named Mouse”

  1. Great story, Stuart!

    Dogs are the best, its that simple. Dogs and humans evolved together. Indeed, dogs may have made it possible for their opposable-thumb pack mates to grow larger brains, by assisting in the hunt for high protein game (ever see a smart vegetarian animal—say, a cow or sheep? Or a…gulp…buffalo?)

    Had our Westie for 14 years now and still marvel at his loyalty and affection to the pack, aka our family and other dogs who become part of it. When my daughter visits w/o her greyhound, she’s met with Westie’s inquiring looks and barks demanding to know where his fellow pack member is!

  2. Stuart:

    Beautiful tribute to a dear friend. Several years ago we had to put down our 14 year-old Shetland Sheepdog under circumstances that sound quite similar to those you/your family dealt with regarding Mouse. My wife and I were with our girl when the vet administered the shot and I cried holding onto her as she breathed her last breath.

    I know not whether you are a fan of John Hiatt’s music. Might I suggest that in honor of Mouse you give a listen to “My Dog and Me”, which Mr. Hiatt included on one of his records several years ago. I think you shall enjoy it.

    Here is a link to it on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZrigtEd8jAs

  3. Great story Stuart,

    All dogs go to heaven. I am attached to one of my cat’s (Leo) as much as any one of the many dog’s that I have had through the years. What you said is so true. You don’t really own a cat (they own you!), but a dog is a loyal and faithful friend that will protect you until death. Let us observe a moment of silence for Mouse……

  4. Damn…I cried the first time I read that story last year, and I’m currently wiping the tears away again as I type this post.

    Being an owner of 2 dogs I dread the day we lose one.

    Thanks for the story.

  5. Stuart, what a story for Sat am coffee. Dog people everywhere have similar tales like yours, me included. Thanks for making a grown man cry with memories of joy.

  6. Wow, what a sad and uplifting story at the same time. Animals have a way of doing that to you. They really do own you, and not the other way around. Thank you for sharing.

  7. I am thinking of possibly the worst day of my life when we put our faithful Bear down. I had been notified my company had declared bankruptcy that morning in 2006. Reeling from that news I came home to find him unable to stand or eat. Loyal and very protective, he was also a stray that picked us. He outlived two other dogs in our home and I still think of him. Years earlier I came home to find him hobbled and with a black eye. My neigbor said Bear had tried to attack the UPS truck, which drove him on a daily fit. That morning he got out and almost made that UPS truck pay for waking his morning nap! He was fine and lived a long live with our family. Thanks for a great article.

  8. What an incredible life you gave to a messed up dog that never knew love or companionship. Dogs have a way of becoming reflections of your own personality, and then mixing in their characteristics to create a very strong companionship. I bet if I met Mouse I would then know you. I had a Pomeranian that adopted us one winters day, and we were never the same again. I had to put her to sleep after 9 years of a beautiful relantionship, so I know your grief, but I also know your joy of having such a companion those many years….

  9. Stuart: We have two dogs as well, Ace bonded with the Alpha (my wife), but Ariel is Daddy’s little Princess. It is truly amazing what joy these innocent creatures bring into our lives. My wife says to you, “Get the book, Dog Heaven” – it is a wonderful book that you will find amazingly comforting. Just think of Mouse as cavorting in a field surrounded by Baskin Robbins stores that serve up ice cream at his request! Our thoughts with you and your family!

  10. I’m sure sorry to hear about your loss, Stuart. After having lost one basset hound four years ago, I’ve got another 14-year old man who I know won’t be with us much longer, so I very much feel your pain. Thanks for sharing such a touching story.

  11. Sounds like Mouse, and Micki before him, was an absolute gem. Stuart, please accept my sincere condolences. Hopefully you and your family will continue to celebrate Mouse’s life. Your piece today is a nice start. Take care of Murphy and Maggie.

  12. Sorry to hear about Mouse. Appreciate the story, brings back memories of my late best friend as well.

  13. Mouse will be sorely missed. He was a wonderful dog and blessed to have such a terrific home. I will miss him sneaking in to sleep with me when I visit and miss his wonderful ways of getting attention when he thought someone was ignoring him. I am glad for the opportunity I had to know him. He will be missed!!!!

  14. Wow, thanks for the post and I’m sorry for your loss. It brought up a lot of good memories of my old childhood friend/dog.

  15. All of us that have love our dogs can completely related to your beautiful story. Mouse was fortunate to be blessed by your family and you were blessed by Mouse. Our prayers go to you and your family. Mouse will always be there in spirit.

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