MickeyMickey was my friend. He smiled when I walked into the house and he loved me unconditionally. It doesn’t matter that Mickey was four-footed and had a tail that swept everything off the table when he wagged it. What does matter is that I could arrive at Mickey’s house feeling insecure or grumpy or just not myself and in minutes his cold nose and his incessant, “pet me, pet me,” would give me a complete change of attitude. By the way, Mickey isn’t even my dog. He belongs to my son’s family but from day one he’s allowed me my place of honor as the matriarch of the family. It’s a nice place of honor.

Mickey was a 14 year old Border Collie. He joined Craig and his wife Toni many years ago, even before 13 year old Alex was born, when they “rescued” him. He was still a puppy of undetermined age and from day one he had the gratitude of a dog who’d “died and gone to heaven.” He was a typical working dog. He had boundless energy and could climb a tree like a cat. He was often seen perched high above the neighborhood cradled in the fork of a big Sycamore tree, just like a mountain lion! He had a BIG bark, but wouldn’t hurt a flea. He was born to herd and herd he would. Anything that moved was the object of his attention and affection.

Unfortunately Mickey’s family doesn’t own a herd of sheep or cattle or goats so Mickey would have to “make do” with what he could find. He often set off on his own to see if he could make himself useful. Finding a local farmer in a suburban city is a difficult task and Mickey would often find himself “incarcerated” and returned to his family in shame. No matter what they did to try to encourage Mickey to guard their own home, Mickey was just not a guard dog. He was a herder! He could jump the 6 foot fence like it was a bedding flower boarder. He could unlatch doors like a pro. Everyone in Mill Valley, California knew Mickey.

Mickey herded Alex like a pro and none of us had any concern when Mickey was on duty as “babysitter.” I used to joke that when Alex became a teenager Mickey would keep him in check. No teenage boundary pushing for Alex. Mickey wouldn’t allow it.

In recent months life has become hard for our friend. Jumping the fence was no longer “child’s play.” Climbing the stairs was a feat to be contemplated. Herding no longer interested him. He still smiled when I came by but instead of coming up to me with his cold nose and wagging tail he preferred me to come to him.

Mickey is gone now. I’ve lost a dear friend but he’ll never be forgotten.