July 15, 2018


Mischa came to us twelve years ago in June. We had gone "just to look" and fell in love with a lightning bolt of black fluff. The day we met plays in my memory as if it were yesterday. We sat on the floor as she ran laps around us and the room, showing off, while her sleepy brother calmly stretched himself across my mother's legs. Three month old Mischa with her boundless energy demonstrated all of her tricks for us. She knew where her pad was and could take commands, as if I needed any convincing. I loved her instantly, she was everything I had ever dreamt of. We left with Mischa in tow, unprepared for the reality of owning a dog, though to call her a "dog" is unfair. Mischa had always been much more than that. She behaved as if she were simply a smaller human who walked on four legs.

I remember her first day with us with such clarity, it could have been yesterday. We set her pad up by the garage door and made the grave mistake of putting her food and water too close to it, she looked up at us confused, as if to say "this doesn't go here - what are you doing?" thus beginning the grand saga of Mischa using any rug instead. We played in the backyard and I took a photo of her cradling a small leaf between her paws, tiny and sweet. That little face. She was perfect.

As a pup her run was more of a hop, earning her the nickname "bunny", one of a million she received over the years with Puppy and Potatoes being the two most used in addition to her name. If a stranger said "Hello Puppy" to her she assumed they must know her because how else would they know her name. In the den she would walk along the backs of the couches and perch herself there for a nap like a cat. I have one memory of coming downstairs from a shower and finding her curled up in the center of JD's chest, both of them fast asleep on the couch. This is by far one of my sweetest memories of the two of them together. They developed a complicated relationship after that point. JD would tease her and ask for detailed instructions on where the cookies were kept whenever she requested one, which led to Mischa's assessment that JD was incompetent and incapable of acting as her personal butler. She was a very dominant presence, and I never had the heart to correct her. I needed her for so many reasons and she had taken it upon herself to treat me as hers. I didn't mind, I still don't, though I am aware that that is not the traditional relationship between a human and a dog and that it is generally frowned upon to see an almost eight pound Mischa control an adult human.

Mischa and I developed a language of our own, a way of communicating that no one quite knew what to make of. She would "talk" to me in a series of long and short whines and I almost always could tell what she wanted immediately. This baffled my mother, but I knew Mischa so well and she knew me. When I lived at home following college she would tell me it was time for bed, to turn the lights off by stomping around my room. Mischa would get up out of her bed, walk over to the hardwood and throw herself against it, making the tags on her collar clink just so and let out a dramatic sigh to say I was disturbing her. If I didn't she'd wait five minutes and do it again. She'd hop for dinner, stomp her feet to go outside, and whirl around to tell me to follow her.

She did not care for baths, but loved to be told how pretty she looked after them. Car rides were met with skepticism, always. Were we taking her to be groomed or to the doctor? Was she going on a vacation to Uncle Joe's, or was I bringing her to "the puppy store" to pick out her own cookies? She did not enjoy the beach, the water was seen as a giant bathtub though I never asked her to go in it. I did bring her in a pool once and she swam and seemed to be okay with sitting on a float. She had no tolerance for tears and would promptly get up, look you in the eyes, and leave the room. After half and hour she would always return to check on the situation and if you had calmed down she would stay, if not she'd walk right back out and go sit anywhere else until you were finished. Compassion wasn't her thing. The one time she expressed concern for my wellbeing was four years ago when I had a nasty head cold and fell asleep in the afternoon. She woke me up immediately, most likely out of fear that if I continued to sleep I wouldn't be up in time to feed her dinner when she started demanding it promptly at four o'clock. Though, in the photos of us from my college graduation she looked proud. She was always happy to see me, whether it be collecting me from the train or visiting me in the city for my birthday.

Mischa has and always will be my very best friend. I am thankful to have had her be a part of my life, to be a part of hers, for every moment I got to spend with her. When JD and I got engaged I had requested that he ask for her permission since he could not ask my father. About a month or so before we took her to the pet store and let her pick out her own cookies, and later they sat on the stairs to have the talk. Mischa let him speak without turning away. We joke that JD purchased me from a small dog for $13 worth of cookies, but we all know that he really sold himself to her. I FaceTimed her with the help of my mom after we got engaged and told/showed her first. She didn't like FaceTime, she was born before the age of smart phones, would only pose for the "real" camera, and just wanted me to come inside the house and see her. When I saw her again she licked my ring and started approaching JD with more patience.

She really was extremely smart. She always seemed to understand what was going on, and if not I would explain it to her. She remembered everything. Always. We used to play "go find it", a game where she would impatiently wait on the mat in the kitchen in front of the stove and I would go hide little pieces of cheese in the den, all over for her to find. You could play days, months, or years apart and each time instead of using her nose she would walk around the room checking every single spot that had previously been used first. If those spots had no cheese she would break into a panic and I'd have to remind her that using her nose was an option. Whenever she needed calming I would sing "Dream a Little Dream of Me" to her. It became so effective that we'd both fall asleep, even JD will get sleepy whenever he hears it. She also used to do some spiteful things to let you know she was upset with you that I don't know if I should repeat here. Mischa had a lot of character.

I am also thankful to have recorded so many stories of her on this blog. The details get fuzzy over the years and having had the chance to look back on them recently I have been reminded of some of the keys that I have missed or forgotten in my retellings.

Truth be told, Misch had been having a hard time for a while. At five she was diagnosed with pancreatitis. Three years ago her trachea near collapsed and she had a stent put in. She is in a medical journal somewhere for this procedure, I'm sure of it. Last year she tore her acl in her back left leg and had trouble getting up and down the stairs. We had been carrying her around to help her keep weight off of it and allow for it to heal enough for her to walk without a limp. Earlier this year she was diagnosed with COPD and on her birthday, March 9, she went in for a scope to see if she would need another stent or if it could be managed with an inhaler. This was the beginning of the end. Her kidney and liver levels spiked, most likely from the anesthesia, and never returned to normal. Shortly after, she was diagnosed with failure in both. We did everything we could to make her happy and comfortable, we wanted her to decide when she was ready.

At 8:22pm on Friday, June 15 she passed away at home, laying in her favorite spot on her couch, looking at me.

To my sweet girl, I love you more than anything. You have meant the world to me. Thank you for everything you have given me, all of the wonderful memories, the love, the support, the friendship. You truly were one of a kind and I am so proud to have called you mine and to have been yours.

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