She said a hundred and one things about the longtime shelter dog, but what I remember is those seemingly endless thirty seconds of silence after she whispered, “Mikey is giving up.” I stopped taking notes — all of the questions I’d prepared became tiny and irrelevant.
Mikey had been at the shelter for about a year in a half when I wrote his story. No one had asked about him; he’d been overlooked every single day, and he was showing signs of deteriorating. When Barbara came to visit, she sometimes found him curled up shivering in his kennel.
Soon after Mikey’s article on BarkPost went live, other outlets reported on his situation. Barbara and Anne Marie Condron-Buonomo, a volunteer who runs Mikey’s Facebook page, stayed up until 4:00 in the morning answering enquiries. A portrait of Mikey against a blue backdrop, taken by photographer Sophie Gamand, was seen by hundreds of thousands.
His followers jumped to 8,000, then 10,000, then 12,000. In the midst of it all, Barbara kept me updated. Two days after our interview, she wrote me this note:
“I just wanted to tell you that I had an AMAZING experience with Mikey today. He jumped up on me all excited, but when I sat down, he came over, put his paws in my lap, and started kissing my face. Then he leaned against me, sank to the floor, and rolled on his back for belly rubs. I almost fell off my chair. He has NEVER done this before. I swear he knows something wonderful is about to happen.”
Unfortunately, it would take another month for Mikey to find his perfect home. Forty adoption applications were approved by the shelter, and of those 40, only 3 potential adopters were serious enough to visit him at the shelter for a meet and greet. None of them was the right fit.
As hope was wavering, a woman in Massachusetts reached out via Mikey’s Facebook page. She had a beautiful but incomplete house, one that needed a dog to make it a real home. When her application was accepted, she arranged a time to meet Mikey.
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Barbara vividly remembers leaving for the weekend, giving Mikey kisses and telling him his time had finally come. He hugged her back. He seemed to understand.
After driving some 200 miles, Mikey’s adopter connected immediately with him — a surprise since Mikey is relatively reserved and can have a hard time making eye contact at first. When the adoption was finalized and Mikey jumped into the car headed for Massachusetts, Barbara was away on vacation. “I just burst into tears,” she says.
When news of Mikey’s adoption was posted on Facebook, it reached some 100,000 people in 24 hours. Three other dogs were adopted because of Mikey, and those are just the ones we know about; he inspired people to go out to their local shelters and find a best friend.
“Mikey was lucky because he was able to tell his story to the world,” Barbara says, “but they’re all special. They all have a story to tell.”
Looking back, I wish I had recorded my first call with Barbara. It seemed important to her that I know the little things, because I’d never have the chance to meet him in person.
When Barbara came back from vacation, she found out that another sweet pup, named Bobby, had been moved to Mikey’s old kennel at the shelter. “I was so glad to see him there,” she confides. “He will live with Mikey’s spirit.”
When asked what she wishes she could tell Mikey now, Barbara has the following words for her canine friend:
“I think you were here at the shelter for a reason. You waited for so long because you had to get the message out: Look for those dogs. The long-timers. The overlooked. The forgotten ones.”
At the end of our conversation, she weeps for Mikey for the last time, saying with a laugh, “Okay, I’ll stop crying now.”
Mikey’s Facebook page — Magical Mikey: An Invisible Dog — will continue to advocate for dogs like Mikey. The Hempstead Town Animal Shelter is currently full of dogs waiting for homes, some for several years. They are waiting here.