By Debra Malinics
Years ago, I rode in Fairmount Park, out of Monastery Stables in the West Mt. Airy area of the city of Philadelphia.
Whenever possible, I would take our dog, Mugsy, with me to the stable.
Mugsy was a beagle-basset mix adopted from the Morris Animal Shelter in center city.
Mugsy loved to go to the stable, and that is where he, and my horse, Thunder, developed a beautiful friendship - one of my first experiences with a deeply seated, inter-species relationship.
There were usually other dogs at the stable, but Mugsy and Thunder seemed to fall for each other almost immediately.
Whenever Mugsy arrived at the stable, he would jump up on Thunder’s stall.
Thunder would put his head down to Mugsy’s height and Mugsy would affectionately lick his muzzle.
I called it their “hello kiss” as it was so loving and gentle, and it always happened when Mugsy first arrived.
Mugsy would sometimes sit and watch me tack up while he and Thunder made eyes at each other.
Mugsy would wait patiently until I was finished, and then we would walk outside so I could mount.
If Mugsy were “exploring,” I would whistle and he would come bounding to the mounting block, ready to ride, or follow along as the case happened to be.
Sometimes, if Thunder was on rest, I would ride another horse, and if that were the case, Mugsy simply refused to go with me, staying with Thunder at the stable while I worked in the ring.
When we were all together, however, Mugsy would follow behind Thunder, his little legs moving as fast as they could.
Thunder would never go “too fast” and he would periodically look back to check on Mugsy, making sure he as in view.
If Thunder didn’t’ see him, he would stop --- suddenly --- and wait until Mugsy caught up.
Many a bloody nose I got from that show of friendship!
Mugsy was a dog full of mischief --- he was part beagle after all --- and he was obsessed with food.
Did I say he was part beagle?
Mugsy was obsessed with any food, anywhere, any time.
He loved to search for anything that could be eaten, and he often left behind a trail of turned over waste baskets, licked clean, Dunkin Donut boxes, candy wrappers and food wrappers.
I often heard the familiar phrase “Oh no, Mugsy ate my lunch again.“
This happened so often that I was convinced boarders purposely left their locker doors open for Mugsy, as I would always apologize and offer to replace the eaten sandwich with a sandwich of their choosing.
Yes, bring peanut butter and jelly and leave with a turkey club on rye, Not a bad deal.
Mugsy especially loved a historic restaurant and inn in the park that we often passed on our rides, Valley Green Inn.
The Inn had a long outdoor dining porch that Mugsy viewed as a buffet bar calling his name.
He took the opportunity of passing this Inn, to its fullest advantage.
On our approach, Mugsy would assess the situation – who was sitting where and where the food was placed.
He would run up the steps, plan his course, then strike with a quick run across the porch, grabbing any unattended bread or rolls, then run down the opposite side of the porch to catch up to Thunder.
Though his legs were short, they moved fast during his strategic pounce as I heard, “Hey, that dog just stole my toast” or
“That dog took the rolls.”
I kept trotting hoping they did not make a connection between my dog and me.
I was embarrassed but felt the conversation, stories he created, and the laughter I heard, overrode losing the bread basket.
He was often remembered with the remark, “Here comes that dog again, grab your toast.”
Back at the stable, Mugsy absolutely loved what we called, Manure Mountain --- the pile of manure behind the barn that grew with every mucking out of the stalls – it was so organic, fresh and appealing.
Mugsy spent a lot of time on Manure Mountain and loved to show new dogs the joys of its existence, to the horror of their owners.
Whenever I found Mugsy exploring its treasures, however, he knew there would be a price to pay....a bath and brushing when we got home.
A steep price to pay, but Mugsy felt that Manure Mountain was worth it.
When Mugsy died in 1995, our hearts were broken, for he took a piece of them with him when he left.
He received many beautiful notes from his many stable fans and friends, some with illustrations of him running on the porch at Valley Green Inn.
Some say animals don’t have emotions as we experience them, but anyone who has had animals know that is not true.
Their expressions may be different – licking verses lip kissing, but they feel and express so much love and joy so purely.
After Mugsy died, whenever I went to the stable, Thunder would look for Mugsy to arrive, looking confused, turning side to side and backwards, waiting for his little friend to enter.
Thunder would look at me and his eyes seemed to ask, “where is my little friend?”
I tried to explain that Mugsy died, but he kept looking for him each time I arrived.
My heart broke with every visit, but I knew that one day, when Thunder himself died, Mugsy would be waiting for him over that rainbow bridge.
Thunder would greet him and lower his face and Mugsy would lick his muzzle, asking what took him so long to join him.
The two of them would then be together as they should be.
We had Mugsy cremated, and because he loved the stable so much I wanted to scatter some of his ashes there.
My husband, Bernie, and I, went one day to complete this task that we hoped would ease our grieving.
Bernie asked where I wanted to scatter Mugsy’s ashes and I said ,“Manure Mountain.”
Bern was taken aback and said, “Deb I am not scattering Mugsy on a pile of manure.” “
But Bernie, I said, "Mugsy loved Manure Mountain,” but he was adamant.
We compromised and scattered his ashes around the stable and in Thunder’s stall.
I stroked Thunder’s head as he sniffed the ashes, and I hoped Mugsy could somehow sense Thunder was near him.
Later, I sprinkled some of his ashes on Manure Mountain so he would be able to rest on one of his favorite stable places.
I knew in doggie heaven there would be lots of Manure Mountains for Mugsy to climb and all the sandwiches he could ever steal and lots of porches on which he could grab food and run.
When Thunder arrived, I just knew they would be reunited again, to run on forever and ever, together at last.