By: Megan Eaton
Earlier this month, the Mighty Mutts family lost a beloved member: Mikey, a Mighty Mutts rescue who lived with long-time volunteer and foster Robert Herskovitz. When I began my interviews with Robert to spotlight his foster work and his two-dog team, Mikey was well, sharing a bed as usual with Shelly, another MM rescue, and Bugsy, Robert’s current foster. Now that he has passed, the impact of Mikey’s work as part of a fostering family seems especially clear. His loyal companionship and his journey from rescue to rescuer won’t soon be forgotten.
Years later, when his beloved rescue greyhound Juno passed away, Robert sought a new companion for his other dog, Casper, a Pomeranian. He turned to the group he used to volunteer for. Mikey, a doe-eyed mutt with a caramel coat and black muzzle, was looking for a forever home and was just what Robert was looking for: he came home a few days after their first meeting. “The thing that struck me about [Mikey],” Robert says, “was how he got along with both Casper and [my] two cats. […] There was not an aggressive bone in his body.” And so gentle Mikey joined the family.
Following the loss of Casper, and knowing he wanted another canine companion for himself and for Mikey, Robert began to look again. As he walked up to the Union Square adoption drive, he saw a beagle with a Mighty Mutts volunteer and experienced true love at first sight. He asked the volunteer if she had any applications yet, because “if not, she’s coming home with me!” Thus came Shelly into Robert and Mikey’s lives, forming the super foster team that has impacted so many.
Encouraged by the positive experience fostering Cupid, Robert began to accept more MM fosters. He estimates the number of dogs he has fostered in the six years since Cupid at 10-15, and told me he would accept any dog that didn’t put Mikey and Shelly in danger. The doggy duo has been central to successful fostering experiences, their safety paramount. For it’s truly a team effort in the Herskovitz household: Robert teaches foster dogs leash manners and general good canine citizenship skills, maybe a few tricks if they are doing well behaviorally. But he gives most of the credit to his permanent pups. He believes Mikey and Shelly help calm the fosters and teach them to live in a community, a pack. Robert gives the fosters a home and a routine; the dogs do the real work of healing the fosters’ emotional wounds.
Robert fondly remembers Zach, an 80-pound pitbull with a huge “coconut head” who mimicked Shelly’s beagle howls, and Egypt who loved to wrestle and tumble for hours with Mikey. Rosie, a gentle, quiet brindle pit mix, moved to Seattle with the couple who adopted her, but ended up boarded and approaching euthanasia. Mighty Mutts intervened and assembled a team to fly Rosie back to NYC, where she became a part of Robert, Mikey, and Shelly’s pack. When she was adopted by a family in the Financial District, she faced one last only-in-New-York challenge: a film set! The streets all around Rosie’s new home were closed for the filming of The Dark Night Rises. Robert laughs as he remembers sitting in the back of a hired car with a huge dog on his lap, arranging for Rosie’s new family to come out of the building and navigate the madness to retrieve their new pal.
Sweet Mikey’s last foster buddy was Bugsy, a gorgeous, golden-eyed pit mix who was found as a puppy during Hurricane Sandy. Now a little over a year, Bugsy is living with Robert and Shelly, learning boundaries and manners quickly and figuring out how to live as part of a family. He’s a little slobbery, and definitely a “goof,” says Robert. He loves to play and give hugs (they’re working on it!), and is using his smarts to learn tricks. But at the end of the day, Bugsy’s a snuggle bug who loves his foster family and has benefited from their well-behaved ways.
I asked Robert how what words he would use describe the experience of fostering, and his answer speaks for itself: “Joy. Happy. Simple. Good.” Many thanks to Robert, Shelly, and especially Mikey, who started it all, for doing something so joyful, and so good.