Dog Water Free: A Mother-Son Memoir of Consequence

Dog Water Free CoverTellTale Souls tap emotional memory when writing Mother Memoir, as they discover intimate truths deep within their first relationship—of this you’re well aware. In the same spirit, new author Michael Jay will touch you as he reveals how one mother’s son, Mikee, taps emotional memory in a innocently powerful way. Read on…

Meet Joe Black visits The Wonder Years in the true story of DOG WATER FREE, a coming-of-age saga that delivers on its promise. It’s a tale about hope and faith and a young mother’s love that fosters an improbable journey to find emotional truth. It chronicles an adventure by a boy named Mikee that lands a dumbstruck orphan from the unlikely side of Detroit front and center before England’s Queen, America’s Maestro and the first non-Italian Pontiff in more than 400 years.

 I’m pleased to welcome debut author Michael Jay to share a few insights about his mom and about how his journey begins.

It’s the era of MadMen.

 *   *   *   *

As if we were a figment of imagination from Lemony Snicket, a family of Baudelaire’s we became, growing up on a street with a most peculiar name. It referenced a mysterious German legend, none of which I was old enough to fathom nor quite young enough to ignore. As I understood that fable, the story of Faust had something to do with a scholar who made a deal to exchange his soul for limitless knowledge and pleasure.

Big mistake.

Lesson learned at an early age: “Actions have consequences.”


Welcome to my life in The MikeeZone.

All I knew back then was that Faust was one of a hundred streets in a neighborhood of a city brimming more with peril than promise. Those were days when tempting fate, especially on a dare, was likened to striking a bargain with the Devil himself. So fraught was our neighborhood with temptation. Perhaps that’s why it took until I was 26 to discover my own version of emotional True North.

Coming-of-age is not something one can rush, I learned, when you are growing up in an era when nothing is inconsequential, as events churn out of control, especially when you are being raised by a remarkable hero in the person of an ordinary mom who is thrust into an extraordinary situation, the likes of which few could imagine.

In simplest terms, mine is a story of a boy’s love for his dog and a son’s love for his mom, which fosters an improbable journey in the aftermath of a real-life Series of Unfortunate Events.

 *   *   *   *

 Like a fast forgotten dog bone hidden in a corner of a yard, I was quick to bury my feelings of guilt and shame.

At the tender age of ten, I was one confused, befuddled boy after asking my dad if we could “pretty please get a puppy.”

He all but said beat it.

“I’m allergic to dogs. End of story.” He lied.

It broke my heart to hear him say that.

A year later, I learned the real meaning of heartbreak.

My mom sat me down in the kitchen.

“Have a seat. Let’s talk.”

I was certain she was going to tell me that my hard work in school had paid off.


Already excited after a banner sixth-grade school day, I had sprinted all the way home.

Something good was about to happen.

I could feel it.

“You know no one can 100% predict the future, right?” She began.


“Well honey, I caught a glimpse of the future today when I went to the doctor.”

I smiled.

I was sure she was going to tell me that the doctor’s dog was about to have a litter of puppies.

I figured wrong.

“The doctor told me I don’t have long to live, buddy.”


“Six months to a year, they figure, perhaps a bit more.”


I don’t even remember pressing myself into her.

I drenched her shoulder as she held me close to whisper.

“Listen up. Pay attention here. The way I see it, God is giving us a gift. It’s rare that He gives anyone time to prepare for their death, but it seems He is giving that gift to me.  So let’s make the most of the time we have left together. Shall we?”

When my tears were spent, she planted a kiss on my head, and then suggested I go outside and throw a ball around.

“I’ll call you when its time for dinner, buddy.”

Outside, the world spun around me.

I couldn’t even grip a baseball.

Days turned into weeks.

All the while, she took care to comfort my two brothers and my sister and me.

“At least you will always have your dad.” She promised.

Obsessing, I couldn’t help but wonder.

What good is it to have a dad if he won’t even let you have a dog?

Then it hit me.

Maybe God would make him change his mind now that our mom was dying.

Maybe that’s God’s plan.

I believed.

“His will be done.” I prayed.

Night in and night out, I dropped to my knees every bedtime to try to strike a solemn bargain, praying harder than I had ever prayed in my life. I told God that I would endure anything – if only He could figure out a way to allow us to have a dog.  Amen. Woof-woof. Bow-wow.

Meanwhile, our mom stayed true.

Knowing each morning could be her last, she took one day at a time to prepare us all for life on our own without her.

A few months later, still battling her illness, her focus heightened when our dad dropped dead.

The Christmas that followed brought another surprise.

Our mom could not contain her excitement.

“Look, you guys.  Look what Santa brought us!”

Finally, we had our puppy!


Dear Lord in Heaven.

Were those my prayers God answered?

What in the world have I done?

On that miraculous Christmas morning, it made me ache to wonder.

Six months passed in a blink.

Birds were flying low beneath a darkening midday sky when I learned the sorry truth about what it means for a boy to man a shovel.

And I thought math was hard.

Even my blisters wept that day.

“Hip dysplasia is not at all uncommon with large, popular purebreds from puppy mills.” The vet told us.

Had it not been for my mom standing nearby, I would never have managed.

Resting her wrists on my shoulders, she looked me in the eye. “Come on, Mikee. You dig. I’ll pray. I’m not going anywhere.”

She made me dig that grave that day with those exact words. And in time, her insistence would prove to be a godsend; for had she been any less resolute, I would no doubt have remained forever unmindful of a much bigger truth that no one in the world could know.

My puppy isn’t all I buried on that tear-filled eighth-grade afternoon in June when I said good-bye to my beautiful Duchess.

“Not bad for a first-timer with a shovel,” my mom offered, with a smile just right and a hug for good measure. “Hold onto your dear mother here, mister.”

Two simple graveside prayers later, she leaned into my shoulder to give my arm a loving squeeze.

“It’s ok to be sad, buddy,” she whispered, just as my tears came flooding.

Intended or not, with that lesson in closure behind me, I could feel my confidence grow.

And by the time my blisters callused, I had become all but certain I could handle just about anything life threw at me.

Until tonight.

My dad is dead. My puppy has been put down and buried. And now, my mom lies lifeless on a heavy steel gurney in a dark lonely recess of the basement below.

I try to settle by telling myself it must be a dream.

Rolling onto my side, I pull the covers tight.

 *   *   *   *



 DOG WATER FREE is a story for mature Young Adults and for Moms of all ages who delight in sharing a good read that is sure to spawn spirited discussions within Book Club communities. It’s also a Top Rated Best in the category of Family Relationships & Motherhood on Amazon.

Published by BookBaby (Fall 2012) DOG WATER FREE is available world-wide, wherever great eBooks are sold. TAGS: True Story, Coming-of-Age, Memoir, Orphan, Book Club Book, Motherhood, Dogs, Detroit, Survivor Guilt, Closure.


Michael Jay grew up in Detroit. After graduating from Harvard, he earned his MBA at NortheasternUniversity in 1983. His memoir is dedicated to his college roommate, Tom Wales, who is believed to be the only Federal Prosecutor in U.S. history to have been killed in the line of duty. The proud father of two beautiful daughters, Michael lives in Idaho.



Author’s Website

As always, The Story Woman is here to show you how to tap emotional memory and write your Mother Memoir Capturing Character & Spirit.

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