They call dogs man’s best friend for a reason. For 16 years, Mike Toma and his dog Puppy were constantly by each other’s side.
“I never went anywhere without him. He was my best friend,” said Mike.
Last July, Puppy passed away, and it impacted Mike like he could never imagine.
“I’m a 34-year-old tattoo guy from Detroit, and this has just been the most horrible experience for me.”
Mike got Puppy as a puppy from a reputable breeder. And for the next
15+ years, they were inseparable. They did everything from camping trips
to parties… even time at work.
Last year, Mike and Puppy started a campaign to overturn a longstanding pit bull ban
in Hazel Park, Michigan. It was a ban that Mike said he was unaware of
when he got his beloved dog. They managed to get the ban overturned, but
it didn’t go into effect until a few months after Puppy died.
In April, Mike decided to honor Puppy by keeping him by his side
forever. More accurately, close to his heart. He called on a childhood
friend, tattoo artist Christopher Kime,
to create an anatomically-correct human heart tattoo, mixing Puppy’s
ashes with the ink. Inside the heart is Puppy’s paw print.
It’s not the first time Mike has used this idea to honor someone
close to him. He did the same thing when his younger brother passed away
in his sleep five years ago.
“We had used his ashes in that tattoo and that’s where I got the idea
to do it for Puppy,” says Mike. “Since both Puppy and my brother meant
so much to me I thought that it was fitting.”
While Mike is still grieving over his loss, he finds comfort in
another canine companion — one of Puppy’s offsprings (he's such a responsible owner!) , named Diesel, who
was born a few years ago. He also adopted Gemma in December, saving her
from the euthanasia list at a Detroit animal shelter.
Mike loves his two Pit Bulls, but says there are no more dog tattoos in his future.
“Don’t be sorry for me. Be happy for me that I got 16 years of nothing but pure joy and love out of it,” Mike says. “He lived a very very good life. He was spoiled rotten and he deserved every bit of it.”