This day has been on my mind for a month now. I keep thinking back to last year and reading the blog posts I wrote and wondering how I’ve gotten to this point – a year without my Mina. I’ve been near tears for days just thinking back on this time last year …

I miss how secure she made me feel in our apartment. I always knew that no one could walk by on the sidewalk or come up the stairs without a warning from Mina. She was a good judge of people and canines and kept us safe from those she didn’t trust.

I miss knowing that she was always close by, even when I couldn’t see her I could feel her presence.

I miss her unconditional love and devotion and understanding. If you’ve never been close to a canine, you’re missing something really fantastic.

I miss Mina every time I walk in the door, knowing I won’t see her happy face and wagging tail. I miss her on trips to the winery, drives out to the country, road trips …

Sometimes I see her; a flash of a tail going by behind the couch, a glimpse of her face at the window when I come home from work, in the way some dogs greet me as if I’m their long-lost best friend when it’s the first time we’ve met …

I’m not sure what I’ll do today – maybe I’ll go for a drive or visit some interesting site to distract myself from revisiting that awful morning. I wish I could sit by the river in my hometown and watch it flow by on its way to the Gulf or sit at Green Key beach in the sun. The goal is not to sit in my apartment and relive this day last year and spend it grieving and crying. Mina gets very upset when I’m crying and sad and, as Tosca’s mom reminds me, she wouldn’t want me to spend the day that way.

Mostly I wish she was here for me to take care of because I miss being the light of her life.

Mina, taken by her Auntie Lolo not sure of date but that's a summer shave

So, this blog … I’ve been writing in Mina’s blog since April 23, 2009. That’s one year, six months, two weeks, and two days. I think it’s served its purpose well and we get quite a few visits from people looking for various information about canine lymphoma. It will stay here to serve that purpose but I’m not going to write here much more. Sometimes when I have a happy memory of Mina I’ll sit down to write it in her blog only to end up crying and feeling the weight of my loss. I don’t want our happy memories to always turn to tears. If, down the line, something comes up that I feel the need to write about, then I’ll do it but it’s time to let it sit.

Mina is happy and safe and warm and loved and having fun in heaven. Sometimes the miracle really does happen on the other side.

Me and Mina

Summer 1997, on Mina's graduation day from basic training

All my love …

I sent this letter to one of Mina’s cancer vets, Dr. Smith, on Saturday, November 8, 2009. I’m posting it here mainly to remind myself of how badly Mina was doing in the last two days of her life. Why do I need this reminder? Because as the one year anniversary of her death gets closer I still find myself second-guessing that last, awful decision.

Dr. Smith was wonderful to us during her chemo and during her final visit. Mina was quite fond of him, too.

I thought you should know that Mina is living her final days. Our vet, Dr. Cliver, estimates she has about two weeks, but given the difficulty she has breathing and swallowing food, I don’t know that she has that long. Nothing at all stopped the progress of her cancer, including homeopathy from Dr. Charles Loops, and her lymph nodes are gigantic. Her sub-mandibular and mandibular nodes are so large now that they can be seen without touching, and they’re causing her a lot of discomfort.

Still, she’s keeping a pretty good attitude most days. Yesterday wasn’t a very good day, but she’s brighter today. The only things she’s taking now are her fish oil capsules, IMM Power, Prednisone, Metronidazole, and an occasional Tramadol for arthritis pain. The Pred, of course, keeps her appetite very high, but her food has to be soft and mushy. She gags whenever she tries to eat hard foods such as biscuits. We are lowering the dose of the Pred slowly, but Mina won’t live to be completely off it.

Mina is enjoying a wide variety of foods now. She’s had vegan meals of French toast, waffles, and her first entire slice of non-vegan cheese pizza, courtesy of a friend. She’s gained weight, but it doesn’t really matter now. Every day that she’s with me is a good day, and I will treasure these memories all of my life.

Thank you,
Sheryl Bottner

It’s turning cold here, Mina Bean, just the way you like it. When I got into bed last night I remembered how you used to put your head on the spare pillow and press your back against mine. I wonder if you have any idea how much that comforted me? Sometimes, you’d move to the end of the bed before I fell asleep and sometimes I’d wake up to find you snoozing away near my feet.

This time of year is always sad for me with the trees losing their beautiful green and the weather turning mean. You never saw it that way, though. I think for you the fall was the best time of year! You could trot around outside without feeling hot and visit your human and canine friends for longer periods. Tell the truth I always loved how you looked more in the fall because you got all fuzzy!

Mina in Denver, 2000

So, I’m thinking about you all the time these fall days. Remembering this week last year when I was desperate to get out of a four-day seminar because you were in bad shape and needed me at home. It worked out for us but the anxiety leading up to the solution nearly killed me – and probably made you worry more than you needed.

Sometimes now when I think of you I see you running, always running. You loved to run flat out whenever you could and I loved the pure joy on your face and in your movements. Everything around you is green and natural, no pavement or roads with cars to worry about.

Run, baby girl, run!

Sundays being what they are, a day to relax a bit and catch up on chores, meant that I was doing laundry yesterday. This is all stuff I’d have done when Mina was still with me, too, only with more walks outside. I did take a hike in the Manassas National Battlefield Park so my outdoor requirement was fulfilled.

It was while making the bed with fresh linens later on that I came across an old set of sheets that I’d bought while living in Arizona. They were part of my “getaway” stash of household goods that I needed to move across country to the National Capital Area. The bed linens were in great condition less than two years later when I adopted Miss Mina Bean.

Mina, as you’ve read in previous posts, was a wild puppy and she chewed everything she could get her teeth on – my niece’s toys, tablecloths, socks, crayons, paper napkins and towels, and bed linens. Mina never got over her love of chewing paper napkins and towels so I stopped using them and never kept a trash can in the bathroom. She’d raid that in a minute. In fact, the last time we were at Dad’s together (2008) he left some tissues on an end table and Mina spread them all over the family room while we were out at dinner. She thought it was great fun!

Anyway … I still have a few sets of sheets left over from our early days together. They’ve all been “customized” by Mina, which means they all have holes chewed through them. One set has a hole big enough to put my foot through and at the top another hole that’s caught my arm a time or two. I no longer use that one but I keep it because it’s something that Mina did; tangible proof that she was once a puppy who loved chewing almost as much as she loved me.

mina with vermont man toy

This comforter met a violent end

There’s also a blanket that’s a few years old that Mina loved to lay on while chewing rawhide bones. That stuff never comes out in the wash. The rawhide bits are still on the blanket, many years and washings later. We used the blanket to cover the plastic sheeting on the couch in her final days and it’s now retired to the top of the bedroom closet, as is the comforter that used to be on the bed. Mina spent a lot of time on those two pieces of cotton and since I can’t bear to wash them, they are retired from use.

In two weeks it’ll be a year since Mina died. I’m sure there are a lot of people who think it’s odd or unhealthy or whatever that I still have her toys and bowls and leash and other stuff out where she left it. I simply cannot bear to remove these physical vestiges of her life; of our lives together.

Mina by dad's pool

Mina relaxing by Dad's pool

You are always with me, Mina … always.

**First posted on December 6, 2009 and I remembered it while sitting here, eating French toast, and thinking of my baby girl**

Four weeks have passed since Mina and I spent our last, fine day together. I think my friend Lisa is right about that day; it was Mina’s final gift to me. It was a beautiful, sunny warm day; Mina had more energy than she’d had in a couple of weeks, we had French toast for breakfast, she took naps while I did laundry, we watched TCM movies, we took another nice walk, it was a normal Sunday for us.

Today is not warm, though it promises to be sunny, and there’s ice covering the parking lot and our car. It’s very cold, in the 20s, and the snow that fell yesterday is hard and crusty. Mina would’ve been so disappointed to find crusty snow and hard ice this morning, although she loved winter weather. Cold temperatures put perk in Mina’s step as she carefully guided me through the icy parts, looking back to make sure I was following and not falling.

Mina was born in upstate New York in October, so perhaps that’s why she always preferred cold weather to hot weather? I’ve read that Wheaties tend to enjoy colder temps more, and that was certainly true as Mina got older. Her last favorite spot to nap was on the tile entry way, or in front of the living room windows.

Those windows are smeared with “nose marks” left by Mina as she spent time watching the sidewalk below. The nose marks stay. I swear whenever I leave this apartment that I’m taking those panes of glass with me. The window sill below is scratched from Mina’s nails because when something really exciting happened outside, she stood on the windowsill with her front paws and barked her big-dog bark.

Mina at her station, keeping me safe

During the summer I changed my volunteer days at the sanctuary to Sundays because they need more help that day. I didn’t go out to the sanctuary that often after Mina’s cancer diagnosis in April, but I wonder if she resented the occasional loss of our slow Sundays together? I hope not because it was a needed respite for me, a necessary recharging of my spirit that enabled me to get through the difficult emotional roller coaster of chemotherapy. Trust me, I made it up to her by spending the afternoon and evening in complete devotion to She Who Owns My Heart.

Typically, we got outside for Mina’s first walk of the day around 5:30-6:00 a.m., depending on the season. We went out earlier in the summer months and later in winter because I needed to see the sun, if possible. After our walk it was time for breakfast! Mina always got fresh water and a clean food bowl filled with whatever she was eating at the time, and a treat from the box kept on top of the refrigerator. Next, she got whatever supplements and medications she was taking, always wrapped in a peanut butter coating. I think Mina loved peanut butter more than I do!

Sundays were my big breakfast day, too. I made all sorts of yummy treats on Sundays, and when I sat at my desk to eat in front of the computer Mina was right there next to me, waiting for her portion of the goodies. It was hard during the chemo weeks because she wasn’t supposed to have sugar or lots of carbohydrates, but she always got my last bite, no matter the rules.

We passed the rest of the day taking walks outside, visiting whomever was working in the leasing office, doing mundane household chores, watching old movies, taking naps, getting long belly rubs, lots of hugs and tons of kisses. Mina couldn’t take a nap in peace without me coming over to rub her belly and kiss her sweet, sweet face. Sometimes she’d thump her tail against the floor or couch when I approached and I lived for that tail thump. I don’t know why, exactly, but it pleased me no end to see her tail wag even when her eyes were closed.

I will miss her every moment of the rest my life, but especially on Sundays.

Mina, my sweet baby girl, I love you, I love you, I love you

It’s your birthday! You were born 14 years ago today and I met you 10 weeks later when you were a tiny ball of hair with a nose and a tail. You bounced instead of walking, a habit you kept all your life. The bouncy walk made your butt swing back and forth and you looked like you were sort of prancing.

1996, Mina about 5 weeks old, held by Gina

Our relationship wasn’t the best, at first. I was sad after losing Wolfie but that didn’t stop you from being a happy, bouncing puppy. When you came to live with me a month after we’d met I was overwhelmed by your energy, and you were delighted to have a canine playmate!

1997, Mina and Goldie

I love remembering your puppy days and how we grew closer over the years. When I think of you now it’s as a young girl, running in fields with your doggie friends, chasing and playing and smiling your big Mina smile.

You made me smile every single day we spent together. We laughed together, sometimes we danced together, and took a lot of walks together. I miss walking with you so much.

You’re having a wonderful birthday, my sweetie girl, and I’ll be thinking of you all day and remembering all the great times we had together! You’re always in my thoughts, and you live in my heart. Forever.

All my love …

That’s the thought I go to sleep with and the thought I wake up to, every day of these 11 months since Mina’s been gone.

This week has been rough, thinking about last year and how we were spending our last month together, something I knew but couldn’t quite believe. I went to my office at work just nine days in October 2009. Mina needed me at home and I needed to be at home with Mina. I knew then how precious every minute was with her and I wish I had them all back.

Me and the Bean, February 1997

So, I’ll go to the sanctuary this morning and help the other animals because I can no longer help my Mina Bean. She’s happy and healthy and enjoying a life I can only imagine – no sadness, only joy and peace. Mina deserves that after spending her entire life dealing with me and our nomadic life. Hell, she deserves to be Queen of Heaven for putting up with my crap!

How has it been nearly a year? And how many long years before we see each other again?

I talk to her all the time – when I leave our home, when I return, and sometimes I find myself talking to her as if she were here and just as normal as can be. I always talk to her before I go to bed and sometimes I cry. I know she listens with that look on her face that seemed to say “I get it, Mom, and if you’ll just rub my tummy it’ll be OK.”

Mina’s birthday is tomorrow on 10.10.10. Binary code, my friend Pepromene reminds me. Mina was born 14 years ago, the best day of my life (even though I was unaware at the time).

I miss you my sweet little fur face. I miss you as much as I love you. I will love you always.

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