Last night I stayed up until about 2 a.m. I dozed off on the couch a few times but when I saw the hour I put myself to bed. I can’t bear to be out in the living room during those hours on Sunday nights; it just makes Mina’s last hours very real for me. It’s been three weeks today since she left me.

It is so very real, too. I am living, if you can call this wandering existence “living,” without my rock, my only source of pure, unconditional love, without the best friend I’ve ever known. I give myself big ups for getting out of bed every day and doing whatever I can to fill the hours.

Because it’s a matter of filling hours, not days. We’re not to the level of filling days, yet.

mina sleeping on the couch

Mina sound asleep on the couch, in September

Still, I run into people whom I haven’t seen since Mina died. Yesterday I ran into a neighbor and her two pooches, Hannah and Riley. Mina wasn’t so crazy about Riley when he was a puppy, but she grew to tolerate him. She really liked Hannah, though, and was always glad to see her pals on walks. We didn’t see them very often, though, because Hannah and Riley’s mom worked odd hours so we’d see them only on weekends.

My neighbor knew that Mina had died and, of course, I started to cry when she hugged me. We talked for a few minutes and she told me some nice things about her observations of Mina and I. She said it was clear to anyone with eyes that Mina absolutely adored me and that Mina was also protective of me. I found this surprising because I thought after 13 years together that I’d established myself as the protector. Sure, I counted on Mina to bark when someone approached the door or walked by on the sidewalk below, or to growl when people came near whom she didn’t like or trust, but I figured my job was to protect Mina.

That’s a job I failed at more times that I want to admit. The worst was not finding the right way to beat her cancer into submission, but there was the attack at a dog park in 2000 for which I still haven’t forgiven myself.

It means a lot to me to hear from people who didn’t see us together very often that Mina loved me and felt it necessary to protect me. That’s something I didn’t realize I missed until the first few days after she was gone. I moved my gun off the night stand and put it under the other pillow on my bed, and I double check the locks at night. Mina was my early warning system. If anyone came near the door at night she’d bark, but if she didn’t bark and instead let out a low, rumbling growl, that’s when I grabbed my weapon.

So, it’s true, she did protect me and I miss that protection now, as well as desperately missing the constant love and affection she gave me.

mina outside max's apartment

Mina, looking for Max, just a few days before he and his family moved away

Oh my baby girl … be well and be happy and don’t worry about me … somehow, someday, I’ll figure out this life without you …