Someone I don’t know very well asked me recently to talk about Mina: “Tell me about her.” I listed all of Mina’s qualities that I adore and mentioned how playful she is and how much I miss her. It seemed an incomplete accounting of the one I love above all others.

The first thing to know about Mina is that she’s not fancy girl. She doesn’t like getting groomed or taking baths. She never, ever wore any sort of clothing because that was undignified for a proud canine. She hated the scarves wrapped around her neck by groomers, so I use them as napkins for my lunch box. Mina only ever wanted to wear her collar and never once had her toenails painted.

She didn’t like blankets or anything covering her body, either. The only time I remember Mina getting under some blankets was back in 2004 when the heat broke down in our Crofton, Maryland apartment. It was 20F outside that night and we had only a tiny space heater provided by our friend Joe, and we were curled up in front of the TV with every blanket and comforter we owned. Mina got under the blankets at the end of the couch and helped keep my feet warm.

And she was always warm! This was a bit of a struggle to balance Mina’s love of cool temperatures and my love of hot and humid weather. In the winter Mina wants to be outside all the time, while I grumbled and bundled up for our daily walks. In July, Mina would take a nice early morning walk but I had to coerce her to go outside the rest of the day. Still, she’d trot along ahead of me with her “Mina strut” that I so loved to watch, panting to stay cool and looking at me frequently to let me know she was done with being outside.

When Mina was a young, wild puppy her emotions were hard to place. She was happy or she was sleeping! As we grew older together it became easier for both of us to read the other. Mina knew me perfectly and was gracious enough not to hold grudges against me for some of the stupid things I did during our years together. As much as I enjoyed her youth and all our adventures together, the last few years are the sweetest in my memory. We talked a lot, or rather, I talked a lot and Mina listened patiently. She never got up and walked away during one of my diatribes, just looked at me with loving eyes and waited for the apology she knew was coming. Her forgiveness is as big as her personality and just as precious to me.

In the last couple of years Mina’s step slowed a bit because of her arthritis, but when she was in a good mood she held her tail as high as possible, strutted her stuff on the sidewalk, and walked for as long as she liked. Our walks were Mina’s favorite part of every day; she loved being outside. Mina made me into an outdoors-loving person, really. I still don’t like bugs flying all around me, but Mina taught be to enjoy being outdoors with her enthusiasm for simply being outside. In her last couple of months, Mina sometimes just wanted to sit down or lay on the walkway outside our building to smell the air and see who came by. I’d sit with her until we both decided it was time to go inside.

Sue calls Mina my “best calling card” because Mina is very social. She enjoys meeting humans and non-humans alike with equal gusto. One of the canines Mina loved best was Peanut, who used to live in our community with his mom, Janet. A year ago Thanksgiving they moved away to Arizona, but Mina looked for her pal every time we went outside for at least two weeks. When Peanut lived near us Mina was robust and healthy, if a little too old for Peanut’s more intense play invitations. Still, he seemed to know she was an older lady and would offer his toys to her when we visited his home. The best part about Mina and Peanut was watching them greet each other. They trotted toward one another, humans in tow, and chest-bumped every single time they saw each other! Mina has never, in her entire life, greeted another canine with such enthusiasm. She really loved her Peanut.

Mina loved Max, too, who moved away the weekend that Mina died. Max was quite a bit younger and Mina was sick from chemo or cancer so unable to really play with him. But she loved seeing him and walking with him.

Max and Mina

Turk, the elderly chocolate lab who lives a couple of doors from where Max lived, is Mina’s other favorite friend. Whenever we visited Turk and his mom, he’d try to offer Mina one of his toys, but Mina always headed straight for his food dish. That’s the thing about my baby girl; she made herself right at home wherever she went, but she didn’t always return the favor. Mina definitely didn’t like having even her canine pals inside her home. I have no idea why as she was raised for her first two years with her friend, Goldie.

Every time we returned from a walk we had a little ritual to complete. Mina would walk over to Turk’s door and sniff to find out if he was inside, then we walked down to Max’s door to see if he would come outside. Mina was still checking out Max’s door on our final Sunday walk together.

mina outside max's apartment

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

I guess it’s difficult for me to give you a really clear picture of how incredibly close we are, even now. Mina loved me, accepted me, understood me, comforted me, and protected me like no one else. She has a sparkling personality that attracts everyone to her. I remember the first time she met one of my colleagues who doesn’t live with non-human animals. Mina walked into her office this past summer and Sharon put her hand on Mina’s face and kissed her nose. Last week when Mina’s Auntie Sue was wearing a holiday pin with a jingling bell, she walked into another colleague’s office who told Sue that it sounded like Mina coming to see him. The jingling bell reminded him of Mina’s jingling tags on her collar.

If you’ve met my sweet angel then you know the power of her beautiful personality. If you never had the chance to meet her, I’m certain you would’ve been smitten by her, too.

Girly girl, you are in my heart in my heart in my heart