It’s my birthday. It’s not nearly the big deal it was last year when I had a party at Barrel Oak Winery and 20 friends showed up from near and far, we drank a case of wine and raised more than $800 for Wildlife Direct. The staff at WLD called my cell phone – from NAIROBI – and sang “Happy Birthday.” That memory still makes me smile as do so many others from that day.

This year I’m returning to BOW, cake in hand, to meet a couple of friends and drink a little wine for a bit. The big, gaping hole in the celebration this year is Mina’s absence.

January 24, 2009, Mina cruising the room at BOW on my birthday

We’ve spent every birthday together – hers and mine – since 1997. Mina came to live with me on my birthday that year, just a little more than two months old, the most precious being I’ve ever known. She was a little bitty girl, mostly hair and eyes and a short tail that we found fascinating as it grew longer. She didn’t run, she bounced, and she found joy and wonder in every little thing and every canine and human she encountered. You couldn’t be truly miserable around Mina because she exuded love and joy. At some point you just have to give up your self pity and rub her belly and all is right with the world.

So, that’s what I miss today – Mina’s ability to make my world all right. It’s not OK to spend this birthday and all the rest to come without her. In some ways it feels like an attempt to manufacture cheerfulness, but in some ways it feels like honoring Mina by not sitting here alone and crying in my tea. She hated that, you know. Any time she saw me crying, Mina would do whatever it took to make me stop crying and smile at her antics. She seemed to gauge the situation and then determine her method of cheering me up. If she knew something was very serious then she’d quietly lick away my tears, put her paw on my arm or my leg and just sit with me. If she judged the situation wasn’t dire, then she’d pick up a toy and playfully approach me or she’d dance at the door until I took her outside for a walk, whatever she thought would distract me from being upset. Mina is more wonderful than I can ever express.

Not forgetting my pledge to do good for non-human animals in her honor, I started a fund raising campaign for Wildlife Direct in honor of my birthday. If you’re on Facebook, you can donate on my birthday page. I need only $75 to reach my goal of $250. If you prefer, you can donate directly to Wildlife Direct via the Baraza blog. Any amount will help Wildlife Direct support all the bloggers who are working in the field to protect our wildlife and wild places. Times are critical because of an exploding human population and rising disregard for any form of life that’s not strictly bipedal. Please give what you can.

Mina at BOW, August 2009

As for me? I’ll have a good time today. It’s the coming home that will be so very hard, as it is every time I walk through the door without Mina.

Mina baby, I miss you every minute of the day