Good morning, Mina Mina. I still come out to the living room every morning to greet you, only now instead of rubbing your tummy and nuzzling your neck I have to kiss the cool wood of the urn where your ashes are stored. But I remember the feel of your warm body as I cuddled against you and the sleepy look in your eyes. Sometimes when you were very very sleepy a little bit of your pink tongue would stick out from between your lips. I always thought that was the cutest thing!

When you were much younger I didn’t have to wake you up, it was always the opposite. You knew the exact moment I was awake, even if the alarm hadn’t sounded. I’d have to try to be very still as you perched over me looking for signs of life … As soon as you caught my breathing change, you’d start licking my nose and pouncing on the bed. I loved playing that game with you and watching you dance by the door as I threw on some seasonally-appropriate clothes for our morning walk.

Those walks were lively! Depending on where we lived and how much time we had in the morning before I left for work, we’d spend up to a half an hour walking. I remember one morning when we lived in Littleton, Colorado and it was 5F and I had on a million layers of clothing but you weren’t even bothered by the arctic conditions. We walked in Clement Park, as we did every morning, covering as much ground as possible, always ending up at the baseball field by the concession stand to sniff around for any scraps. You’d found part of a hot dog bun the previous summer and never forgot the experience.

Later on when we moved here to Masons Keepe you discovered the grill over by the leasing office. I think you snagged a stray piece of carcass that spring and, as before, never forgot about it. Every single time we passed that grill, right up until the last Sunday we had together, you stopped to sniff the area.

We didn’t cover as much ground during our walks after the arthritis settled into your right carpus. You gave it hell, though, for nearly two years until last February when it degraded to the point where you needed the carpal brace. Your brace is still on the kitchen counter where it always was after I took it off your leg after our walks. You hated that brace, I know, but it helped you walk and get up the stairs. Everyone got so used to seeing you with it on that on the rare occasions I let you walk without it we were questioned by everyone we met. We could always tell the new people in the community because they’d ask if you’d broken your leg or had some other injury.

I miss our walks together. I miss them so much that I’m thinking of restoring them to my daily routine. OK, maybe not the 4:15 a.m. walk, but definitely the three others we took together during the day. I feel isolated in this winter cold without you. I don’t see anyone after I come home. I haven’t laid eyes on my neighbors in weeks. So I guess it’s time to retrace your favorite paths, even though just the idea of doing that brings tears to my eyes, just to see a few people and not feel so desperately alone.

See? now I’m crying for real. I’ve been sick for days with a vicious head cold and I miss you so much. There’s no one to take care of me like you did whenever I wasn’t well. Just to have you lay beside me and rest your head on my arm was more comfort than any medicine could offer.

Oh, baby girl … what will I do with all these years before we’re together again?