Yesterday, during a 17-hour road trip back home from New Orleans, I was thinking about Mina. Coming home after a good vacation is always nice but coming home to my empty apartment still feels very wrong.

You see, while I was in New Orleans I met the canines who live with the owners of the B&B where we stayed. One of them, a sweet girl named Pearl, greeted us on the sidewalk in front of the house the other evening. I knelt down and took off my sunglasses (they can spook some dogs as they make our eyes look like gigantic black eyes and that’s scary!) and Pearl gave me a kiss – a tongue-y kiss. You know the kind, or you do if you live with a canine.

That was the first doggie kiss I’ve had in some time and of course it set me to thinking about how much I miss my Mina Bean. Mostly, I was thinking about how nice it would be to give her a belly rub … or 10.

When Mina was a wee puppy, she had a puppy’s typically round, soft belly and she’d hold still for a belly rub for about 10 seconds at a time. She loved it, but she couldn’t sit still for very long back then. Her patience and enjoyment of a quality belly rub lengthened as we grew older together.

Mina loved long belly rubs and I did my best to oblige her as much as possible. Some days she had to make do with shorter belly rubs, but she was a clever girl and if I was lounging on the couch reading or watching TV she’d wriggle into that space between the couch and the coffee table. Then she’d roll over and offer her tummy and I’d scratch and massage her until she fell asleep. Sometimes I’d snuggle up to her while she was napping on the floor and, without opening her eyes, Mina would roll over so I could rub that belly.

I truly miss giving Mina belly rubs, even when she was too old to roll over any longer and could only rest her back leg on my arm so I could massage her chest and belly. Her stomach was taut and firm until she was about eight years old when the muscles cut during spaying at six months relaxed and her skin loosened. I sympathized with her but she didn’t seem to notice.

So, today I’m home and not feeling well after a week spent doing as much sight-seeing as possible and a long drive back and, as usual, I miss my girl. I want a kiss from her, I want her to lick the back of my hand and sleep near me because she knows I’m not well. I want to kiss that belly.