When you watch the video linked below then you’ll understand why I ripped off the title of an old Boston song for this post. Trust!

My friend Colleen posted this video to her Facebook page and I watched it this morning. I had tears welling in my eyes and I cheered at the amazing canines featured in the vid. I love canines. I love them more than human animals and, if you’re a dog lover, you understand why.

I dearly wish I’d been able to afford video equipment when Mina was young and spry. That was back in the late 1990s and if you remember what a video camera looked like then, and what it cost, then you’ll understand why there are so few home movies of that era. The things were huge and the quality was pretty much crap.

mina running in water

Mina running in the water at a Denver dog park, 1999

Mina would’ve been a star in her own video production, that’s for sure! She could run like a gazelle and turn corners on two legs, I swear. She wasn’t much for playing “fetch,” though, unless you played her version which was throwing the ball far so she could chase it down, then running to her to so she could drop it in your hand and throw it again. Really, when I look back on those early morning ball sessions on empty golf courses and yards, it was Mina’s way of getting me to move my butt. Clever, so very clever, my little girl …

Watch the video, it’ll make you smile, and pay attention to the message at the end. There’s simply no excuse to buy a dog from a breeder when shelters are overflowing with wonderful canine friends.

Dogwork.com Video: More Than a Feeling

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You know what I miss? Taking you for a walk at 4:15 a.m. Well, not when the morning temps are below 75F, you certainly know how I feel about winter, but I miss being outside with you when no one else is around and it’s quiet. I thought about our walks this morning while throwing stuff in a blender for breakfast and how I’d much rather be walking around the complex with you.

I missed you on the trip to Florida, too. I wasn’t very good about stopping as often as I should, but I did hit the pet areas of a couple of rest stops. I didn’t meet any canines, though. There was a nice dog in Dad’s neighborhood that I met twice – Buster. His people told me that he’s too rambunctious when he meets other dogs and I smiled thinking about your enthusiasm when you met your canine friends. Sometimes you didn’t like the other dog for reasons I didn’t understand but respected.

2008 Pet of the Month winner and her prizes Photo: Auntie Lolo

There’s a dog at the winery now that you’d like; his name is Birch. I think he’s your kinda boy because he’s so busy chasing toys that he wouldn’t cling but he’s handsome and older and I can see you sniffing around him and maybe going outside with him to watch him chase toys. Maybe you’ve already met him?

Y’know I miss having you around to take care of me. I think that was one of the hard things about your cancer; that our roles reversed and I became the caretaker. You were too sick to worry about me and fuss over me. I guess some people might think that’s one blessing out of a terminal illness – that we became even closer (and I didn’t think that was possible) and you relied on me for absolutely everything and you didn’t have to be on guard all the time.

Some days, like this one, are hard and I wish you were here to comfort me. This whole world is a harsher, harder place without you, Mina Bean.

Tomorrow it’s 10 months without you. It seems like longer and yet I can sometimes smell you and see you so clearly in all your places. I love you, sweet girl.

When Mina died my Dad told me that, months down the road, there’d be the occasional day when I’d feel that overwhelming feeling of grief that I felt on November 9, 2009. Today is one of those days which have been, thankfully, very few.

vint hill road in summer timeToday I’m close to tears whenever I think about Mina’s sweet, furry face and her beautiful and expressive brown eyes. So this morning I decided to enjoy the heat and humidity and take a little drive. I haven’t been down Vint Hill Road since the day after Mina died because it’s the route we took to her vet’s office in Warrenton. But that’s where I decided to go today, just to see how it looked in summer and to try and feel a little closer to my girl.

mayhughes' storeThere’s was more traffic than I liked but that made me drive slower and enjoy all the farms and oddly-misplaced gigantic houses amid the charming farm houses. We passed Mayhughes’ Store, where I stopped once on a drive with Mina just to see the inside and buy a Coke (an orange one for you fellow Southerners). Mina waited for me by sticking her head out my window and trying to peer inside the store. I could see a couple of people stop to pet her on their way to their cars. It’s pretty country out that way but it’s wedged between subdivisions and a burgeoning nearby town.

I’d explain all this to Mina as we drove along, so that she’d enjoy the ride and not be worried about our destination. We visited one vet or another at least twice a week while she was in chemo last year. I wish the end of her life had been less full of vet visits and more about car rides and sunny days.

I don’t think there’ll ever be a time in my life when I don’t think of Mina while driving down a country road. Just today I heard from Carole at Chow Now Petfood, who was on her way out to Sperryville and said they’d be thinking of Mina along the way. That’s near where we first met Carole and Norm and I’m always grateful that people still remember my Mina and were so impressed by meeting her. She was somethin’ else.

I expect this sadness will pass at some point today and sunny, hot days will remind me of happy, sweet memories that won’t make me cry. But for today, all I want in this life is to wrap my arms around Mina’s neck and kiss her face.

s.

Mina in 2008

So here I am at the eighth month mark since Mina died and went to heaven. It seems like forever since I last kissed my sweet, furry girl’s face or rubbed her belly, and it seems like just yesterday that we were together. It’s all very odd. My friend Colleen, who lost her dear Tosca back in January, says we’re living without context. I think that’s accurate.

 

I do things and I talk to people but I spend so much time by myself since Mina left. There are pleasant distractions and some fairly awful distractions, but it all boils down to lots of hours spent in my own company. When Mina was with me she’d keep me honest by reminding me that she needed several walks every day and nudging my leg with her nose when I’d spent too much time on the computer. I always knew she was there even if I couldn’t see her or didn’t know where she was napping.

I did try to get out and walk around the property for a couple of months after Mina died, but it was a sad attempt to stay in touch with the people and canines we knew. Most avoided me because, I’m told, they didn’t know what to say to me, they didn’t want to face the truth that some day they’d be me. I called myself the “grief leper.”

So, this morning when we got to work at 7 a.m. I was suddenly reminded of last summer when Mina was in chemo and how I’d pick up Auntie Sue at the train station and she and I and Mina would drive in together. These were the late afternoon chemo days, so we had plenty of time to drive to and from the District. Mina would get to come inside and trot around the office and visit all the early arrivals. Some of my colleagues would come in especially early if they knew Mina was going to visit, just so they could meet her.

Mina at work, outside Auntie Sharon's office, August 2009

One of my colleagues had the most remarkable reaction to meeting Mina for the first time. She’d grown up without pets but learned to love the animals at the zoo and asked me every day about Mina’s condition. When Mina walked into her office for the first time, this lady grabbed Mina’s face in her hands and gave her a big smooch! To say I was surprised is an understatement. Another colleague who greeted Mina every time she visited the office was reminded of her visits when Auntie Sue’s Christmas jingle bell pin would ring in the hallways. He said it sounded like Mina’s tags jingling when she came to visit him.

 

Mina made a lasting impression on the people she met. Our neighbor had to take Turk, Mina’s buddy, to PWEVC a few weeks ago. There, she met Dr. Smith and told him that she and Turk were Mina’s friends. Dr. Smith told her that Mina was very special to him and that “Miss Bottner is the best dog mom I’ve ever met.”

And that, my friends, is how I want to be remembered.

Mina Bean, Mina Bean, prettiest girl I’ve ever seen …

People would often comment on Mina’s ears whenever we were out walking or visiting. I’ll admit, the first time she had them groomed to remove all the long hair hanging off them, I was shocked. The groomer apologized for making Mina look like the Flying Nun.

Here’s her first puppy groom with the long hair on her ears

and here’s how she looked without the long hair on her ears.

Insanely cute, aren’t they?

We moved to Herndon, Virginia in 2004 and suffered a series of unfortunate accidents. First, the plumbing in the bathroom of our apartment died and we had to move out for a weekend while workers jackhammered the floor, put in new pipes, then put it all back together. Mina developed one of her ear infections around that time, and I put in some nice herbal drops and sorta forgot about it while dealing with finding a place to stay and harassing management to get the repairs made promptly.

I should’ve taken Mina to the vet because the ear infection got crazy and she ended up with a gigantic, swollen ear full of blood – a hematoma. Mina had to suffer having the blood drained off her ear, which was done in the lab where I couldn’t watch, then having a plastic drain tube shoved into her ear cartilege. I can’t even imagine how that hurt, but her vet said she didn’t utter a sound.

Always the stoic, my baby. She had that tube in for three weeks and every time she shook her head, blood splattered all over the place. I was sitting on the edge of the bed one morning, putting on socks, when I noticed the blood splatter on the wall. I had to call in and say: “I’m going to be late because I have to clean the blood off the bedroom wall.” You wait your whole life for an excuse like that, doncha?

The tube was removed three weeks later, and Mina did squeal in pain when that happened, she healed up fine and I kept a vigilant watch on her ears for the rest of her life. Her vet said the cartilege in her ear was damaged and her ear would flop over. That didn’t happen for a couple of weeks so I thought she’d be OK but, alas, her ear flopped down and was never perky again.

Mina got older, as we all do, and her muscle control got weaker, as happens to human animals, and her ears were no longer as perky. That didn’t stop people from commenting on them from time to time, and telling me that she looked like a puppy. She did have a youthful face, right up until the cancer and chemo aged her considerably.

Last night I was thinking about my baby Mina, and remembering how she loved to have her ears scratched and how I loved to kiss the side of her face. I miss her, all the time.

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.

It’s funny and really nice when some memory of Mina will pop into my head. The other day as I was getting into my car to go to work, a neighbor I haven’t seen in a while came by with his big yellow Lab, Chance. I’m not exactly sure but I think the very last time I saw Chance and his human was the day Mina died.

I was wandering around the property and carrying Mina’s squeaky Vermont man toy when I saw Chance and his human approaching. Sure enough, the first word’s out of the man’s mouth were: “How’s Mina doing?” I’m pretty sure I was already crying but he was shocked when I told him that Mina died that morning.

When I saw them the other day it was better, he asked how I’m “holding up” and I told him that I’m OK most days. Chance was busy sniffing around the grass, as Mina would’ve been doing, and I petted him a bit.

Max and Mina


Chance was one of Mina’s favorites. She liked boys and she didn’t seem to have an age preference. Her very best boyfriend was Peanut, who was only six years old last we saw him; and Turk, who lives downstairs and must be 14 years old by now, then there was Max who was just a couple of years old, and Chance who’s at least Mina’s age, 13 years old.

mina and chance

Mina and Chance during Mina's chemo


Chance and Mina would walk together for a bit, sniff the grass and each other, until Mina would smell or see something else and pull me away. Chance liked to give Mina kisses on her face and she didn’t seem to mind.

Mina loved the company of her fellow canines, she just didn’t like them in her house.

Oh yeah, she was a territorial one, my Mina. She was free to barge into any other canine’s home as if she owned the place, but no one had better step foot in her territory! I brought Peanut upstairs one day after running into him and his mom while taking out the trash and Mina barked until he backed out the door! That’s my girl – double standards all the way.

Whenever we went downstairs to visit Turk and his mom, Mina would walk in like she owned the place and head straight for Turk’s food dish. She’d have had a hissy fit if some dog had done that in HER house but she felt quite entitled to do it to other dogs.

I’ll bet that Mina has a lot of boyfriends in heaven. She’s a looker and she has a bright, fun personality. It was rare to meet anyone, human or canine, who didn’t like Mina right away. If they didn’t, then I knew there was something deeply wrong and so did Mina. I miss her protectiveness very much because I didn’t realize how much I relied on her senses to keep me from harm.

Love you always, baby Mina