Hey there, girlie girl! It’s coming up on five months since I last kissed your face and held you in my arms. I’ve been trying to keep myself busy but with the insane tree pollen season it seems I’m home a lot. We have such sunny days right now that whenever I look at the living room windows I see your nose prints there at the bottom, and a couple further up, too. The scratches you made with your nails mark the windowsill and I can almost see you standing on the sill, huffing at something below that just wasn’t quite bark-worthy.

I spent Easter Sunday at the winery with a friend and kept thinking “This place needs more Mina.” It never is the same there without you, greeting all the other dogs, walking around the grounds as you madly sniff everything possible, and giving you the forbidden Milk Bones from the jar on the tasting bar.

It might be time to unlock the bedroom doors again. I’ve hated doing that in the months since you’ve been gone – it makes me feel like I’m locking you out. I know you can go wherever you damn well please, so I hope you haven’t been offended by the change. But it’s warmer now and being locked in the room feels suffocating and just odd. I miss hearing your collar tags jingle from the living room where you preferred to sleep in those last couple of years. I miss the sound of you lapping water from your bowl, and I miss getting up to check on you whenever I heard an odd sound.

I miss you, sweetie. I always will.

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Hey sweetie girl,

I missed you on the latest road trip to Florida to visit Dad. It was a mess from start to finish, really. Without you along to keep me honest I over-packed, forgot stuff, and drove for too many hours at a time. I stopped at only one rest stop the whole time and found myself following the signs to the pet area. It made me so sad not to be able to take you for a walk that I cried for quite a while.

Do you remember that giant peach on I-85 in South Carolina? I remember telling you about it the first time we ever drove by it on our way to Atlanta. Then there was the time you had to suddenly go potty and I pulled over not far from it so you could use the roadside grass. I so missed reaching my right arm behind me to pat your paws and feel you lean your head towards my hand so I could scratch your ears. I love our little non-verbal communication and I miss you dearly.

While staying with Missy and Heather I got to see your scrapbook. It’s beautiful. It’s so beautiful that I started crying on the first page and I’m crying now thinking about it and you. Missy has a few more photos to add and your collars need to be worked in, but I’m sure it’ll be with me in a couple of weeks. I can’t wait to show it to your Auntie Sue and everyone. I’ll be able to write our memories in it, too, because Missy very cleverly made it a journal sort of scrapbook.

It’s another reminder of you and our lives together, something that doesn’t include the damn cancer. There are still reminders of you all over our home. I haven’t moved anything since you left me. Maybe I’ll never put any of your things away, I don’t know. Your bowls are where you left them in the kitchen, your leash and harness still hang on the entry door knob, your towel still hangs on the closet door knob, your toys are under the coffee table, your bed is still in the corner by the living room window, and I still find your hairs around.

When I had my car washed in New Port Richey I asked them not to touch the back seat. I got a funny look but it didn’t matter. Your seat cover is still on the back seat and there are still some crumbs on it from the last time you ate a cookie back there on November 5, 2009. I always gave you a cookie or two for the ride home from Dr. Cliver’s office, where we’d been that day. I dunno if that’s crazy or very Miss Havisham, but I don’t honestly care. I am still not accustomed to your absence. I still look for you, expect to see you, and I listen for you. I miss you.

So now you’ve been gone eight weeks, if you count the Mondays, or it’ll be officially two months on January 9. I don’t have a new paper calendar in my office to look at, and maybe that’s just as well? I don’t know. I still feel lost without you, unsure of how to proceed, looking for every distraction I can that doesn’t hurt, you know? I still can’t participate in much activism, except for going to the sanctuary when I can, and I hope that’s not permanent. But I can’t really read the constant flow of e-mail messages to my inbox of the suffering and torture and death of domestic non-human animals and wildlife because … my head is filled with missing you.

It’s kind of like all the good got sucked out of my life when you died. You were the best part of me, the really good part, and I have to recreate that somehow without you. I haven’t figured it out yet. But it’s there in my head, just around the edges I think.

That’s where I am right now, honey bear. I need to tell you that you’ve helped raise $3,050 for the animals at Poplar Spring. I’m so proud, so very proud, of that effort and I know it’s your beauty and kindness that prompted so many people to donate.

You are the sweetest part of my whole life

Dear Mina,

It’s Christmas Day, baby, a day that we used to spend quietly together, taking our walks and watching our movies and just being ourselves. Together.

We didn’t need presents, did we? Just some snacks to share, some special treats for you, and belly rubs and cuddling. Your love and devotion are the best presents I could ever wish for and I’m so lucky to have them. I know that you love me, right now, and I know that you’re checking on me even though my grief is too heavy for me to feel you near.

What do I miss the most about being with you? It’s not all the adventures, the trips to wineries, the rides out to the countryside, driving over mountains and across rivers, or the road trips. What I miss the most is our deep, profound level of familiarity, that sense of you wherever I was in the apartment, the sound of your breathing or your barking at people and canines passing by, the ordinary things of our lives together.

Just knowing that you were here made me happier than anything else in the world.

Things that seemed ordinary now seem incredibly precious to me: Watching you sleep on the couch or curled up by the living room window, hearing you drink from your water bowl and then stepping in the pools of water you left on the floor, marveling at your natural ability to live in the moment and how you tried to get me to live in those moments with you. Simple, sweet, daily life …

Yes, honey girl, I still cry every day because I miss you so much it hurts. How you can be gone is still hard for me to accept when you were always so here.

Is it Christmas in heaven, too? I know you’ll be with the people I love and all your new friends and I hope you get lots of your favorite treats and I hope you have some snow. Watching you hop through snow drifts and use your muzzle to dig through piles of snow brought me such joy. Your joyful heart was evident in everything you did.

I love you so much, baby girl. I’ve never loved anyone more. I miss you every minute of every day and I look forward to the day when we’re together again.

All my love forever

It’s two weeks today since our last full day together. I wake up every morning thinking about you and hoping, hoping to see you when I walk out into the living room.

We had a glorious last day together, didn’t we? I was thrilled to see you standing at the window, ready to take a walk in the sunshine and cool morning air. It was a typical walk, except for its length. You surprised me by walking all the way to the front of the property and all the way around, sniffing everything along the way and looking up at me from time to time.

I love that look when we’re walking. You’re checking on me, making sure I’m OK if I’m too quiet. The love in your eyes always prompts me to bend down and kiss your head.

You’re in heaven, I know that, and you’re happy and safe and warm and well fed and you have friends – no doubt you’ve made a lot of friends – and loved. Do you know how much I love you? I worry about that a lot. One can make a lot of stupid mistakes in 13 years and I made a lot with you. I left you behind on a couple of vacations and overnight trips and sometimes I didn’t get home very early. I’m so sorry for every time I ever hurt your feelings – I didn’t mean it. Please know, Mina baby, that I love you more than anyone ever and I tried to show it every day. You are my one true love and you will always be …

I went to the sanctuary yesterday for the first time in a month and I cried as soon as I turned up the long drive. I remembered talking to you on the warm August day and telling you about all the wonderful animals you’d see and the nice people you’d meet. It makes me smile to think of you walking away from the tame geese who were so curious about you, and how you barked at the cows as they all walked up to the fence to get a look at you. I didn’t stay for the entire event because I was missing you and wanted to come home to you.

Whenever I’m away I still have this urge to get home to you. Wherever I am this feeling that I have to get home is always there. You were always, always my first priority, even when I screwed up.

Thank you, thank you my dearest love, for taking such good care of me for your entire life. You licked away my tears, you acted the fool to get me to cheer up, you laid by my side whenever I was sick, and you never once let me down in any way. Not even when you ate something off the ground that made you sick!

I miss you, Mina Bean. I miss you more than I ever thought possible. I know that time will pass and I’ll go on with this life in some fashion. And I know that some day I’ll die, too, and we’ll be together forever. Don’t worry about me, sweetie, I’ll figure this out.

You are in my heart and you will always be in my heart, baby girl.

All my love …

This letter also appears on the Web site “Letters to Pushkin,” a place for those grieving their loved ones to post letters. Thanks to Deb for guiding me to the site.