When Mina was a youngster, and even before she moved out of our bedroom in 2007, we had a play routine in the mornings. Depending on where we lived and how early I had to get up for work, we started the day with Mina licking my nose to make sure I was awake. Then she’d stick her butt up in a classic canine play bow, and start rooting around in the covers. She was looking for my hands.

Mina thought it was big fun to bite at my hands when they were protected by bed covers or gloves or a stuffed toy puppet. I’d move my hands around and grab at her paws and she’d bite as hard as she dared. Mina jumped up and all over the bed trying to catch one of my hands and squeeze it in her strong jaws. I laughed and I could tell she was laughing, too.

This game almost always ended when Mina would manage to get her teeth between the small bones of my hand – Ouch! I always re-assured her that she’d done nothing wrong, then we’d head outside for our morning walk.

On weekends this game lasted longer and moved into the living room where her favorite squeaky toys got involved. The game was for me to be on my hands and knees and attempt to chase her and get the toy. Most of the time I had to “romance” it out of her mouth. That meant keeping one hand near the toy and using the other to scratch behind her ears and around her back. Mina would soon become distracted and slacken her jaw and that’s when I grabbed the toy and ran! I love remembering how she’d bounce around the house after me and growl when she finally got her toy back.

2006, during tropical storm Ernesto, we played to fight off the boredom

Breakfast was always a treat, well, for Mina it was a treat. She’d eat her food and then come to find me for her “right to the last bite.” That was a rigid rule in our lives and Mina enforced it daily. No matter what I ate, Mina got the last bite of everything but especially pizza crusts – she got all of those.

Mina still comes around to see me. When I got home yesterday after the MRI, there was a strong smell of her in our home. Later that afternoon I had a very strong ringing in my ears. It could’ve been some after-effect from the incredibly loud MRI, but since I’d just been outside and petting Mina’s friend Hanna, I wondered if my girl was registering her jealousy?

You’re my best friend, girlie girl, and I miss you every minute of every day

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Mina died three months ago today.

I’ve sat and stared at that sentence for some time now, trying to figure out how to express the passage of that time. It feels like forever, yet it feels like yesterday. I still imagine myself wrapping my arms around her neck and kissing her face, laying next to her on the floor and rubbing her tummy, and feeling her warm tongue licking the tip of my nose. Those imaginings and memories bring tears to my eyes because it hurts so much to be here alone without my Bean.

Everyone knows by now that the National Capital Area is in snowstorm hell. We’ve had three major snowstorms since December 18, and the fourth is coming along right now. I haven’t gone to work in my office since last Thursday, and it could be Friday or Tuesday before I’m able to drive in again. All of this has created a mountain of anxiety on top of my grief over losing Mina and a feeling isolation from the active world. We’re just here, getting by, hoping the power stays one, praying this next storm just grazes us …

All of this could be alleviated for me if Mina were still here with me. I have no joy during winter, I hate being cold (any temperature below 75F is officially cold), but Mina loved it so much that I could tolerate it. I miss the way she gently guided me over icy patches on our walks, stopping and looking up to make sure I was OK; I miss her snow-covered nose and using my bare hands to melt the snow off her paws.

Mina was my reason for getting out of bed on weekends, on bad weather days, when I was sick, when I hadn’t slept well. Her need to be outside, her joy in sniffing absolutely everything, the happy way she greeted the humans and canines she loved was enough to make it all worthwhile.

Mina's happy face, 1997

Now when faced with weekends, holiday weekends, snow days, and just about every Monday since Mina died, I find little reason to get outta bed. I do it because I need to earn a living and, honestly, I like my job; but it’s not easy to find motivation to live a life that’s little more than a shell of what it once was, to find any joy in getting through another day.

What I really want to do today, instead of working from home by myself and waiting for the next foot of fucking snow to fall, is to walk with Mina in a green, sunlit park and watch her long tail curled high and swaying with her bouncy steps. I want to see her face turn towards me and I want to lean down and kiss her nose and tell her what a very good girl she is as we bounce along together.

Mina offleash in a small park, 2005

I think eternity will be filled with Mina and I taking walks together.

s.

Whelp, that went much better than I imagined. My faith in Dr. B. is restored. My confidence in Mina is unchallenged – she is tough, much tougher than the chemotherapy and all the things that go along with it.

The VIMP budgies but one ...

The VIMP budgies but one ...

Here’re the highlights from the discharge report:

  • Physical exam: bright, alert, stable weight, tiny popliteal lymph nodes, no other nodes palpable.
  • Weight stable at 48.3 pounds
  • CBC: normal WBC count (11,400), normal HCT (39 percent – not anemic), normal platelets – adequate for chemotherapy
  • Brief Abdominal Ultrasound: Spleen appears normal size and texture with no masses, nodules, or mottled pattern. There are some slender mesenteric lymph nodes visible but not enlarged or irregular. Small intenstinal tract measures normally with no focal GI masses or obstructions. Stomach wall measures normally and is contracting well. No gastric masses or polyps seen. Colon measures normally.
  • Vincristine was administered in the right cephalic vein today (0.37 mg IV).

Here are Dr. B’s notes about Mina’s gastro-intestinal issues:
Intermittent gastrointestinal upset (vomiting, diarrhea) – cause open. Possibilities include chemotherapy side effect, inflammatory bowel syndrome, diet related, stress, other. Dr. Birnbaum does not feel tht GI lymphoma is likely due to lack of severe GI signs and normal appearance of intestinal tract on utrasound. Cannot completely rule out microscopic cancer in the GI tract without a biopsy, however.

That said, Dr. B does not feel that a biopsy is necessary. I consider that last sentence the standard medical disclaimer.

On the diet related front, it’s possible that changing what Mina eats all the time causes her stomach a little trouble. This week, she’s eating a little chicken and is totally enamored of Yves Tofu Dogs. I have to come up with something else that’s yummy for her. Any ideas out there?

Allyson did apologize for the confusion and distress caused by Team Grim Reaper’s “different style.” They were wrong, plain and simple. She reiterated that Dr. B and her team know Mina because they’ve been treating her for four months now and they’re more familiar with her reactions to drugs, etc. I wonder if they rather resent the trouble caused by one poorly written, arrogant, and rude e-mail message?

Anyway, it’s a good report and Dr. B. is very pleased with Mina’s progress. Now to get through Vincristine week without any major problems!

s.

Mina is frisky! She’s walking with a little bounce in her step, head held high, barking saucily at anyone she pleases, having a good time. She’s just her normal, old self on non-Prednisone days, and it’s wonderful to see her enjoying life again.

Mina on vacation at Grandpa's in October 2007

Mina on vacation at Grandpa's in October 2007

However, we have chemo tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. at VIMP. It’s the Vincristine, again. Remember that experience? This time if it makes her violently ill we’ll know it’s definitely the drug, not the cancer. I have no doubt in my mind that the Vincristine made her sick the last time she had it, but her cancer vets seem to have a few doubts. They should learn to trust me because I know Mina as well as I know myself.

We also get to meet Carole from Chow Now Petfood sometime tomorrow to pick up more lamb Chow Now. She is so understanding about my ethics, because she does share them, and told me that the lambs are never slaughtered before they’re a year old and they spend that year living peacefully. OK, so that doesn’t really work for me because they’re too young to die so Carole told me that the lambs they buy for Chow Now are spared going to auction where they’d not get much, if any, humane treatment. Colleen reminded me the other day that I can’t hold it against Mina and the other canines of the world because they’re carnivores.

My goal this week is to keep her on the Chow Now and Metoclopramide to try and prevent the raging vomiting. I know it will bring her down physically, but I hope it doesn’t last more than three or four days. We’ll see.

s.