Hey baby girl,

Mina lounging at Dad's, 2007

I’m getting ready for another road trip down home to Florida soon and can’t stop thinking about you. I cleaned up the car some and fixed your seat cover so it stays in place, just in case you feel like riding along. You’re such a good companion on road trips and I miss you every time I get in the car. I miss packing up all your toys and bowls and stand and your food and treats. I miss walking you around rest stops in various states. I miss taking you for walks in Dad’s neighborhood so you can sniff all the new smells while avoiding sand spurs and the occasional snake.

 

I was braver when you were here; I had to be to protect you from any harm.

So, tonight I’m getting out the ginormous suitcase to start packing. I never used to get it out so early when you were with me all the time; I know it upset you because you worried I might leave and not take you along. I’m sorry that you ever felt that way, sweetie girl. We didn’t spend that much time apart and I always kept my promise to come home to you. The rest stops aren’t the same without you, Mina Bean.

Auntie Kestrel told me the other day that she had a flash of Tosca and she was in a natural environment. That’s how I think of you, too. I see you running in huge green fields with other dogs and playing until you fall asleep under a tree or in a soft bed. I also see you eating a lot of pizza. Some day I’ll run with you and we’ll eat pizza together.

But for now I’m off to Grandpa’s house without you – again. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to making this trip alone. My plan is to stop more often this time, like we used to do, and to pet any canines I meet at the rest stops. Sort of a way of remembering our many trips together, I guess.

I love you, punkin head.

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2004-05, my happy girl with her "summer shave"

It’s impossible not to think of the last time I saw Mina when this day comes around. I always cry, I always berate myself for not being a better companion to her, for not saving her from the cancer. Then I look at her pictures and see her beautiful brown eyes and playful expressions and realize that Mina holds no grudges against me; she never did.

I still run into people who want to know when I’m going to adopt again. When I tell them I will never adopt another canine, they don’t seem to believe me. The difference is that now I don’t find that as frustrating as I once did. It’s their problem, not mine. I’m comfortable with my decision even if I’m still not comfortable living all by myself without Mina.

So, I was thinking about her a lot yesterday as I drove down to our vet’s office for the first time since the day after she died. I went to deliver some fliers for an event I’m planning and looked forward to seeing her vets. But, they weren’t there and the staff on hand didn’t know me so I dropped off my fliers and left. It didn’t make me sad to walk in there, it made me kinda glad that Mina never has to go to the vet again. I’m pretty sure heaven is full of veterinarians but I’m also sure they’re out of business.

Y’know what the genius is of canines? Their ability to live so companionably with humans. No other species has had much success living with us because we mostly kill and eat them or destroy their habitats so that they become extinct, but canines have figured it out. Mina’s genius was learning how to live with me, something no human has ever mastered. She took care of me for years and years and when it was my turn to take care of her, she made the transition easily while I struggled with learning to take care of a cancer patient. Mina is brilliant.

In a couple of weeks I’m driving down home again to visit my Dad. I hope Mina will ride along with me because this will be a much better trip than the one in December. I’m gonna stop at rest areas and greet any dogs who are stopping with their people because that’s what Mina would do, and I’m going to remember the feeling of her head on my shoulder as she catches the breeze from my open window …

s.

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.