Thursday, November 26, 2009

my mina

My Mina. Sometimes referred to as MinaMina or MinaBeena. She was equally fond of them all.

Recently the vet told us we had about a month or two with her before her heart gave out. As it turns out, we only had a few days. She died in my parents' arms this morning on her own time and in her own way.

It was so funny to watch the white fur slowly creep out from where it should be to envelop her whole head over the years.

Doing what she did best and loved the most - sleeping in the sun at someone's feet.

Mina in her younger days looking sweet.

This is the face of pure puppy joy.

In honour of the passing of "one of the greats" here is the story of Mina, the canine matriarch of my family.

In 1997, a friend of the family had a litter of Great Pyrenese cross puppies and my Mom and I went out to her farm to see the litter to maybe pick out one (at home we still had our elderly Bichon Frise). Well, we ended up coming home with two: Willow a precocious puppy with some of the most beautiful markings we'd ever seen, and Mina, this teeny black puppy with a white blaze and one blue eye and one brown eye that was so sweet and demure and wouldn't leave my Mom's side. My mom's mother had recently passed away at that time and we joked that maybe Mina was Jean reincarnated because she was so sweet to my mom.

These pics were taken the day we picked them out.

Willow turned out to be one of the smartest dogs I've ever known and therefore was also the puppy who got into the most trouble. Mina on the other hand, when Willow would inevitably do something wrong, she was the one who would come running to one of us as if proclaiming "Willow's doing something bad!! Not me though! I'm the good one!! I swear!" If Willow escaped from the backyard, we'd find Mina patiently sitting in the yard, ears down and tail wagging, even though she could have easily followed her sister. Mina -- the perpetual "good student." At age 5, Willow got suddenly very sick and passed away and Mina, after grieving her sister for weeks (she stopped eating and looked for Willow relentlessly) ramped up her characteristic sweetness and stayed that way her whole life, becoming the world's best family dog.

Mina and Willow -- never more than a few inches apart at all times.

You know how you can look at some dog's eyes and see the wheels turning in their heads? Or see that they're looking over your shoulder in case there might be a chipmunk? When Mina looked at you, you could literally see hearts flying out her eyes right at you. To say she just fully and completely loved her human family is likely the understatement of the century. And to say Mina was loved only like your standard family pet could very well be the biggest lie. Mina was as much a part of our family for the last 13 years as any of us. She came on many of our family vacations, she routinely made the rounds for sleepovers at my place and my brother's place and was a dog that took her role as loyal pet to a whole other level. She was mostly uninterested in toys, choosing instead to focus her attention on whoever was sharing the room with her - who could pet her, whose chest could she bury her head in, who might let her up on the couch next to them to snuggle, who could she follow up to bed, who could she tempt to join her on the floor for giant floor snuggles -- all things more appealing to her than any toy. She was definitely on sweetness patrol 100% of the time.

With Mina there were a few things guaranteed -- If you let her bury her head in your chest you would get knocked over at some point. If you sat her up on her haunches and put her feet on your shoulders, you were committing yourself to a good 10 minutes of Mina-rib-rubbing. If you were visiting my parents' house and you stuck your fingers through the mailslot in their front door, you would be greeted with a cold doggy nose and licked fingertips every time. That is likely the thing I will miss the most about Mina.

The puppies' favourite way to sleep - sprawled and taking up every inch of space.

For me, it turns out Mina became my cure for loneliness. A number of years ago I attempted a huge life change that ended disastrously and I ended up living back with my parents. On many occasions, in a moment of extreme self-wallowing, I'd look up to see Mina's face peering into my room from the other side of the glass door. I'd never hear her come down the stairs, she'd never bark at the door or scratch-- she'd just sit there, silently waiting for me to notice her and to let her in. About 5 years ago, Marc had to move to another city for work and I was living completely alone, without roommates, for the first time in my life. During that year he was gone, I stole Mina countless times to come and keep me company in my big empty apartment -- she'd cuddle with me on the couch and take up Marc's entire side of the bed, content to stay in bed in the morning until whenever you decided to get up. More recently, quite soon after Bailey passed away, Marc had to go out of town for work and I was still at that stage where the house felt too empty without Bailey and I hated being alone in the house and was having a hard time sleeping without the sound of a dog on the floor next to me. Enter Mina to spend the weekend with me so I wouldn't have to be alone. And it seemed during these times that she knew some extra cuddling was needed as she always just a little bit cuddlier than normal.

This affection was not one-sided though -- Mina should've thanked her lucky stars everyday she ended up with our family, especially considering many of her littermates ended up as sled dogs up in James Bay. Mina never went without any and all creature comforts. She slept on the bed, cuddled on the couch, had seats removed from the van so that she could have more room and be more comfortable, was covered in blankets at the first sign of chilly feet, got carpet pads on the hardwood stairs when they started to get too slippery for her old feet, got walked to the lake for a swim almost every day of her life, ate many a tablescrap, special trips were made to the store to get the kinds of biscuits she liked and we drove 15 minutes out of town to buy her the best dog food we could, on long car trips she travelled atop a mini-mattress of folded up quilts and pillows and most recently, all 80 pounds of her were carried up and down the stairs by my parents when she became too weak to do it herself.

Mina was the doggy matriarch of our family in every way - making sure we were all where we needed to be and that we were all happy, playing the role of a big furry pillow to all 4 of my nieces as they grew up around her.

Mina, forever tolerable of babies stepping on her toes and grabbing her head.

She played the role of ultra-cool older sister to Sadie's annoying kid sister routine (and despite being generally wary of Sadie's puppy exuberance still managed to teach her some things along the way - like how to take her food, kernel by kernel, out into the living room to eat it and how peeing in the lake is always better than peeing on the grass). And with Bailey, well watching the two of them together was not unlike watching an old married couple - sighing whenever one of them got to the sunspot first, shoving for the best spot at the food dish, gathering together to take their combined pharmacy of vitamins and medications and basically grumbling if one of them got too close to the other one and yet at the same time, they seemed to have this "old dog" bond that either one never had with any other dog. Hopefully they are together now, complaining about their collective aches and pains.

This is how Sadie spent most of her time around Mina. Just WAITING for any sign that maybe, just maybe, Mina wanted to play with her...

She was even one of my "doggy bridesmaids" at our wedding.

It was hard to look prettier than Mina that day.

I think we were all a little better taken care of and a lot more loved because we were lucky enough to pick Mina out of that litter that sunny day.

To say she will be missed doesn't seem like enough. It is more like our family will be forever missing one of its own.

So Mina, hope you find that trouble-making sister of yours up wherever you are, find your old-man boyfriend Bailey and our first puppy Taffy and you all just sit tight until we join you. Sadie will try and take care of the family for you...

Mina doing what she always did and probably is still doing, watching over us all.


richat said...

Geez Louise Tara. DAMN that was a wonderful read.

Michelle said...

What a wonderful tribute Tara, really beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Well, way to make a girl cry! That was beautiful! And that's how I remember Mina - in the very first picture you posted. They were so sweet, Willow and Mina. They were lucky, lucky girls! xoxo


Harriet said...

Ohhh man...I am crying. Beautifully recorded, Tara. :-)

Kristine said...

What a lovely tribute to a wonderful sounding dog. Sounds like she had a wonderful family and a great doggie life.

Tassie said...

what a beautiful story of a beautiful member of your family. It's never easy to say goodbye to our best friends - thanks for sharing the words & photos

Danielle (tweeter from Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre)