When Claudia was in the parking lot at Proviso Math & Science Academy (PMSA) in 2016, she saw a pit bull shivering in the bushes. She welcomed the pup into her arms and took her home. With a household of dogs already, she took the lost girl to the Animal Care League, but first invited Ned to meet her.

It didn’t take much effort to convince the kids that we needed to have another dog — I, on the other hand, needed a push. We adopted Mini, whose name, chosen by Logan, is ironic as she was neither small in stature nor in spirit, and would become our household’s best friend and protector.

She ate the crown molding, tore the curtains and was ruthless on the leash. She ran out of our yard the second night we had her and was found by a neighbor and returned to the Animal Care League where we picked her up for the second time, and she never left again.

Mini is my shadow. She walks with me to every room, lays next to me — or on me, giving me her full 75 pounds of innocent joy and love. She has big, brown, innocent eyes, that follow my every move, no matter what I am doing, waiting for my return glance. She is always there, near me, my companion.

Her friends, the squirrels, dart in and out of our yard, to their delight, as Mini chases them with her lively bounding attack. The robins are allowed to find worms and the finches are safe as they flutter in and out of the yard. She keeps striking out on befriending visiting skunks, which always ends with a sulking, defeated trip to the tub, but she will not give up.

In the morning, she lurches to Pepper who is trying to break the window when Mini passes, and when we see Chala on the horizon, we know to create space for the two to bark and fiercely love one another from a distance, which only a strong leach can keep at bay. 

 She takes up as much space as she can, all the time, and has taken a huge space in my heart. She delights in stepping on seedlings, scratching climbing clematis until they uproot, sitting on freshly planted flowers, trampling growing plants and while doing so, will look at me, knowingly, lovingly, with her big brown eyes waiting for my reply. She predicts my path and stops to block me, and delights in the moment of attention. If I am talking to someone, she will sit on my feet or the person I am talking to, to assure everyone that she is present too. 

She will sit with Henry and Logan, too, watching their every move, will demand to be walked, will bark until someone wakes up or gives a scratch to demand a scrap of food. 

She always makes sure she is the center of attention, the boss. 

Mini will sit outside of any random neighbor’s car, hoping they will suddenly appear to give her a ride. Once a car door is opened, she leaps in, and refuses to leave, demanding a trip to stick her head out the window to catch air in her mouth. When her old, frail cousin Camille moved in, she opened her heart and made space for her, although she always kept score to ensure she was still the star of the house. She delighted in Camille’s strict diet of grain-free food and learned to wait for us to be distracted before she could scoop defenseless Camille’s food. 

Her fierce, yet tender nature has been a blessing in my life, and saying farewell (which is imminent) is the price for so many hard-earned heartfelt memories. She will always be pushing my heart, forcing her way in, in no miniature way, as she always has.