Mina awakens me with a unique maneuver. She places her warm nine-pound body just so that I cannot move my neck or head without a look straight into her eyes. Her behind is in the air. The tail commences wagging. Mina wants to know what our plans for the day are. She is brown. Mina has floppy little ears and curly tail. Her name was Brandy when she came to the Orange County animal shelter. She was stiff as a board and had been living in a car for some time with her family, who could not afford to keep her anymore. I hated this dog.

Brandy lived in the director's office once she came around a little and snarled at everyone who passed by, or even tried to bite their ankles. I agreed to take her home for a weekend because I am crazy.

But the morning after that first night in my apartment, Brandy appeared from under my bed, wagged her tail for approximately 2 seconds, and disappeared again. And I began, immediately, to love her. I changed her name and bought her sweaters.

Once she ate her weight in taco meat. Once she bounded up onto a friend's kitchen counter to consume seven chocolate cupcakes (with wrappers). She chases cats that are bigger than her.

Mina has a definite plan. It is refreshed every morning when we both wake up. Mina is charged and ready for the day. Her day consists of finding anything edible within her reach, as quickly and efficiently as she can. Her day consists of absolute adoration for the people she has let into her heart. Her day consists of, sometimes, letting someone new in.

She still likes to bark at newcomers, or neighbors who dare to walk anywhere near our house. I have another dog, too. A regular-sized dog who does normal dog things like chew bones and jump up in excitement when she meets new friends. Mina plays with her, but it always a very serious endeavor. They run around the house at top speed, trying to get various toys from eachother. Mina bites my normal dog's ankles. She always wins.