An Ode To Bota

 

Yesterday we had to say goodbye to our amazing dog of nearly 14 years, Bota. More than a pet, she was a treasured member of our family. And while we’re still grieving this loss, I want to remember her. I want to remember the friend that she was and the unquestioning love that she gave us; the shenanigans she got into and the lessons she taught us. Bota lived a life full of the best qualities: love, adventure, loyalty, and undying patience.

Jon and I got Bota in 2006 when we were still newlyweds and she was still a tiny puppy. Actually, that’s not quite right. Jon got Bota for me so I would quit pestering him for a human baby. And it worked.

On Christmas morning in 2006 I unwrapped my gift from Jon: an adorable red dog collar no bigger around than my forearm, and instructions to a location that would hold the rest of the gift. He had scouted out the perfect puppy farm for my Christmas gift–a literal Christmas tree farm (with a side hustle of Border Collie breeding) out in the countryside.

The next morning we drove out to the Christmas Tree farm where 4-month old Bota was still living with her doggy mama, Kate, her doggy daddy, Bo, and one brother from her litter. This little pack of Border Collies had free reign of the farm, and I’m certain this is where Bota’s adventurous spirit was born.

During that first year of Bota’s life she did an excellent job of training her humans (her humans, on the other hand, were pretty clueless and easily frustrated by the human-training tactics employed by their puppy). Since Jon and I were both working, we had to come up with a plan for Bota during the day while we were away.

At first we tried keeping her in a crate, but that was just sad. Then we tried letting her roam around our house, and she managed to open the pantry door and eat through all of the food and beverage containers–including a fresh 12-pack of almond milk–that were at puppy snout level. Then we tried keeping her in our garage, whereupon she decided to chew off all of the drywall at puppy snout level. Next, we tried putting her in our backyard…whereupon she chewed through all of our deck rails at puppy snout level. We even tried coming home from work in the middle of the day and walking her across the street to our little neighborhood park, whereupon she would round up all of the stray children and herd them into a squealing clump in the middle of the field. We never did find a great solution to keep our very intelligent (easily bored), very energetic (would never wear out of new ways to destroy things) puppy occupied. Thankfully for all of us, life changed course just in time.

After our first year with Bota we got news that Jon had been accepted to grad school at Stanford, so we picked up our little life and moved to California. We (me, Jon, and my parents) drove down the west coast with a little moving truck and my even-littler Jetta full of every possession we’d accumulated up to that point in our lives. It wasn’t much, but it included Bota. During The Grad School Years, Bota was an incredibly important, central part of our lives. While I was at work during the day, Bota would keep Jon company as he studied in our tiny one-bedroom apartment. We were lucky to have a little outdoor patio at our apartment.  Jon would lie on our only piece of furniture (a Futon), in the only room of our apartment, near the open front door and Bota would lie in the sun just outside the door so she could keep watch over him as he toiled away.

When I would get home from work we’d take her to the park across the street every day and throw the ball for her for hours. Literally hours. Then we’d go for a run or a hike or a walk around the block. And then we’d throw the ball some more. And then she’d chase black squirrels up the trees or across the fences. And then we’d try to make her run some more. Or we would take her to the beach and she would chase ocean waves as if they were stray sheep that needed to be herded into place. She would run up and down that beach yipping at every single wave until she would literally pass out in the sand from exhaustion. And, finally, she would calm down enough to let us sleep at night. She was our original parental sleep trainer, before we had to throw midnight nursing or diaper changes into the mix.

By the time we left Stanford I was 6 months pregnant with David, and we entered into a whole new phase of life for Bota: The Baby Guardian. When David was born Bota literally changed over night. She went from being our hyper-energetic, non-stop, go-go-go puppy to an aged sage who would lay down her life (or even just lay down for a hot minute) for this helpless human. When David was sleeping, Bota would be curled up at the foot of his crib. When David was going for a walk in the stroller, she’d be half a step ahead so she could keep an eye out on the road ahead. When David started crawling and chasing and dog-hair-pulling and in-your-ear-screeching she just took it. Like a champ. She never got defensive or retaliatory. She didn’t even run away from home (she would have been right to do so). No, she just stood by that crazy baby’s side as if he belonged to her.

Not even two years later, another baby bounced on the scene. And, again, she stood loyally by our side. Even as our time and attention shifted from the dog to the ever-demanding tiny humanoids, she never flinched. She knew she had a job and a purpose to watch over those babies, and she did it with her whole heart.

Just before Jacob’s first birthday we decided to uproot our family again–and this time, we were doing The Big Move. As we were preparing to move to Ireland we had to make some pretty big decisions in regard to Bota. Would she stay in the States or come with us? If she came with us, would it even be worth it (when we began looking into this option, dogs entering Ireland had to be quarantined for up to 6 months). In the end, the timing and the logistics worked out and we were able to bring her with us across the pond.

I am sad to report that the move to Ireland was not easy or fun for Bota…or for us. It was incredibly stressful, expensive, and not at all the sane choice to make. The cargo airline that shipped Bota across the Atlantic to us lost her in transit and Jon quite literally almost punched a helpless airline employee in the face. There was endless paperwork and vet visits and protocols that had to be followed. But Bota was part of our family, and she was worth it.

When our time in Ireland was done, we had to go through the reverse process of re-patriating Bota to American soil. This time we had the wealthiest tech company on the planet footing the dog transfer bill, though, so she got to ride in style. A courier arrived at our home in Ireland, placed her in his special dog transport truck, drove her to the Big Airport 3 hours away, settled her into her first class accommodations on the plane, and then a second courier picked her up from the American airport to drive her to my parents’ house for safe-keeping until we arrived. When the American dog transport pulled up to my parents’ house, Bota was riding in the passenger seat with a grin on her face.

During our next three years of living in California, Bota settled in to herself. She was happy to return to the California sun, and we often referred to her as our “cat-dog” for the way she would lounge in the rays. It was also during our second stint in California that Bota welcomed the third baby into our family.  By now Bota was a seasoned pro, and she resumed her spot at the foot of the bassinet–this time more to protect the squirmy pink baby from her ever-destructive big brothers than anything else.

While I was busy homeschooling and tending to the new baby around the clock, our boys discovered new ways to entertain the dog. One of our houses in California backed up to a creek full of smooth, rounded rocks. They found that Bota loved chasing the rocks into the creek when they’d throw them. What they (and we) didn’t realize, is that she also loved to catch the rocks in her mouth–mid-air–thus chipping away at her fragile old-dog teeth. 7 tooth extractions and a sizable vet bill later, we learned not to throw rocks for dogs.

Three years ago today, we moved back to Washington state. We said goodbye to the California sun and the nice, smooth creek rocks and we made our way back north. The home we bought here in Washington was, in part, for Bota. Up until this point in her long dog-life we’d never really had a yard. We’d had patches of grass and creeks to explore, but never an actual yard with room to run and roam free. We determined that all of our kids–Bota included–needed a real yard in whatever house we chose. So we got a house with the biggest yard we could find and, finally, Bota was home.

***

Yesterday was a really hard day. But I don’t want to hold on to the one really hard day. I want to remember the 5,000 wonderful days. I want to remember the days we spent walking together and dreaming together (Trust me, dogs have the best dreams!). I want to remember the days we taught each other better ways to live. I want to remember the way my heart swelled with love every time I saw her sweet face and the comfort I felt when I would pet her soft fur. I want to remember the way Jon would pick her up and cradle her in his arms like an infant (and how that sweet, old dog would allow him to even do such a thing). I want to remember the way Bota could calm down David when his Big Feelings got too big. I want to remember the way Jacob would chase Bota through the fields. I want to remember the way Hannah’s eyes would light up when she’d see Bota in the room. I want to remember the way she helped form our family, and the ways she will always be a part of our family. Because that is the most important part.

Bota girl, we love you. And even though you won’t be with us here in person, you will live on forever in our hearts. Because you loved us and we loved you, our hearts are forever changed. Chase some squirrels in Heaven today–until we meet again, sweet girl.

 

Happy Birthday, Bota!

Today is a very special day: our dog’s birthday. Now a dog’s birthday may not seem like a big deal, but when you’ve just spent countless hours and thousands of dollars arranging travel for your dog to move halfway around the world–it’s a big deal. At least, I’m going to make it a big deal.  Plus, I love any excuse to celebrate (read: eat cake) and I really do love my dog (thus my willingness to spend countless hours and thousands of dollars to move her halfway around the world). So, happy birthday, Bota! We’re going to celebrate you in style.

Bota turned 7 today, which is 49 in dog-years: she’s officially over the hill. If she were a human she’d already be scrutinizing her 401-K and buying a Harley Davidson. To us, though, she will always be our “baby”. It seems like just yesterday that we were bringing our tiny puppy home from the Christmas tree farm where she was born:

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Bota is a trusted companion and she has been through a lot with us. She’s an expert at moving, and has helped us transition to 3 new homes:

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She has been my hiking/running/exploring partner who is always up for an adventure and who never lets me sit around getting lazy for too long:

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And she has helped us raise our boys (Dogs and boys are a great combination, by the way. They have a lot in common: both love getting dirty, running around in circles until they pass out, and conspiring to destroy my house one piece at a time).

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Today we decided to celebrate our puppy-friend with a birthday party just for her. We had some delicious party food: Hot Doggies for dinner and David “helped” me bake a cake for dessert (which Bota can’t eat but, really, I do love any excuse to bake a cake!):

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We played some party games: ball-throwing and TWO walks in the woods!

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And no party would be complete without some festive party wear. Bota even tolerated her party hat long enough for me to snap a photo:

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Happy birthday, Bota! You really are man’s (and woman’s, and boys’) best friend!

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A Happy Reunion

While we had a great time exploring Dublin last week, the real reason for our trip up north was to be reunited with our precious dog. Bota has been part of our family for 7 years, longer than our human children, so we’ve been feeling incomplete without our fur-baby. Turns out, it is quite the process to import an animal over international lines–even if the animal in question happens to be the sweetest, happiest Border Collie you’ve ever met.

Besides the mountains of paperwork that needed to be completed, there were several vet appointments and certifications that had to happen within a few days of her arrival in Ireland. And, since we happen to already be in Ireland, my *dear* family that remained state-side got to sort through the logistical nightmare that is “moving a dog internationally”. I think I nearly gave my poor mom a panic attack (and added about 10,000 miles to her car) with all of the last-minute “glitches” that came up. In the end, though, a lot of prayer and fast driving got Bota to the airport just in time for her flight to Ireland, with all of the correct paperwork signed by all of the correct personnel.

From Seattle she flew via air-cargo to Atlanta, where she was kenneled and spent the night. The next morning she boarded her next flight into Dublin.  To our great horror, though, when the handler from the veterinarian in Dublin went to meet Bota’s flight, they had no record of her being on board–so the handler returned to the veterinary hospital to inform us to “not be alarmed, but your dog can’t be found.”

Ummm…don’t be alarmed? How can you lose a DOG? She’s in a kennel the size of a small house, she barks, and I’m assuming she may have even smelled a bit at this point in her journey. My first thought was of my husband’s luggage that could not be located on his last trip out to Ireland. It took the airline an entire month to find it (it was in Chicago, a city he had never gone to. Go figure). If it takes them a month to find our dog, that could be bad news. Needless to say, we were not-so-mildly freaking out at this point. And, to make matters worse, it was early enough in the morning that nobody was in their offices either here in Ireland nor in the United States so we couldn’t find a single human being to help us.

Luckily (for the people working at the airline), it took less than a month to find our missing dog. Apparently she had been “reassigned” (whatever that means) on her flight into Dublin. As a result of her being reassigned, she was not on the flight manifest so nobody knew where to look for her on the aircraft. Seems like a pretty major oversight to me, to lose a living being. I think the airline may need a better system going forward. Just sayin’. After the airline located our dog, we had to hang out for awhile longer so the courier could drive back to the airport and do her entry vet exam. Now that we could all breathe again, we decided to wait outside the veterinary hospital and have some snacks in the grass.

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As they say, though, “all’s well that ends well”. After what seemed like an eternity, the van holding our precious cargo pulled up to the vet hospital and we got our first glimpse of our (not-too-distressed) dog.

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I think the vet could tell that Jon was about ready to kill somebody if he didn’t get his dog soon, so the vet made quick work of the entry exam and then released her into our custody. I don’t know who was happier–us or Bota–but there was definitely a lot of excitement in the air as we were finally reunited.

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Shortly after we got Bota it was time to drive 3 hours back to Cork so we could show Bota her new home. Since we only have 1 small car here, we rented an extra car just for the drive back home. Bota got to ride shotgun with Jon since her kennel took up the whole back seat of the car–I think she preferred this arrangement to the cold, hard cage in the belly of a jet plane. Especially since Jon stopped at Burger King to get her a hamburger. Spoiled little thing.

The boys had a great time showing Bota around their new house and throwing balls for her in our yard (we’ve already lost half of our balls over the neighbor’s fence, so I guess we’re going to get to know them pretty well now).

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Welcome to Ireland, Bota! We’re so glad you’re here!