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.

 

An Ode To Summer

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Well, hello there! It’s been awhile, and I’ve missed you.

I didn’t plan on taking a mostly season-long hiatus from writing, but this thing happened. This thing called summer. Well, not just Summer, but Summer With Children…which is a whole different thing. Summer is sitting at the beach with a good book and working on your tan like it’s a full-time job (or, at the very least, a paid internship). Summer With Children is spending three hours packing for the beach, 1 hour wrangling your children into too-tight swim suits and chemical attack spray (sunscreen), 45 minutes searching for a parking spot at the family-friendly beach that is big enough to host your minivan/SUV/church bus, 1 hour waiting in line at the potty, and 20 minutes being paranoid that one of your children will drown before packing it all up and heading home for nap time.

Day in and day out. For approximately 70 straight days.

There is another reason that I haven’t written in so long, and it’s mostly my own fault. It’s also partly Google’s fault.

This may surprise you, but I’m a big fan of lists, notes, and words in general. I’m also a big fan of keeping my words forever. It was quite a shock, then, when I logged in to my Google account a few weeks ago and noticed a red bar at the top of the screen proclaiming that my Google-Stuff was at 99.9999999% capacity and that I could not write another single word without deleting something.

Now, this was a problem because ALL of my computery stuff is Google-Stuff: Gmail for email, Google Docs for word processing, Google notes for my notes, etc. Besides oggling my friends’ cute photos of babies on Facebook and pinning recipes that I’ll never cook on Pinterest, I basically do everything on the Google platform.

And since I am an everything-or-nothing girl, I deleted everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. Old documents from my teaching days: Gone. Grocery lists from pre-babies: Gone. Email folders: Gone. I literally had every email I’d ever sent or received since 2004 (it was quite enlightening, by the way, to re-read classic gems like “RE: How To Reset Your AIM Login” and “Engagement Photo Proofs”). I didn’t actually mean to delete EVERYTHING, but somehow it was just easier than weeding through 80,000+ files to determine what would make the cut. So, somewhat inadvertently, nobody made the cut and we’re starting a new team from scratch.

Unfortunately, among the players getting “cut” was my Google note for blog posts I wanted to write. I actually didn’t mean to delete it, but somehow it was tied to those 80,000+ emails that I didn’t want to weed through. I had kept a running tally of writing ideas ever since I started this blog 5 years ago…but I  managed to delete it during my manic delete-a-thon. Whoops. And, so, now I have to come up with new ideas which is not such a bad thing, but it does require, you know, thinking. Something of which I couldn’t be burdened much with this summer.

You see, I’ve been busy summer-ing lately. I could have written more, but I simply chose not to. Before I even deleted all of my clever ideas from Google Notes, I had made a conscious decision to just step back for a few weeks and let life happen. Cancel the plans and the commitments (and the internal blog deadlines) and just be.

I didn’t make any real plans for this summer: we didn’t go on any big trips, we didn’t sign up for any camps (except for that week-long camp that I signed up my kids up for, and only went to one day of because I’m just that lazy of a summer-mom). In a rather anti-me fashion, we just did each day and each week as it came. As a result we had the space to be spontaneous or lazy or, in most cases, a little bit of both.

Some days we spent time with friends. Some days we didn’t leave the house: we just stayed in our pajamas and played outside and ate Popsicles and Cheetos for lunch. Some days we did chores and errands until my kids and myself held a mutually irate opinion toward one other. Some days we counted a dip in the pool as “bath time”. Some days were cooperative siblings and empty roads and sunshine. Some days were squabbles and traffic jams…and STILL sunshine (Oh my goodness, this Seattle summer was ALL sunshine ThankYouJesus!).

It was exactly the summer I needed. Because after a year of total upheaval and Big Change and unsettling I just needed some time to…be. To experience this new place and who I am here. I needed to open my (new) doors to (new and old) friends. I needed to be neither on nor off a schedule, but be ascheduled–completely without a schedule. I needed to reconnect with my kids before one goes off to first grade (Somebody please explain to me how that happened?) and the other goes off to his last year of preschool (SOB!). I needed some time to see where God would lead me, who He would have me connect with, and do the God-ordained work of keeping three children and one mother alive and mostly sane, 24/7 under one roof.

And the good news, friends, is that it worked! I can say with confidence that this summer has been everything that a summer should be: unburdened, carefree, and invigorating. I am renewed, refreshed, and relishing these last few weeks of the season. I feel settled in who I am and where I am, and I’m ready to roll with the punches that are sure to come when Fall steals the show. I’m ready to embrace the year ahead and resume life as normal, schedules and all. I am going to make it my mission, though, to retain a bit of summer all year long. To hold on to the spontaneity and the ability to step back from my schedule, and just be. To live each day as if it is a long, carefree day of sunshine (I may need to invest in one of those sunshine lights, by the way).

Summer, you beautiful thing, you’ve been good to me…but as with all good things, even you must come to an end. Change is coming once again, but I’m ready. So here’s to new beginnings, and to holding on to the light of summer all year long.

Until next time, Summer!

 

Farewell, Ireland

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May love and laughter light your days, and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours, wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world with joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons bring the best to you and yours!
-Irish Blessing

Today marks the end of a passing season in my life–a season that, short as it was, has affected me profoundly. Today is our last day in Ireland. I have known that this day would come, yet it doesn’t make saying goodbye any easier. I get teary-eyed every time I think about leaving this place–this home–so you’re going to have to bear with me here. This year in Ireland has been one of the most incredible years of my life, and I am sad to see it come to an end. I am excited for our future, don’t get me wrong, but this past year has touched me in so many ways. Today is the last page of an incredible chapter in our lives, and I am going to miss it–all of it–deeply.

I will miss this place–the endless rolling green countryside and the cliff-rimmed beaches. The timeworn stone walls, thick and overgrown, that line every street and farm and field. The maze of sheep paddocks that wind through the hills. The wide rivers that carve paths through the land. The unique landscape and rugged beauty that is Ireland.

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I will miss the culture. The people who don’t even know you but will still greet you with a smile and invite you in for a cuppa tea. The peoples’ fierce pride in place–that their city, their rugby team, their way of doing things is the best–no, the only–way to do things. The rich history and traditions. The ancient tombs and cathedrals and medieval cities and castles. I will really miss the castles.

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I will miss the pace of life. The lazy afternoons driving through the countryside and stopping in the middle of the road for sheep or cows or tractors to cross. The people who actually encourage us to take time off work so we can take more vacations. The laid back attitude toward everything and everyone (although, I am definitely looking forward to reuniting with my long-lost friend, punctuality). IMG_4688 I will miss the food. And by food, I mean scones. And milk straight from the cow. And beef and Guinness stew on a rainy afternoon. And a Full Irish that’s so full you can’t even think about eating again for another week.

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I will even miss the manic weather. The storms that sneak up on you, pour out their fury, then move on again before you can even open an umbrella. The light-as-a-feather mist that rolls in off the ocean in the morning. The days of endless rainbows. The sun that surprises you with its sweet presence.

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But most of all, I am going to miss our friends.

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Our friends who welcomed us with open arms and made us feel at home in a place we had never even been to before. I am going to miss these friends, who have really been more like family. Living so far away from the people and the places and the way of life that you know is difficult. But having our new friends by our side to walk through life with us has made all the difference. They have helped us, taught us, loved us. They have shared in our joys and our sorrows this year–both of which we’ve had many. They have been the physical presence of people we love when all of the people we love live so far away. To all of our friends in Ireland who have been a part of our family this year, thank you! Your friendship really has meant the world to us, and we will miss you so, so much.

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When we leave Ireland tonight we will be leaving more than a place. We will be leaving a home and a family, and that’s a lot to leave behind. A piece of my heart will always remain in Ireland, so I know that I will be back again some day to find it. This is not goodbye, then. No, goodbye is too final, too permanent. So, instead I will just say farewell.

Farewell, Ireland.

Until we meet again, may love and laughter light all of your days.

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