The best dog ever

A few years ago, our dog Tommy had to be put down. He was almost 14 and he had cancer in his leg that was only curable by amputating the entire leg, and at almost 14, with bad back legs, that just wasn’t an option. We waited until we knew he was suffering and we put him down. I wrote him an obituary because we loved him just like a human member of our family, and so today, with a heavy heart, I’m writing another dog obituary for the best dog in the world.

UPDATE: I started this post the day Baytor left us. I’ve tried to finish it several times in the five days since then, but it’s still too hard. Too raw. I miss her like crazy and this is as good as it gets. As I edit this post, I do so with tears running down my face. I miss her so much tonight.

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Baytor So Big

Baytor Nerise Lindsey (aka So Big, So Big Is A Dog, Big, Bates, Batey Bates, Marshmallow, Baytorasarus Rex) died peacefully in the arms of her dad on Friday, February 22, 2013. She was about nine and a half years old. Baytor was adopted from the pound in 2005 to the Lindsey family. The Lindseys love to tell people Baytor’s story, because it highlights the importance of adopting strays when possible. Baytor was adopted the day before she was scheduled to be euthanized. Instead of being killed, she was sent home to live with a family of dog lovers, where she had eight happy, playful years full of so much love. Baytor is survived by her human family: dad Ryan, mom Melanie, sisters Krista and Charisse; and by her dog family: sisters Chloe and Penny.

A girl and her dog are not soon parted

A girl and her dog are not soon parted

Baytor quickly because Daddy’s girl upon her adoption. She was named after a Klingon character from Star Trek and she absolutely was Daddy’s cling-on. As soon as he came home from work or sat down anywhere to put on his shoes, Baytor was at his side. If he didn’t pay enough attention to her in a fast enough manner for her liking, Baytor would pull her ninja-dog move of headbutting. She loved to headbutt people if she felt like she was being ignored or not loved on enough. Her nose was usually cold and wet when she did her signature attention getting move, and even though it was obnoxious, it was terribly hard to resist because her face was just too sweet.

“It's just the most amazing thing to love a dog, isn't it? It makes our relationships with people seem as boring as a bowl of oatmeal.” - John Grogan, Marley & Me

“It’s just the most amazing thing to love a dog, isn’t it? It makes our relationships with people seem as boring as a bowl of oatmeal.”
– John Grogan, Marley & Me

 “Dogs are our link to paradise. They don't know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring--it was peace.” - Milan Kundera

“Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring–it was peace.”
– Milan Kundera

Despite her massive size and “fearful” Rottie look, Baytor was the smushiest, goofiest, silliest marshmallow of a dog you could ever meet. Before her back started to fail her, Baytor would often wriggle around until she was on her back, belly exposed, all four legs curled up in front of her. She was a submissive girl who loved to wrestle with her family members. She felt safe and trusted her people, and she knew it was her job to protect them. Even she she could no longer get up and run to see who was at the gate, her bark and howl was startling to anyone who might make the unfortunate accident of showing up. Her family could always count on her to notify the house of any sort of intrusion, any time of day or night. During the years when her legs were good, Baytor was the only dog who could be left in the house without fear of chewing or otherwise ruining anything or jumping on the sofa (in fact, she was the only dog who never got on the couch and only jumped with her front paws into her humans’ laps with a LOT of coaxing). During the night, her protective guard dog nature meant she would often slip into the rooms of her human sisters, Krista and Charisse, while they were sleeping. She also frequently made her way over to her dad’s side of the bed.

“Once you have had a wonderful dog, a life without one, is a life diminished.” - Dean Koontz

“Once you have had a wonderful dog, a life without one, is a life diminished.”
– Dean Koontz

Often Baytor would disappear and when she was found, she would be outside, lying on the cool concrete as the sun shone on on her. She loved the sunshine and to smell the air outside. In fact, in the few months leading up to her passing, she would sometimes try so hard to get up for a walk, and instead of walking around the block, she would lie on her bed outside sniffing the air and enjoying a cool breeze while she waited for her dog sisters, Penny and Chloe, to return. When she wasn’t in the sunshine outside, Baytor would often find the single sunny patch in the living room or in her mama and daddy’s room and snuggle up night and tight with her best bud, Chloe the chihuahua. In fact, Chloe and Baytor could often be found snuggled up together. They were an inseparable duo until the very end.

 “Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” - Roger Caras

“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”
– Roger Caras

“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” - Will Rogers

“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”
– Will Rogers

Baytor made us laugh so hard we cried and she made us cry with fear many times — when disease and sickness slowly took over her body, when she decided to run away and was discovered with three bloody paws two miles away on the freeway — but she always made her family feel loved. She truly embodied the phrase “man’s best friend” and was the most loyal companion anyone could have ever asked for. She will never, ever be forgotten or replaced by her family in the years to come.

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“Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day. It is amazing how much love and laughter they bring into our lives and even how much closer we become with each other because of them.”
– John Grogan, Marley & Me

 “Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe. We are the focus of their love and faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made. ” - Roger Caras

“Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe. We are the focus of their love and faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made. ”
– Roger Caras

She had the patience of a saint. She put up with dogs smelling her, getting in her space, licking her eyes and teeth (Chloe is a disgusting dog and pales in comparison to Baytor), and even going to fast as to put up with dogs literally sitting on top of her. She never complained about it, choosing instead to snuggle up and share the warmth of another pup, big or small, nearby. She was by no means a perfect dog. Not even close. But she was the most perfect dog we could find for our family, a beautiful creature who delighted in her people and treats and a nice, crunchy bowl of dry kibble and the love of other dogs around her. You knew she really liked you when, in her finals weeks and days, she would stand and hobble painfully and pitifully over to you to say hello, maybe nudging your hand if your affection wasn’t returned quickly enough. Her tail wagged until it couldn’t wag anymore.

“A person can learn a lot from a dog, even a loopy one like ours. [Baytor] taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart. He taught me to appreciate the simple things-a walk in the woods, a fresh snowfall, a nap in a shaft of winter sunlight. And as he grew old and achy, he taught me about optimism in the face of adversity. Mostly, he taught me about friendship and selflessness and, above all else, unwavering loyalty.” - John Grogan, Marley & Me

“A person can learn a lot from a dog, even a loopy one like ours. [Baytor] taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart. He taught me to appreciate the simple things-a walk in the woods, a fresh snowfall, a nap in a shaft of winter sunlight. And as he grew old and achy, he taught me about optimism in the face of adversity. Mostly, he taught me about friendship and selflessness and, above all else, unwavering loyalty.”
– John Grogan, Marley & Me

Wait for us at the Rainbow Bridge, my wonderful Baytor so big. I know you are now healthy and full of joy and life once more. I can’t wait to see you again when I make my way home.

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“After the last shovel of dirt was patted in place, I sat down and let my mind drift back through the years. I thought of the old K. C. Baking Powder can, and the first time I saw my pups in the box at the depot. I thought of the fifty dollars, the nickels and dimes, and the fishermen and blackberry patches. I looked at his grave and, with tears in my eyes, I voiced these words: “You were worth it, old friend, and a thousand times over.”
– Wilson Rawls, Where the Red Fern Grows

“Dogs, lives are short, too short, but you know that going in. You know the pain is coming, you're going to lose a dog, and there's going to be great anguish, so you live fully in the moment with her, never fail to share her joy or delight in her innocence, because you can't support the illusion that a dog can be your lifelong companion. There's such beauty in the hard honesty of that, in accepting and giving love while always aware that it comes with an unbearable price."- Dean Koontz

“Dogs, lives are short, too short, but you know that going in. You know the pain is coming, you’re going to lose a dog, and there’s going to be great anguish, so you live fully in the moment with her, never fail to share her joy or delight in her innocence, because you can’t support the illusion that a dog can be your lifelong companion. There’s such beauty in the hard honesty of that, in accepting and giving love while always aware that it comes with an unbearable price.”
– Dean Koontz

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Wait, rewind

Okay… so I was thinking this whole vlog testimony thing through on my way home from work tonight and I have two thoughts:

  1. I still love it and want to do it
  2. But I don’t like the way I’ve set it up.

So check back tomorrow or Wednesday for the next installment. I am going to try to do this in a way that makes more sense to me and my style of story-telling because sitting in front of a computer having to hold still really is the worst way I could possibly do this. I HAVE TOO MUCH MOVEMENT INSIDE OF ME for that! :)

Testimony: a vlog series

Just sharing a little bit of a different way this week. Some fun things to note:

1. At one point I started to refer to 1 Titus. Def not a book in any real or fake Bible. Hah!
2. Also, I think I said at one point, “And you didn’t have a chance to kill yourself” or something like that. In context, I’m pretty sure you could figure out that I meant, “And you didn’t have a chance to defend yourself.” There was no way I was recording that over again!
3. My dog is snoring in the background right now and I can’t be sure if she was doing it in the video or not. If so — haha! Whoops. That’s what happens with a tired puppy doped up on Benadryl. :)
4. I am a pacer and a walker, so sitting in front of my computer while I make these videos is super duper difficult for me. I think better when I walk, but I don’t have any kind of set up for that. Bummer!

All right, stay tuned for some more! This is both awkward and really fun.

Just some stuff

Oh man. My brain has so much it wants to write about. So very much. I could outline it here for days but then all I would have to show is a series of outlines and no content. So I’m doing a brain dump in hopes that I can get it together and get some writing done this weekend.

– My parents’ puppy, Penny, had surgery to remove her dermoid sinus (very common in Rhodesian Ridgebacks) on Monday. While she was under, the vet asked if they wanted her spayed, too, so they said yes — kill two birds with one stone. That crazy dog has no clue that she has stitches all over her body. Last night I was reading to Charisse in bed and she came barreling in the room, chasing after Chloe, and jumped on to the bed at a hundred miles an hour. Today she tried to run away. All of this is the result of not being able to take a walk because of her incisions. Hmmm…

– God has totally been convicting me about some stuff lately. It’s really blowing my mind. Certain songs I listen to and the language I use in every day life trying to be funny… it’s gotten to me. I am trying so hard to live my life out loud for Him. I don’t want to keep quiet the joy and hope He has given me.

– Bought all five seasons of Friday Night Lights on DVD tonight. I’ve been trying to convince myself to do it for a while because I like the show. Finally gave in tonight at Target.

– Found out a guy who lived in the same mobile home park as me and my roomie committed suicide tonight by hanging himself. It just breaks my heart to think that there are people who would ever feel like that is their only option. I know suicide is a very selfish action, but it’s also heart-breaking. I literally cannot imagine anything in my life being so awful that the only way I felt like I could get better was to just be dead. I hurt for that man and what he must have felt.

– Tomorrow night’s home group is a Valentine’s Day party. I love that group of people. There is guaranteed to be lots of laughter.

– Like I said before, God has just been rocking my world! I am so grateful for a Savior full of love and grace and compassion and forgiveness. He is like no other and I can’t even tell you how much I appreciate His sacrifice for me.

You light up my life

Dear Crazy Sissy Missy,

Nine years ago today we met for this first time. It was easily the best day of my life. There was a lot of fear in it for me, because I had no idea how you would change mama and dada’s world, and in turn, my own world. You were an unknown whose consequences I could not possibly imagine or figure out. But the first time I held you in my arms, it didn’t matter how you would change my relationship with mama and dada. Because you were here, and it meant that you changed me.

Happy birthday, baby! We meet for the first time.

Happy birthday, baby! We meet for the first time. You were so teeny-tiny.

And now you’re nine. It’s unbelievable, really. It doesn’t feel like it’s been nine years since I was driving the Rocha kids to school as their nanny, all the while waiting anxiously for my phone to ring to tell me you were here. I couldn’t wait to find out whether Sprout, as we fondly called you, was a girl or a boy. And my phone rang in the eight o’clock hour, and it was mama, and she said, “Charisse is here. She was born at 7:45. She’s healthy. You can come by later and meet her.”

Uh-oh. Didn't they read your shirt?!?!

Uh-oh. Didn’t they read your shirt?!?!

Sissy, you won’t understand this now, but as I write these words I have tears in my eyes.

Your half birthday a few years ago. Always we take goofy pictures together.

Your half birthday a few years ago. Always we take goofy pictures together.

I met you and I fell in love. I hope some day you get to know what it feels like to love someone the way I love you. I’m not your mama but I love you so much I feel like I could burst sometimes. I hope you get to be a mama and an auntie someday to my own kids and get the wonderful job of loving them just like I love you. The way I feel about you is something I wish everyone felt about someone else at one point in their lives.

Hanging out on your bed on Christmas day.

Hanging out on your bed on Christmas day.

You truly are the light of my life. You are one of the few people who can make me so mad (hellooo, slow poke!) and five minutes later have me laughing so hard I’m crying. I seriously cannot believe some of the things that come out of your mouth sometimes. I know it won’t be long before mama calls me or texts me to tell me “Guess whose sassy mouth got her sent to the principal’s office today.” Some of your recent gems:

Me, playing a game: “Name the three primary colors.”
You: “Red, while, and blue!”

You, being gross: “I’ve given myself a Dutch oven. It’s actually quite delightful.”

Me: “What’s the name of your choir concert?”You: “It’s the ‘Share the Joy’ [insert eight-year-old air quotes around that] concert.”
Me: “Uh, that’s not how you use air quotes. Why are you using them?”
You: “Because ‘I’m already it the concert!’ [more air quotes there]”

Mama: “Reesie, you have cream cheese around your mouth.”
You: “I know. I’m saving it for later.”

Beaver teeth in Photo Booth, your favorite.

Beaver teeth in Photo Booth, your favorite.

My Goosie Girl, I just love you so much. You are one of the happiest kids I have ever met. Seriously, me and mama and dada are always commenting about how happy you always are. You love to giggle and it’s easy to make you laugh, whether it’s with a cheesy joke, a wrestling match, unexpected zerberts, ticking that spot behind your knee, or watching America’s Funniest Video (once you asked me, “Sissy, why is it so funny when they get hurt?!”), we can almost always get a giggle out of you. And your imagination! Even though we live in a world where all you have ever known is technology, I love that you can put down the iPod and computer and play. You love to tell stories and make books with paper, and just last week you and Maddy took about a hundred cardboard boxes out of the recycling bin and turned them into a village for your zoo of Littlest Pet Shops. You name — and remember the names! — of all of your stuffed animals. You’re a dog lover and so compassionate when it comes to animals. You enjoy trying new foods and can gobble sushi with the best of them.

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Penny pup loves.

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Lovin’ on So So Big is a Dog.

But what I love the most is that you’re just you. You haven’t lost your individuality. You’re starting to like things that are more popular, but you are still uniquely Charisse. The outfits you put together, the way you interact with people, the things you say and the wonky way your brain works: DON’T EVER CHANGE. I love that you’re true to yourself.

You're my favorite kid to kiss.

You’re my favorite kid to kiss.

I pray that nine is a big year for you. You’re growing up, my littlest love. I tell you all the time that I want to freeze you in this moment but I can’t, and I wouldn’t, because I am excited to watch you become the girl you’re growing in to. I pray that you learn to love God and stay true to yourself and know who you are and that your value and worth are so much more than you could ever imagine.

An Angry Bird for a very happy girl.

An Angry Bird for a very happy girl.

Thank you for nine years of laughter and crazy nights and for the one time you threw up all down my back and all over my bed. I would not change a single second of it because I have you as my Sissy on this day, your ninth birthday.

The cake says it all.

The cake says it all.

I love you so much starfish,
Sissy Krista

let down

One of the non-public rules I set up for myself as I have thought about this blog and its content is that when it comes to blogging about my walk with God, or telling my story in general, I really want to avoid getting other people caught up in what I’m writing. There are interactions I write about frequently on here with friends and family, and those are critical to my story and not stealing from others’ lives. But everyone once in a while, a bit of back story is necessary, so please let me share with you a little as I set this up…

I grew up in a “Christian” home. We were Christians because we weren’t anything else. We weren’t Jewish or Muslim or Buddhist, so therefore we were Christians. (I love that description and I wish I could say I thought of it, but someone in my home group said it tonight!) The foundation for what I learned wasn’t really on God. Weird transition: I sometimes feel like I was the golden child for everyone. I constantly remember being told, “You have to get all As so you can get a scholarship to college so you can go because we can’t afford to pay for your education!” It’s one of those things I will never tell my kids. So much of the things I can remember about being young include the wishes people put on me: for me to be successful and educated and to do something great. I don’t think this was or is all bad. In fact, in some ways I am thankful for it. Because of those comments, college never felt like an option for me. It was just a given that I’d graduate high school and go to college. And you know what? I did do well. I got a degree and another one and then a third degree and I had a great job with the college for four years.

I was, by all means, successful.

But in some ways, all of the heaps of hopes and dreams has hurt me because it has caused to me to grow up into an adult who is terrified of disappointing anyone. Other people being disappointed in me is probably one of my ten five fears. It’s like top two. Number two. I don’t know what one is, but I’m pretty sure there’s something else I fear more.

We had this great sermon on Sunday covering Romans 2:17-29 where Paul writes to the church in Rome about who they say they are. He reminds them that just because they have the law doesn’t mean they’re Christians following Christ, and just because they have the name Christian doesn’t mean anything unless they live a life that proves their faith and trust in God. The point was: are we who we say we are in Christ when no one is looking? That’s also what we talked about tonight during our home group (we usually talk about the sermons on Sunday). I spent this morning reflecting on this topic and let me just tell you.

My utter fear of disappointment has led me to life a double life. As a Christian, I ought to be leading a life where the only one I fear disappointing is God. But that’s not it. I live continuously worried that I am going to disappoint someone else. I don’t know how to articulate this, but I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a people-pleaser. But while I don’t live for the praise of others, I dread the day that they feel as though I’ve let them down.

Today this all kind of came to a head. I have been a liar and made others lie for me. It’s horrible, the feeling that you have when you know you have caused others to be deceitful on your behalf. I can think specifically of two people I have almost outright asked to lie, or to seriously lie by omission. All because I fear others being disappointed in my choices.

That is not the kind of person I want to be.

That’s not the kind of person God is calling me to be. He deserves so much more from me. He deserves my honor and respect and for my focus to be on Him, not on what people in this world will think or do.

So tonight, for the first time in several weeks, I came clean to some people about some stuff. It was nice. It felt good. Tomorrow will be a harder day for me than tonight, though. There are some more people to tell. I guess I just need to know a couple of things: one, it’s wonderful I have friends who think that I am good enough that they want the best for me, enough to be disappointed if I do something totally foolish, and two, that regardless if I’ll let people down (I will always) or people are disappointed in me (they will be often), if I am doing what God has called me to do, He will be proud.

keening

I have a few posts I’m planning/working on for later in the week. I didn’t have anything I needed or really felt like I wanted to write about today. But of course, live has a funny way of jumping in and changing our wants and needs and all of the things we have planned to do.

This morning I read this post from Raechel Myers and I can’t explain why I felt it — but as I was reading it, I felt this tug at my heart. This post has been resonated with me all day, especially the part where Raechel so simply and eloquently writes

And I would probably wonder out loud – will I always ache for another girl? Even if I had a dozen more, will my heart always feel like one is missing?

I, of course, wonder the same thing. Will her face forever be one that I seek? Will I always miss her and long to know the weight of her body in my arms?

Later on in the day, I got to meet up with my friend Jaimie and spend about an hour with her and her new little baby, J. It’s fun to see how much babies change so quickly and J certainly has changed since she was born two weeks ago. Her face has filled out and she’s lost some of that weird, red, wrinkly newbornness.

Jaimie’s aunt was holding her for a while and eventually they passed the baby to me. Seriously, pure heaven, holding a tiny little baby. I shifted J in my arms because she was all scrunched up uncomfortably against me and once we had achieved the perfect snuggle position, I chatted with everyone else in the room. At one point, Jaimie’s aunt looked at me and said, “Oh, I just have to tell you, you look so natural and right holding her. You’re just rubbing her belly and you look like a pro.” I looked down and yes, I was just stroking the baby’s little belly to soothe her while she slept. I made a quick quip about how many of my friends have really young kids, and of course my sister, and maybe soon it would be my baby, so I know how to hold and soothe and love on these little people.

And the ache. I felt it then. I feel it now.

It’s changed, that ache. In July it was a horrible, painful, keeing ache. An ache that symbolized all that I had lost in the life of a the girl I chose to end. And it’s different now. God has removed so much of that pain and allowed my to feel a healthy sense of grief and sorrow. He’s given me the ability to actually grieve, all the while accepting His forgiveness and grace for the sin in my life.

But still…I know the way Raechel felt as she wrote her words:

And I would probably wonder out loud – will I always ache for another girl? Even if I had a dozen more, will my heart always feel like one is missing?

Even though our losses are so drastically different — hers through sickness and mine through abortion — we both grieve for these girls we will never know on Earth. We both know the weight of empty arms and the sorrow of tears cried in dark nights and days we recognize as days children would love — the snow days and beach days and sunny days and lovely fall days.

And sometimes I can’t help but wonder: will I get any girl? Was this one my chance? I love those babies in my life because the Lord has given me a place in their life and I am so lucky to love them. But will I ever love a little red-headed girl of my own? I don’t know, and if not, then I feel blessed to get to love my Kayley and my Charisse and my Peyton and my Gwenny and my J. These are my girls and I will love them no matter what.

I guess what I am saying is that I am so thankful for the way God has really been present in my life since this whole healing process is something that I really allowed myself to go through, and no matter what come may come for me in the next weeks and months and years, I know that God is and will continue to be present. That gives me such comfort because even though that keening ache from months ago is gone, I know my heart will ache in the days to come. Knowing I can trust and lean on His words and promises is what will get me through.