A Wonderful Dog and a Life Diminished

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

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I miss my dog.

Last Thursday, a group of us were walking to our weekly flag football game. On the way there, I met Garbanzo, also known as The Banz. He was a little tiny labradoodle puppy and he reminded me so much of Charlie as a pup. He ran over to us and rolled over and wanted to play and pretty much never stopped moving. This is exactly how Charlie acted the first day my dad and I met him. I showed his owner a picture of Charlie and told her not to worry, The Banz will never, ever calm down.

There's something about dogs. They get it. When you walk in the door after a terrible day, they understand and they're there. When you're happy and celebrating a big win, they celebrate with you. Dogs have a way of complementing your energy. I miss walking in the door and being greeted with a smile and a few laps around the kitchen. How do you not smile back when a dog looks up at you with his tail wagging?

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Charlie is a great dog. My dad had a dog when he was a kid named Charlie -- Charlie the First achieved legendary status in Bowman family lore, considered the "greatest dog of all time." My dad tells stories about how they would bet neighborhood kids, even the best athletes, that they couldn't catch Charlie. Everyone thought they could do it; Charlie was a smaller dog and a mutt. But Charlie would take off and no one would ever catch him. That's who my Charlie, Charlie the Second, is named after. He has big paws to fill.

I think fall is my favorite season -- especially in Oregon. Crisp days, colorful leaves. Halloween and Thanksgiving. The sweaters and jackets start coming out. Soccer practice starts happening on every field at every park that you can find. One of my favorite things to do in the fall, aside from going to pumpkin patches and corn mazes, is to go on walks with my dog. Charlie and I used to go on walks pretty much every day, through a beautiful place called Cook Park (which only exists because of the genius foresight of a former mayor named John Cook). There are baseball and softball fields, basketball courts, soccer fields, playgrounds, trails along the river and across the wetlands and through the woods, with wildlife everywhere. Every walk was an adventure for Charlie -- and for me too. 

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I feel so fortunate to be where I am right now, living on the Stanford campus, studying education policy with some of the brightest scholars in the business. Playing beach volleyball, going to outdoor concerts. I'm lucky, and I know it. But I also know I'm lucky to have a dog like Charlie -- a total lover without a mean bone in his body. I would gladly accept the smallest frustrations -- his never-ending hyperactivity, his occasional mess-making -- if he could hang out here with me. Dean Koontz was right, "Once you have had a wonderful dog, a life without one is a life diminished." So yes, I count myself as lucky, fortunate, and blessed to be where I am -- but I miss my dog.