Tea with Bilbo

I wrote this 10 years ago and find it helpful for my frame of mind to read it every year during the weeks leading up to Christmas. Maybe this week I’ll have tea with Ramble…

Bilbo watched me expectantly, his stub tail wagging, as I put the kettle on, took a mug out of the cupboard, and rustled in the tea cabinet. He knew what that meant: time for afternoon tea. Bilbo, a rescue Australian Shepherd with an unknown history, had a tendency to become anxious if anything in his routine changed. And, of course, most routine went out the window for our family of five during holidays, with three active teenagers and their friends in and out of the house. Add to that my tendency to become stressed during the holidays, and neither Bilbo nor I was a happy camper.

One year, as Bilbo’s anxiety mounted and my holiday-related stress rose, an idea occurred to me. Why not share a cup of tea with Bilbo? I started making a pot of chamomile tea each afternoon, knowing the calming qualities of chamomile, and looking forward to a few quiet moments for myself. Very soon, Bilbo and I were both looking forward to this daily interlude of quiet connection in a busy time of year. I’d make the pot of tea, pour some in a bowl and add a couple of ice cubes, pour myself a steaming mugful, then give Bilbo his tea at my feet, while I sat in my rocker with mine. He would lap, I would sip, and both our stress would retreat for a time. After drinking his tea, Bilbo would settle with a sigh, always touching one of my feet. I would sit quietly so as not to disturb him, and we would enjoy a few moments of quiet connection.

Each dog has given me different gifts; one of Bilbo’s gifts to me was a way to slow down and enjoy simple peace and quiet in the midst of holiday stress. Bilbo is long gone, but those quiet moments shared over a cup of tea are some of my most precious memories of him.

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