On Monday, October 24th at 11:20AM my beloved, faithful German Shepherd, Stella, who's been my constant companion for the last 8-plus years, passed peacefully from this earth and crossed the rainbow bridge.
Stella first appeared on the morning of February 22nd, as I was leaving the house on my way to our Burning Man workspace. She just came sauntering up my walkway and sat down in front of me and stared into my face with those soulful brown eyes of her.
"Whose baby are you?" I asked wall stroking her head. "You'd better get back to your humans," I said as I got into the car to drive away, thinking that she was one of the nicest dogs I had ever met.
At that point in my life, I was pretty resistant to having pets having lost several about 20 years prior and didn't want to experience the pain of loss again. But something about this dog grabbed my heart strings and broke down my resistance so that, when I saw her again Sunday night, I circled the block to see if I could find her again. She was gone that time but I vowed that if I was able to locate her again, she was going to be mine.
That opportunity presented itself the next day when I was on my way to work. I drove up to the main traffic artery in my neighborhood and spotted her there wandering into busy traffic.
I pulled my car to the side of the road, got out, picked her up out of the traffic, put her on the passenger seat and took her home with me. Needless to say, I didn't make it to work that day and, from that point on, we became pretty inseparable.
Over the last 8 and a half years, we've enjoyed hiking together:
she's been a patient companion to Stanley the cat:
and, though she's never been particularly fond of other animals, she was as nice as she could be to Pucci:
It was always fascinating to go hiking with her and watch her has she bounded along the trails seeming to actually take flight with the long leaps she took. She could effortlessly go running up nearly sheer hillsides and once she caused me a moment of considerable panic when she, very nonchalantly, took a leap down to me from a 12 foot cliff (the smug expression on her face when she landed was priceless). The only word I've ever been able to use to describe her was "splendid."
Over the last couple of years, her physical decline became increasingly devastating starting with deafness then moving into arthritis and dementia until we could see that the end of her journey was imminent. But even when she began pooping everywhere because she could no longer tell when she was doing it, I kept her alive because it was easy to see that she wasn't yet ready to go. She remained happy, eager to go on her walks and continued to have a healthy appetite.
This changed last Wednesday when she stopped getting up from her bed on her own and my roommate found her laying there in her own waste. We went for a couple of days after that trying to decide if euthanasia was the way to go or should we let her pass on her own. Another accident in her bed on Friday and her refusal to eat (until we started presenting her canned food) made up our minds for us and I started looking for veterinarians who came to the house for the procedure.
I decided to let Stella live through the weekend because there are a lot of people who love her dearly who, I knew, would be grateful for the chance to say good bye to one of their favorite dogs. So, all weekend long, Stella remained on her bed and received a series of her best friends who all wanted to say good bye and get one final face washing from this wonderful girl.
Saying good bye to Stella is like losing a limb or some other important part of myself and, right now, at least, it's almost impossible to imagine what life will be like without her in it. To that end, I have to remember that I still have 3 others who need me to be there for them (Vanessa the cat in addition to Stanley & Pucci). This will also not put me off having pets again. In a few months I will probably be ready to welcome another dog who needs me into my home and heart. Like other pet owners, I realize that though their time with us is short, the amount that they give us while they're here is immeasurable.
Good bye Stella. You improved my life in so many ways. You taught me patience, trust and no small amount of responsibility. If there truly is a rainbow bridge, I cannot think of anybody I'd rather have on the other side waiting for me than you.
Good bye Stella. You will be greatly missed by many.
Wow! So many well wishers here. Thanks everyone for all the kind words. I'm sure that Stella, wherever she is, is feeling the warmth of all this love everyone is sending her. All these wonderful posts certainly make me feel a lot better (no less weepy, but better, nonetheless).
My other 3 (Pucci the dog, and the cats Stanley & Vanessa) have been wonderful therapy for me and have managed to make me laugh when it just gets too hard to cry.