I’ve long been kicking myself for falling so far out of practice keeping this blog updated.
I hadn’t intended to end my blogging drought with a topic like this, but I just have to leave a tribute to such an important part of my life, and this blog seems the best forum.
On Sunday, February 19th, my wife and I had to say goodbye to Stella, the dog we had for nine years.
To say it was one of the hardest days of my life is an understatement. I don’t think I’ve cried so many times in my life.
But what I don’t want this to be is a glum, downbeat post. I’d much rather focus on the good memories, since Stella was a wonderful dog who provided endless joy to our lives.
Where better to start a tribute than at the beginning…
About nine years ago, in May, only a month after Tamara and I said goodbye to Samantha (Sammy), our Scottish Terrier, we saw a picture on the Wisconsin Humane Society website of a very cute but very scruffy little dog. A Shih Tzu-Poodle mix about 2 years old, “Stephanie” (as the Humane Society had named her) was a recent stray. We decided we would go to the Humane Society after work to check her out.
Being that she was a small dog with a mild temperament, I didn’t have a good feeling she’d even still be available by then. So I went down what would be a pretty stumbling path to get registered to adopt a dog there, get permission from our then-landlords, and then put down some money to put a hold on her, so no one could swoop in to adopt her before we got there.
After work, Tamara and I headed down and checked her out. Had I not put the hold on the dog, I’m pretty certain the elderly woman sitting in the lobby hoping we wouldn’t show up would have gone home with her. She was this timid, mellow dog who sat on a bed in the corner, but then came calmly over to greet us. I was instantly won over, but I think Tamara was still uncertain about if we were ready to have another dog. Seeming to sense this, “Stephanie” came strolling back from her bed, gave Tamara a kiss, then headed back. The deal was sealed.
Less than an hour later, we were driving home with a dog and realized we needed a new name, since Stephanie just didn’t seem right. My wife came up with Stella, and it just seemed perfect.
Stella immediately bonded with two toys that were afterthoughts of Samantha’s. One was a golden chicken, the other a strange big-nosed orange thing. We named them Clucky and Orangey, and Clucky in particular became a favorite of hers. In fact, Clucky would always be her favorite, even as her stash of toys (which we nicknamed her “peeps”) ballooned to probably over 50 at its height.
I couldn’t begin to list out everything I loved about Stella.
Just some of the things that come to mind:
With each passing day, the pain lessens and it’s easier to smile and remember all the joy Stella brought us. She was the sweetest of dogs, who adored Tamara and me equally, and was so laid back and easy to take places.
I knew, deep down, that we didn’t have a ton of time left with her, after we got the prognoses in November, so I made a point of finding as many moments to treasure as possible. Without fail, I made sure every day after work to have that quality lap time. I gave her extra pets and told her several times a day how much I loved her.
The day before she passed away, I spent the entire day playing video games with her snuggled right on my lap. I’m so glad that I did.
I’d give anything to be able to hug her one more time, or even just give her a pet. The other night, I came to bed and immediately became profoundly heartbroken realizing she wasn’t within reach, to give a few random pets throughout the night. Instead, I’ve been sleeping with her favorite blanket.
But it warms my heart that she lived a full life, having gone from possibly-abused stray dog to incredibly loved and spoiled by so many people. And it’s so comforting to know that even though her heart disease was getting worse rapidly, she left this world happy and pain free. We buried her, with Clucky in her arms, next to one of her best friends, Taffy.
So yeah, there are times still that I get really sad about losing her…but in truth, it was such a gift having a best friend who unconditionally loved us and brought us nothing but happiness and fun. It was heartwarming to see dozens of responses on Facebook when we passed along losing Stella. And I sat down last night and made an iPhoto album of nearly 500 pictures of her, some of which you see throughout this post.
I’m rambling now, because I could go on forever about my little sweetheart.
I just owed it to her to leave a tribute somewhere. I’ll never forget you, Schuggs. You were the best dog we could have ever asked for.