“Pick me! Pick me!” Those were her first words to me. Well she didn’t actually say those words but that is what she meant. Her body language confirmed that as she jumped in my lap and licked my face. I never liked doggie kisses before, but somehow I accepted hers. She was doing everything she could to make sure I did pick her. I remember that day, the day I picked her, like it was yesterday. Only the real yesterday, as in Tuesday March 13th, she said something else. She said, “Release me, release me”. And at 7:00pm as my husband and I held her tight, we released her soul and felt it scamper to the Rainbow Bridge.
When my daughter took me to the West L.A. dog shelter called Diamonds in the Ruff back in November 2005 to choose a dog for my birthday gift, I must admit I went reluctantly. We already had a dog, Jack. And as I have shared on here before he was more than a dog, he was our Soul Dog. However, at that time I was busy getting my degree at U.S.C and working as an actress, and my kids thought that it would be good for Jack to have a companion when I was gone from the house all day. He had minimal enthusiasm for her when we brought her home, but their relationship grew into warm affection. It was especially cute to see them cuddle. People thought they were related and they did have similar builds and black and white coloring. But their personalities were so different.
While her adoption papers said her name was Kona we called her Stella. We also referred to her as Stella Bella, Bell Bells, Stella Bean, Missy Pants, Sweetness and Light, but the reality is she was my Spirit Animal. What is a spirit animal? According to the Urban Dictionary it is “An animal who chooses you or you choose it to get guidance and learning to help you through life. The Native Americans believe in this.” Well I am not Native American but I sure believe this! And while technically I chose Stella (there were plenty of other dogs available in the shelter) I feel like she chose me too.
I don’t think in my 53 years on this planet that I have every met anyone more like me than Stella. Okay so maybe I don’t have fur and four legs. But we are both food focused, people pleasers, loyal, hard working, with a defined purpose and who are protectors and nurtures of those we love. We’d both wake early each day with happiness and excitement. The only time we might feel a bit forlorn is when a meal is over.
Stella, like me, never wanted to get in trouble for anything. After her one incident which I’ve shared on here of her eating a wedding cake, she was scared of ever doing anything wrong again. In fact, when we would come home and Jack had been a bad boy tearing something up in the house, it was Stella who would sulk and look guilty. Hubby used to blame Stella for stuff I knew full well that Jack did. But then Hubby set up a hidden camera and caught Jack in the act. But poor Stella was worried she would be the one punished for Jack’s misbehavior. Like me she always followed the rules, thrived on peace and harmony and loved to have the chats…like in this video.
Once Jack passed in 2014 Hubby and I both bonded more deeply with Stella as she was an only child for once. And yes I said child. Because to be honest with you, both our dogs were our fur babies. We tried to have children of our own and sadly that didn’t happen. So I suppose our dogs became even dearer to us. They traveled with us everywhere we were allowed to take them. And they even got their International Pet Passports when they moved to Ireland with us in 2009.
Stella has always been curious. My daughter would call her an “Inspector Gadget”. She loved to sniff and smell and move things around by pushing them with her nose, or gently pawing. So inquisitive and in unique ways. For instance, when she and Jack arrived in Ireland the first thing she did after her very long flight from Los Angeles was sniff the air. You’d think she was busting to have a wee, or smell the ground. But there she was, her gorgeous face tilted to the sun sniffing the fresh Emerald Island air. As if to say, “Aw now this land is grand! Top of the morning to you too.”
Today is Wednesday. A day that is normally filled with music, bad singing and dancing and some delicious recipe that I’d re-create for my Woman Crush Wednesday series. But while I type this, barely able to read my own words due to the burning tears in my eyes, it is silent. No music, no singing, no dancing. It is empty. Stella isn’t here to keep me company and give me dirty looks while I bust a move during my wacky cooking tutorials. She wasn’t the biggest fan of my off key musical performances. But she always, always seemed to know when it was tasting time. And since she is my spirit animal, our mutual love of food made that the best part of Wednesdays for her.
Therefore, I can’t even comprehend doing anything else today other than grieving for my best bud. My sweet girl. Even though she was with us for twelve and a half years, I thought we would have longer. She was so strong and fit and less than a year ago she climbed Croagh Patrick with us. Other than a TPLO surgery at 2 years old, she’s never been sickly. I suppose I still haven’t even processed her cancer diagnosis which we only found out just before Christmas. But the vet told us we were lucky she lasted this long. And as a friend told me, “Stella is hanging on until you let her go. She won’t leave because of her loyalty to you and it is her job to protect you.”
So as the weeks have progressed and her cancer too, I kept referring to our initial criteria regarding when it was time to take her to the vet so he could help her get to the rainbow bridge: If she’s eating, drinking, doing her biz and not in pain she doesn’t have to go to the vet. But the thing about Stella that is most like me is that she doesn’t show pain. She deals with it and keeps on keeping on to make others happy. She never showed she was in pain. And as she lapped up my home cooked meals these last few weeks with such joy and appreciation, I felt like we could go on like this forever. But yesterday I knew it was time.
Her breathing was labored. Watching her struggle made me feel like I was losing oxygen too. Her body was ready even if her soul was resisting. And difficult as it was I messaged Hubby at work and said our criteria had to change. I called the vet to book the appointment, the hardest call I’ve ever had to make. I drove as hubby held Stella, wrapped in the same red blanket used to keep Jack covered on his trip to the Rainbow Bridge. She wasn’t scared but oh so brave. The vet examined her and confirmed this was the right and humane thing to do. As she lay on the examining table I put my forehead onto her forehead, as we would always do when we had deep conversations. I prayed and then said, “I love you Stella and I release you”.
Everyone loved Stella. Her cheerful demeanor, smiling face and wagging tail just brightened your day. She followed me around the house from room to room, but she especially loved being in the kitchen with me. Sous Chef Stella! When I was writing a blog post she was always near. She loved dressing up in costumes and her favorite thing was curling up next to someone and having her ears rubbed. Just like me! When it was time for bed, she liked to be covered up, “its da unders” I would say to her. And she would hunker down, with one eye out just to keep guard. I’m just aching thinking of how much I will miss her.
While her breed is racially profiled as “violent baby eaters” Stella was the most gentle creature you’d ever meet. In fact, Staffies here in the U.K. are thought of as the Nanny dog and recommended as a perfect family pet. I must say I am glad she had a chance to live here in London for that reason alone. For once it seemed she was accepted by the culture. And she loved that pubs here allow folks to bring their dogs in for a meal! Our local pub even brings out a water dish and little treats for the four legged customers. So I feel grateful we gave her a good life. But she gave us an even better one just by being in it.
Hubby and I cried so hard and held each other tightly last night after she passed. The vet was even crying. It is difficult to say goodbye to a loved one. The more dear, the more tears. But like the quote says, “The soul would have no rainbow if they eyes had no tears”. I agree. Stella may be waiting for me this side of heaven at the rainbow bridge, but she is and always has been in my soul. Because she is my Spirit Animal for eternity!
Mommy aka YDP
Of all the trips we took with Jack and Stella, our time at Darina Allen’s Rocket House in Ballycotton, County Cork, Ireland, was by far the most memorable.
P.S. I just want to take this moment to thank my kids for giving me the best birthday gift ever. Who knew that little ball of love would have become a world traveler and leave such an impression on so many, especially me! And a big thank you to Helen and Dave, literally a second family to Jack and Stella. The visits to their “happy place” in the countryside of Ireland were probably the best times of their lives. Also thank you to the vets who looked after both our dogs, especially at the end, thank you for your amazing care! And finally to my Hubby, thank you for being such a good daddy to Jack and Stella. I am sorry we never had human children of our own. But you’ve shown what a great caretaker and provider you are through the years with our fur babies.