The inevitable day arrived. The day every animal lover dreads–saying good bye to a loyal 4-legged member of your family. And while we were lucky to have Stella for 14 wonderful years (nearly 2 years after I wrote the piece below), it feels like a piece of my heart has been ripped out of me. But, just as my heart is broken today, I have to remember that she filled my heart with so much unconditional love every day of her life.
So here’s to Stella and all the furry members of our families–they add so much to our lives. And here’s to remembering how important is is to SLOW DOWN, be thankful and share your love unconditionally.
February 2011. Stella is slowing down and it makes me sad. I know it’s the cycle of life, but I’m selfish. I want her with me for another 3 or 4 years but I know this is nearly impossible. You see, Stella is 12 ½, and for a big dog, that makes her close to 100 years old. Her mother was a black Great Dane named Molly (I’m not kidding) and her father was a horny black lab (go figure). She may be getting older, but I’m certainly not ready for her to leave me.
Stella’s been slowing down for the last 2 years which is sad and wonderful at the same time. As dogs get older, like many people, they become more beautiful. They learn to speak to you with their clouded eyes, thanking you for everything you do for them. They understand your good days and bad. Their sweet faces, once black or tan, are now covered in grey fur which makes them look distinguished and wise. They don’t complain and they love you unconditionally every, single day.
As Stella’s life is winding down, it makes me realize the importance of slowing down myself and embracing the small things in life. When you’re in a rush, you may miss the small flower or the cardinal in the tree. You may even miss the rainbow over your head as you’re thinking about everything you need to get done that day. But when you have a reason to slow down, you don’t miss these things. You become acutely aware of things you’d otherwise not even notice.
It’s been almost a year since I last brought “the girls” down to the beach. Instead of chasing birds and squirrels like Jessie does, Stella prefers to slowly wander through the woods and along the beach like a tired old archaeologist looking for some buried treasures. There is no need to do anything immediately—she simply takes her time and enjoys her walk. She knows I will wait as long as it takes even if I’m in a rush. She looks up at me with those pleading dark brown eyes saying, “What’s the hurry Mom? Let’s stop here for a minute because I think I smell a rabbit.”
She can’t make hard cuts or play with Jessie like she did as an agile, younger dog because her legs give out on her. And she’s having trouble jumping on the bed (even though she REFUSES to use the steps we bought for her). She can still jog when she feels like it and is incredibly athletic in her gait. When Stella runs, she resembles a thoroughbred moving across the land with ease—it’s an incredible sight.
But I’m scared. Her back legs are getting weaker and I can see the muscles wasting away before my eyes. The good news is that Stella is happier than she’s ever been. She loves to eat, meet other dogs, go for long walks and get an unexpected pat on the head from a stranger. She is attentive and is still a great protector of the house. Yet, her clock, like all of ours, is ticking. And the ticking is getting louder.
How do we best deal with these difficult life situations and how do we know when it’s time to say good-bye?
I know my Stella will let me know when she is ready to go. She is one smart and stubborn dog. When she “misses” the bed, she won’t even let me help her get on it. When I ask her if she’s okay while we’re walking, she’ll burst into a jog to say “There’s nothing wrong with me! Can’t you see I’m running?”
If there’s one thing I know for sure, that dog knows how much I love her. She knows I’ll slow down for her any time, any day. And why not? One day, without thinking, I’ll turn around and wait for her to catch up to me and she won’t be there. So today, I’ll let her wander as long as she wants…
Please share your story of how your life changed towards the end of your pet’s life.
I miss you Stella. Thanks for being my sweet girl all these years,
Our gratitude goes out to Dr. Yallof and Lindsay for their incredible care and compassion. They make the world a much better place.