Yesterday we said “goodbye” to our almost 17 year-old little dog, Stinky Stell. It was a hard decision, but a necessary one. Stell was blind and deaf, she rolled down our 16 steps like a little tootsie roll more than once and had to be carried up and down, her teeth were falling out, and she waddled because her little lady legs were gnarled with arthritis. She could no longer jump onto her corner of the couch, which had come to be the only place she felt safe, and she was afraid to jump off of the couch because she could no longer see the floor. There were days she wouldn’t eat and days she threw up after she ate. She didn’t really like going out of the doggy door, which was another jump for her and couldn’t always jump to get back in through the doggy door, which in Florida heat could be a little dangerous, especially if we weren’t home. Yet, with all of this, she still seemed fairly happy. Isn’t that the wonder of dogs? No matter how horrible they may feel, they will still wag their tail for us, just to let us know how much they love us.
Our life with Stella began when our then 17 year-old daughter came to me and said that she wanted to be more responsible. I thought this was a wonderful decision, but she also had two older siblings, so I knew this was leading up to something. I asked her how exactly she would like to be more responsible.
“I would like to get a dog.” We already owned two dogs and, as I’ve shared before, I was sure a third would push my more-of-a-dog-liker-than-lover-husband over the edge. When she told me she wanted a chihuahua, and since I wasn’t sure they could actually be categorized as a full-size “dog”, we asked my husband, Cliff, who agreed to both the responsibility challenge and the purchase. And so, our daughter found a little white chihuahua that she had already decided to name Stella and we went to take a look.
We got her from a local breeder of sorts, a woman selling dogs out of her home. She said she was helping a friend sell them, which made me a little suspicious, but the dog had papers, and everything, including the dogs, was very clean.
She brought out a little 3 lbs., white chihuahua with big ears, big black eyes and a black nose. She was adorable. Since we did have two fairly large dogs at home, I wanted to be sure that this puppy could handle them, especially since she only weighed 3 lbs.. I asked the woman if we could see the puppy interact with bigger dogs. She brought us to her living room and her pure white, very large (I’m talking 85 lbs. worth large), doberman. The doberman was beautiful and calm and resting on the floor. She put Stella down. Though Stella looked like a punctuation mark next to this dog and was outweighed by 82 lbs., she immediately started jumping all over it to play. When the dog got up to play back, Stella ran between an ottoman and a chair where the bigger dog couldn’t reach her. I knew at that moment that, though I am not a fan of little dogs; I loved this one. We brought her home.
She quickly fit into our family and, just as quickly, outgrew our daughter’s purse. Though we were told she was the ever-so-popular-at-the-time Teacup Chihuahua; I’d be hard-pressed to find a teacup that ended up weighing 13 lbs. We had to put a bell on her collar at first so we wouldn’t step on her, which happened a few times anyway. Stella hated the bell and found a way to hold it in her mouth so it wouldn’t jingle when she walked. She didn’t bother our older dog much. Ralph was 12 and not really in the mood for playing. Buffy was another story. A 50 lbs., 5 year-old, Lab/Shar-Pei rescue, it was decided by every vet that saw her, that Buffy had “major deficiencies”. But, she was never aggressive and seemed fine with the new intruder, allowing Stella to jump all over her, playfully biting her and licking her ears. One day, the playful biting went a little too far and Buffy calmly came into the room with Stella dangling like a necklace, her teeth deeply entrenched in the many folds of Buffy’s neck. I don’t think Stella enjoyed dangling because she never did it again.
Within 3 months of getting Stella, Haven was added to our household. She belonged to our other daughter and son-in-law who were staying with us at the time. We now had almost as many dogs as adults in the house, 4 dogs to 5 adults, with nary a word of complaint from my husband. Haven was a white boxer, grew to a fairly ginormous 75 lbs., and was Stella’s best friend. Stella jumped on the dining room chair to play with Haven and every night before they went to sleep, Stella licked Haven’s ears and snuggled in close to her. When our children moved out, it was decided that Haven would stay in the home she’d always known with Stella, the companion she’d always loved. They loved each other right up to Haven’s inability to hold herself up because of her age, size, and faulty back end. But just as with Stella, Haven was wagging her stump of a tail right to the very end.
Yesterday morning we brought our Stinky Stell to the vet for the very last time. While I held her in my arms, she fell into a peaceful sleep. I’m sure Haven was waiting for her ready to play. I’m sure they’re together even now. Because everyone knows, all dogs go to heaven.