Suburban Snapshots

The Very Sad Way We
Girls Became Outnumbered

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I don't have anything new to write on the subject of losing a pet. Sundry did a lovely post about it recently when she recognized it was time to say good bye to her own dog, and though I didn't have to make the agonizing decision to relieve Stella of her suffering my experience otherwise is the same.

We knew Stella's heart was enlarged on one side, that she may have had congestive heart failure. She was being treated with three medications and seemed to be doing well until yesterday when her breathing became rapid, she refused food and wouldn't lay down. She wasn't herself — even her expression had changed. I planned to get her to the vet this morning when last night she came into my room as usual, took a spot on her pillow but then stood up, walked a few feet and collapsed with a thud I'll never un-hear. My reaction was not calm or composed and even without my glasses on, seeing my dog dying on the floor at my knees was horribly vivid.

Steve left work and met us three at the emergency vet, where the staff was compassionate and kind and the doctor on duty placed a stethoscope on Stella's chest for my benefit; one of those five stages of grief was trying to convince me that maybe she was just having a seizure. We signed the cremation papers and returned home at midnight, leaving Stella on a metal exam table wrapped in our fingerpaint-stained bath towel.

Dogs are constant. They're the animals that remain loyal even when their rank is stripped by new pets and new babies. Stella was the dog who greeted everyone as though her entire life was spent awaiting their arrival, who didn't leave my side through the duration of my pregnancy, who took up residence under my desk while I worked, who'd sit upright to beg for food but would never snatch it from Anna's small hands.

Stella arrived in 2004. She honeymooned with us, she moved to the suburbs with us in 2006, helped keep Bert in line starting in 2007. She was terrible on a leash and would sneak pees on the carpets, her breath could strip paint and she'd relentlessly hump my legs. I'm not ashamed to call her my favorite of our three dogs, even still. And oh, my Stelly, how I miss you.

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