This blog is dedicated to giving thanks for my dog, Stella. This month, she turns 14 and her rowdy days are over.
Ironically, her slowdown accelerated as I was writing the second edition of my book, Peace in Passing: Comfort for Loving Humans During Animal Transitions in 2021 and early 2022.
As I write this blog, I realize that Stella’s decline made writing Peace in Passing both more real and more difficult. Each day as she’s slowed down, I work hard to “walk my talk.” Which means, follow my own suggestion for mindset and actions in Peace in Passing.
“Attitude of Gratitude” – a way to give thanks
I learned the importance of an attitude of gratitude when I got sober in 1981. It’s a keystone that helped me get and stay sober. And now gratitude carries me through Stella’s nearing loss.
Giving thanks for Stella and her big brother, Mitsubishi
Mitsubishi was definitely Stella’s big brother. She proudly learned to pee lifting up one back leg just like Mitsu did. After Mitsu passed, Stella started walking on curbs like he did. Carrying on a proud tradition.
Giving thanks for Stella the gregarious
Stella thought people were gifts put on this earth for her delight. She would walk up and greet them with a high-pitched squeal, declaring, “Lovely human, I swoon over your enchanted presence! Let us be friends forever!” I had a practiced speech to explain that her noise was delight and happiness, not pain.
Stella had a second tactic for meeting people, which was to find a stick or piece of grass and bring it to someone she wanted to meet. When I explained it was a gift to make friends, I watched as people’s hearts melted.
No matter which tactic she used, huge smiles erupted as she made each person realize how special they were in her eyes.
She was pretty “human intuitive”
As she sat next to me, I told a neighbor about how she gave people gifts. Once I finished, I watched Stella find a stick and bring it to the woman as a sign of friendship. I didn’t ask Stella; she just did it.
Director of cats
Stella managed the cats for us. If Mac and Bunnie started to disagree, she’d get in the middle, like a referee. She give them the look and send them off the different corners to cool off.
And since the Mac and Bunnie weren’t thrilled when we brought in Shadow as a kitten, Stella stepped up. My husband Charlie says she was happy that we brought her a “puppy.” She groomed, played, and cuddled with Shadow. And when Bunnie went after Shadow, Stella intervened to protect Shadow.
Can I have a pet turtle, oh please oh please???
Almost every spring, when we “hiked” through Fort Hunt Park, Stella would find a baby turtle and bring it to me. “Can we bring him home? I’ll take good care of him, I promise!” Of course, I answered, “No, kiddo, we’re going to let him enjoy this beautiful park.” “Awwww.”
Getting ready to let her go
I’ve given up fast-paced walks so Stella can stop and sniff ever two feet. And we let her decide how far she wants to go. It was a difficult transition for me. I loved being in nature with her.
Now I walk our other dog, Tibor by himself so we can both enjoy the outdoor exercise.
I found this Ohio State University handout useful to evaluate Stella’s quality of life. We’re so emotional, it’s good to have a simple assessment laid out for us. And it helped Charlie and I have frank and vulnerable discussions about what we want and don’t want for Stella’s final days.
Is your animal declining?
In this second edition of Peace in Passing, I share all the wisdom I’ve accumulated through my own animals’ and clients’ transitions.
I include information during the decline, through the transition – – and beyond.