College of Veterinary Medicine Home Pet Loss Hotline


  There will only ever be one Stella Marie T. And she is gone now. The world is less for it, but it is also a safer place.

Stella’s story of her family’s love for her is not your typical tale of unconditional dog devotion. Of a dog who sat at your feet patiently while you worked or read or watched TV. Stella killed chickens. And a rabbit. And, if she could have just gotten to the bottom of the wood pile, those two danged chipmunks, too. She fought raccoons and chased birds. She tried to get horses to run after her. She poked her head in a big shrub on the walk one morning and came out with a possum in her mouth. It wasn’t just playing dead.

Stella boogered up every surface of my car every time she got in it. And she loved to go for rides in the car, so she was in it a lot. She beat up her sister Gladys so bad Gladdy finally learned to give better than she got. Shar-pei skin tears easily. There were many stitches. Her sister Annie, a calico-tabby could not walk across the floor until she was big enough to fight back. And Annie got really good at fighting back. Stella steered clear of the cat.

Shar-peis are guard dogs. That’s how they show you they care about you. They guard you. They sit away from you, put their backs to you and look outward. So if you have a Shar-pei you spend a lot of time looking at the backside of your beloved. But they’re not long for cuddling and kissing; doesn’t help the guarding. And a dog’s gotta do what a dog’s gotta do.

Now, Gladys is the runt of the litter. Her fear always is being separated from the herd. Not Stell. Open a door and she was gone. Crack open a window and she’d flip herself out. I once watched her scale a five-foot wall of plywood to get out. Squeeze through 4-inch chicken wire (Note to other owners: Dog knows that if head fits through hole, rest of dog can be pushed through, too). This explains the dead critters, city kill.

Every house I lived in with Stella was purchased primarily for her. Could we fence it in? Add enough gates? Make them high enough? Strong enough? (She ate through one). Secure enough?

This brings us to Stella’s social skills. She had none. Once out on her own she took to guarding her whole house standing (with her back to us) nearby waiting to attack any dog she could chase down. (Annie may be a stupid cat, but she was Stella’s stupid cat.) Her escapes were harrowing experiences for her family as we desperately hunted her down trying to avoid lawsuits or her own city of Seattle death penalty. On our daily walks the mere sight of another dog a block away made my heart race. We crossed streets, turned back and walked alleys together.

Stella was abandoned by her first family. Left alone in a backyard the first year of her life, the year she could have been made different. I found her at PAWS, barking her head off in a kennel she shared with a rheumy-eyed cocker spaniel. “Bark! Bark!” she said. She looked me right in the eye and said it again, “Bark! Bark!”

“Damn,” I thought. “That’s my dog.” (I had come for a cat.)
I put her in the front seat, and we rode home in silence. It was our first and last quiet car trip together (known at our house as “go bye-bye in the car”).

But all of this does not mean Stella didn’t love to be loved. You just had to do it her way; grab her a good one with both arms around her belly and plant kisses all over her head. She would squirm, but just a little. When I let go she wouldn’t leave. When she shot in the dog door (Stella shot in and out of everywhere) she shot straight for me.

Stella’s positives were at least equal to the sheer terror of her negatives. Such a capacity for love. Our bully was a softy. She loved her family. And she loved anybody who loved her. Deeply. She was shy about it actually. Gladys is a licky dog. Lick, lick, lick all the time. From Stell you might get one kiss, so soft you weren’t quite sure. But I know, I have been kissed by a fairy.

Her exuberance for life was as charming as it could be trying. There wasn’t a meal that couldn’t be greatly and enthusiastically improved with the addition of a little canned tuna. I never had to clean the dog bowls. That was Stell’s job. Twice a day she licked them spotless, swabbed the placemat and the floor around it, and then, on their beds by the fire, Glady’s face and head. And Stella absolutely could not greet you at the door without a stuffed animal jammed into her mouth. Among the dozens she owned, none was ever damaged, just slobbered into dirty globs.

Stella was a gorgeous dog. Stunning. She wore the most luxurious fur coat I have ever seen. She was the Cher of dogs really, with her beautiful boxy head, black nose, tiny folded ears and a sexy swagger that looked weird on an animal. Her eyes were two coal-black buttons.

I called her “Stell, “Stelly,” “Cookie,” “Cookers,” “Missy Marie,” “Girlie,” “Darlin” “Goofy” and a few names not printable here.

She answered to them all.
She knew who she was. She just needed love.

Rebecca T.

Revised Dec. 21, 2006     |     Printer Friendly Version