Mark Lahey and his dog of unconditional love

This is a story posted by my friend Mark Lahey. 

12 years ago we got a dog. It was spur of the moment and not very well thought out, however.

Oh we talked about it, especially since we were considering buying a house with a yard, so naturally a dog MUST be involved.

One night we went out to dinner with friends and I mentioned how much I wanted a Border Collie. They are great dogs…fun, loyal and smart.

One of our dinner guests asked if we ever considered an Australian Shepherd. They are the cousins to the Border Collie with all the same attributes. She knew of a family who bred them and that there were a few left to adopt

So on a whim, the next day we called and found ourselves on an 80-mile road trip to meet the next love of our lives.

When we got the farm, we found a group of black and white pups frolicking in the snow. We inquired which ones were available and the woman said only one was left for adoption. This was the same moment a fuzzy tan and white ball of fur rounded the corner of the barn and immediately came to us. She was the odd dog out in the litter and was tan while the rest were black. We fell in love and took her home on the spot.

Kris had never owned a dog and had mixed emotions about having one.
I (well, my parents) have always had dogs and I wanted one of my own.

We named her “Stella”, as it was the best name we could think of that sounded cool when you shouted it.

Stella grew like a weed and loved us unconditionally. She was a guardian from strangers, and a playful dog who was a killer Frisbee player. She knew when we were sad, when we were sick, when we needed attention. Her eyes spoke volumes to us and actually had a doggie vocabulary. Somewhere between a whine, a bark and a howl, it seemed as if she was actually trying to speak. Her enthusiasm was endless and her bright eyes and wagging …”nub” (Aussies have no tail) greeted us every time we walked in the door. She was always by our side every second, like she was velcro’d there. She demanded that she slept in our bed, and as much as we complained about her hogging the space, we would not have it any other way.

When Stella was seven Kris was diagnosed with cervical cancer. This ended our chances of ever having children and Stella was now our official “daughter”. As Kris healed from surgery, she asked if she could get another dog. I understood why immediately and encouraged her to find one.

A few days later I got a call at work that Kris found another pup. We adopted Roxy, a miniature Australian Shepherd and Stella loved her on sight as we did.

Stella was now 8 years old and it was showing. She had arthritis, was slowing down and Roxy had taken over as the playtime dog. Despite her blonde locks the telltale gray fur was showing. Stella just enjoyed being with us and spending time outdoors. She was strong willed and was still the Alpha dog in the family. Trips to the park with these two were always a highlight for all.

A month ago we started to notice behavior changes in Stella.
She wouldn’t eat without encouragement, it was tough for her to climb stairs, she couldn’t jump on the bed any more, and she was slowing down and was tired. We could see it in her eyes. The spark in that fuzzy pup we met 12 years ago was dim…and we knew it.

Monday I came home to find Stella lying in her kennel. She was slow to respond and had thrown up on herself and her kennel. Although there were episodes in the past where we knew she felt bad, this was different. Stella was very sick and my worse fears were finally becoming facts.

A quick call to the vet confirmed that Stella needed tests, ultrasounds and x-rays immediately so we took her in on the spot.

The Vet called today and confirmed that Stella has an intestinal mass that was most likely cancerous. He told us that while an operation to remove the mass was an option, the prognosis, especially long-term was not good. I cannot express the candor and compassion of Dr. Chastain at the St. Joe Vet Center. He was honest with us about everything and what we could expect.

He agreed that Stella has lived a long and happy life and whatever we decide to do, that we need to take this into consideration.

So today, at 6pm we had to let our girl Stella go.

Our friend…our guardian…our comfort…our joy…our child.

She was smart, playful, supportive and true. Always.

She loved us unconditionally for 12 years and now we miss her terribly.

She was our family, and the pain left behind now that she is gone is more than we could have ever imagined. She was never ‘just a dog’ to us…ever.

Please love your doggies…hold them, pet them, love and cherish them… and please say a kind word for our beloved Stella.

Goodnight my sweet, sweet Stella-Bella. We love you.

Goodnight.

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