I write with shaky fingers as tears stream down my face.
No dog lies at my cold feet.
The only trace is a well-worn patch on my office floor.
Stella was frequently mistaken for a puppy at age six.
Her golden coat hid the tumors.
She went from healthy to dying in a matter of weeks.
There was nothing we could do other than make her last week perfect
and her death painless at home.
Stella came into our lives when my husband was having health problems.
That mischievous fluff-ball chased away tears and retrieved laughter.
Now that my husband is well, it seems unreal that this lively bundle of joy is gone.
As my daughter said,
“I was supposed to say goodbye to her when I went away to college five years from now.”
At an age when even good friends alternate from kind to cruel as hormones ebb,
a loyal pet was a safe harbor.
We took her on our sabbatical to England.
She tongue mopped the kitchen floor and shredded garbage for easy recycling.
Dirty socks were matched with their owners.
She had good taste in music, teaching my children to be more careful with their iPods.
Our house sounds quiet.
We notice her absence even more than her presence in our busy lives.
Once we were welcomed with genuflections of ecstasy.
The worst part now is coming home.
Nothing is left but these photos of our last walks at Popham Beach and Bailey Island.
That final week was a gift, a time to take Stella to special places,
knowing that when we returned that she’d still be inside us.
My daughter labeled those final days“sehnsucht,”
a longing for what we cannot experience, sort of the opposite of déjà vu.
She discovered this uniquely German word and taught it to me.
The hardest act of love is letting go.
Stella by Starlight 7/16/04-9/24/10