Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Stella's Last Walk

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.

Stella demanded walks in all weather, keeping us fit.
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

42 comments:

Edith Hope said...

Dear Sarah, I am so sad for you all. The death of a pet is so very hard to bear. I imagine it is the unconditional love that they give which is so difficult to live without. It is a cliché but time will heal and you will hold dear all the happy memories that you have shared. But, for now, the emptiness and quietness of the house is a poignant reminder of obviously your much loved Stella.

My thoughts are with you all.

Les said...

I am so very sorry for you and your family. It is always hard when a pet goes, and that is part of the pact, but to go early is even harder.

Cid said...

I know what you are feeling, saying goodbye to your dog is one of the hardest things to do. I remember walking into the house for months afterwards waiting to be greeted by our Wheaten, Chase who we got when we were living in Kennebunkport. I think I have the same photo at Popham as yours. But she is no longer in pain and you have all those happy memories and one day maybe, you will bring another little bundle of fluff and energy into the house as we have.

Tracy Golightly-Garcia said...

A lovely tribute, Sarah. I am sorry for your lost--will keep your family in my thoughts.

Tracy

Elizabeth said...

Dear Sarah,
Poor Stella, poor all of you.
This is so horribly sad. Our animals really are an important part of our family and sorely missed.
Sending you much love and a big hug.
I remember some while ago when Stella ate the Ipod (I think it was).
This is a beautiful, if poignant post.

troutbirder said...

Oh Sarah. So sorry to read this news this morning. What a beautiful tribute though. Having had dogs all my adult life this inevitable experience is so hard. But, of course, its true the grief will eventually meld into fond memories and stories which you and you family will share with joy.

tina said...

Tears come down my face too for you and for me as I had to let my beloved dog go a few months ago. I'm so very very sorry.

Joan Mora said...

Your words and images of Stella are lovely--she surely lived a beautiful life with you and your family.

Bonnie said...

oh dear sarah, i am so sorry to hear you have lost a member of your family. i can so relate to the pain, loss and despair you + your family must be experiencing.

we lost our beloved, devoted golden retriever, Silken, six years ago and i never anticipated such a level of devastation ... i long for her still ...

may you all find comfort in your memories and the knowledge of the happy life you gave Stella.

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

Such a beautiful post, Sarah. My heart is so sad for you all.

Sending you lots of love.

David Cranmer said...

I'm so sorry to hear of Stella's passing but what a beautiful tribute to her you have written.

My thoughts are with your family.

walk2write said...

Sarah, it's difficult for me to put in words the comfort I wish for you and your family. That last picture says it truly. I see three images of Stella and her footprints left behind in the sand: a four-dimensional memory to treasure. The joy and unconditional love that pets give us, the pain of losing them, and the impressions they make on our lives will not be forgotten, but the pain will fade. I hope it eases soon for you.

Bee said...

Such lovely pictures and memories of Stella. These are part of your family history/lore now; never to be forgotten. It will be awfully difficult to get used to the silence, though.

I'm so very sorry for your family's loss.

Jacoba said...

It is hard breaking to say good bye to one's dog. They give you such unconditional love. Somehow the goodbye is so sudden and abrupt, it is wonderful though you share so much together and had this wonderful time on the beach.
Your tears won't dry up for a quite a while ....

Jacoba said...

typing mistake: it is hard and it is heart breaking

On my blog in June there is a nice little poem at the bottom that will maybe help you, too, in keeping the memory of your dog: may the trees whisper softly for you to hear that we still love you ....

Rose said...

Dear Sarah, My eyes filled with tears as I read this. We lost our dog Roco 5 years ago to a fast-growing tumor, and there was such an empty space in my heart for so long. But, like you, the last two weeks we had with him, knowing time was short, were wonderful in being able to say goodbye and to let him know just how much we loved him. Even though we have the boundless energy now of Sophie--who looks so much like your Stella--there is still a special place in my heart for Roco, and our family still repeats "Roco stories" when we get together.

I hope that you, too, will find that with time, the heartache will heal and you can share your memories of Stella with your family and smile at them. This is such a moving tribute to Stella, who was such a beautiful dog.

Amanda said...

oh sarah, what a moving elegy for your precious stella. i enjoyed reading about her life and how much joy she brought into yours...and i am moved by your thoughtful daughter's use of the word sehnsucht, so rich with meaning.

my deepest sympathies to you and your dear family.

Alyson (New England Living) said...

Your daugher's word is pure perfection for that experience. I'm so sorry. Just imagining our dear Ollie leaving us as I read this, makes my heart heavy. I'm so sorry for you and your family. I've always thought that the family dog is something that brings everyone together and is a constant for us in our ups and downs of life. Can only imagine the pain this loss is bringing you. I'm sorry and my thoughts are with you.

septembermom said...

Oh Sara, I'm so very sorry for your loss. Stella was beautiful in many ways clearly. All of your words and pictures in this post are flowing with love from your heart. I'm thinking of you and your family.

Sarah Laurence said...

All, I’m overwhelmed by your kind words and empathy. It’s comforting to know that Cid’s, Tina’s, Bonnie’s and Rose’s dogs still live in your memories. I loved how w2w saw the triple image: shadow, reflection and paw prints. Stella left an impression. Time has helped, as Edith and troutbirder commented. I wrote these words the morning after Stella died, but I wasn’t ready to post them until now. Thank you for being so understanding.

A Cuban In London said...

I am very sad for you and your family. She was more than a pet, she was your friend. Thanks for those beautiful photos. I can see that in you and your family she found great joy and happiness.

Thanks for you heartfelt tribute.

Carol said...

Sarah, I am so struck by the beauty and sadness of this post. This is a lovely remembrance of your beloved Stella. You gave her a wonderful life and I imagine the void now in yours is very hard . . . but hopefully her life stories will fill your family's hearts with joy of the memory of her. I am truly sorry for your loss. Your photographs are stunning. What a beautiful dog and I know what sweet souls Goldens are. Thinking of you and your family.

☆sapphire said...

Dear Sarah

Truly sorry for your loss of Stella. I understand very well how you are feeling now. "The hardest act of love is letting go" Yes. That's true. It seems like that Stella had a very good time with you! She looks very happy in your photos!! This is a very beautiful tribute!!
My thoughts are with you all!

Mama Shujaa said...

I did not have tissue in my bag yesterday on my way in to work, so I fought the tears as I read Stella's Last Walk. The tears won and the angled glances from fellow passengers on the train stayed with me.

I am sorry for you and your family.

Thank you for the photographs, the memories.

Stacy said...

I'm so sorry, Sarah. She was a beautiful dog.

Donna said...

The tears are falling down my face too. I'm so sorry about your loss of Stella. What a beautiful, wonderful part of your family. You can see the joy that she was to you all and the joy she took in life. I lost my own dear dog in May and I miss her so much, but the ache is getting better and she definitely lives on with us in our thoughts and memories and hearts. I'm sorry the ache for you and your family is raw and biting right now. It will get better. Thinking of you!

Jennifer said...

Sarah

What a beautiful tribute to your beloved Stella.

You capture her spirit in words and images.

You gave her so much more than a perfect week and she of course did the same.

I can still see her bounding through the doggy door with abandon. I loved that she could come and go as she pleased.

I am sure her absence is palpable.

Sending all my love to you and your family in this time of deep sadness and grief.

Petra said...

Sarah, I feel so sad for you. When our dog left us 3 years ago, I couldn't believe that. He was 12 years old and it seemed to me not enough. I still miss him and always will be. And Stella was only 6... But look at the last picture of your post, it is so symbolic. Stella is heading in the other direction there, somewhere where you can't be with her and you will have to learn to accept that, day by day. We can't keep everything we like but still there are the wonderful memories we have. I keep my fingers for you to be strong.

Sarah Laurence said...

Carol, sapphire and stacy, it was both a sad and happy time.

Mama Shujaa and Donna, I wish I could post tissues.

Jennifer, it’s nice to have a comment from one who knew Stella. Thanks for sharing your memories. I wish we could have gotten our dogs together more times.

Petra, you understood that last image. I’m sorry about your loss too.

Barrie said...

Sarah, I am so sorry. xo

Robyn said...

I am so very sorry for your loss.
This is my first visit here and I couldn't leave without commenting on this post.
I completely understand your pain as I know very well the love that can be experienced between pet and carer.

Take care and I know you must be lovely to have shared your love with your dog.

best wishes
Robyn

cynthia newberry martin said...

I'm not a dog person but am tearing up reading about Stella's place in your family's life. This post--the words and photos--is a lovely goodbye to her.

And I'm making a note of "sehnsucht"...

Sarah Laurence said...

Barrie, thanks.

Robyn, welcome to my blog! It’s not usually so sad here. How bittersweet to connect with another dog lover. Thank you!

Cynthia, that’s so sweet. I thought this post wouldn’t cross over to the dogless, but I’m glad it did. We are both word hounds.

Leeann @ Join the Gossip said...

SO sorry to hear this. I am a new visitor but want you to know that my thoughts go out to you and your family. Losing a pet is like losing a member of the family. I'm sure she's looking down on you, afterall, "All Dogs Go to Heaven". :)

Sarah Laurence said...

Leeann, thank you for your understanding. Stella was a part of our family. It’s so nice to connect with you!

Cynthia Pittmann said...

What a sad experience for all of you, Sarah, it's true that death always comes too early. Stella had a family...and what a blessing you were to her life, too. She kept a warm continuous heart-fire going and resonated home.
May memories of her life continue to comfort you, your daughter and the rest of your family as you become accustomed to her physical absence.

Sarah Laurence said...

Cynthia, thanks, your empathetic words are a great comfort to me.

Booksnyc said...

Your post brings tears to my eyes - it is so difficult when a pet dies. My thoughts are with you and your family.

Sarah Laurence said...

Booksnyc, thank you for your kind words. I still miss Stella very much.

Sarah Laurence said...

Today we scattered Stella's ashes at Popham. There were more paw prints than footprints in the sand. It was a beautiful day: sunny and 60 degrees, unusual for mid November. The kids waded out knee deep where the tides cross and the winds blow to let her go. We had the beach to ourselves for that moment. It was the same place as that second to last photo which I will now think of as Stella's Point.

Diane said...

What a beautiful post. I just happened on your blog and just had to comment -it was a lovely, if extremely sad eulogy to your beloved pet.

Sarah Laurence said...

Diane, thanks so much for your kind comment about my departed dog. I still miss her. It's so nice to connect with you!