Back up about 11 years and we had Stella's dad, Satchel, living with us. He was a bully dog too and lived up to the name-- he was big and fierce and lovable. We loved him as our own while he lived under our care. Nate, my brother, was in prison and I had made a promise to him, that whatever it took, I would take care of Satchel. So, we did. We wanted to get him fixed because he was a little too high strung, but for whatever reason, we never did. Once Nate was free, he came and picked up Satchel and took him from our lives-- it was painful because even though we knew he wasn't ever our dog, we loved him. Nate eventually pulled his life together, met a girl, moved in, and they got another dog. It's the classic, boy meets girl, girl has a litter of 13 puppies. As a thank you to us, Nate picked the "best looking" and probably the most high energy pup of the litter and drove up one Christmas, he gave us that sweet pup. She was always our pup, from the moment she came out, and while the other dogs didn't yet have names, she was already chosen and named. She was our first child-- our first real fuzzy practice kid. Stella.
When Nate died a little over 2 year later, and Caleb either worked nights or was gone all together for work, Stella would climb in my lap and I would sob into her coat. She licked my tears and let me know it was going to be ok. She was my grief partner.
We didn't intend to have a puppy and a baby at the same time, but that's what happened. When we got pregnant with Cole, Stella instantly treated me different. It's like she knew I was carrying her very best friend and she couldn't wait. I asked our dog trainer if I should be worried about having a bully dog with a baby, and she said to me, "that dog will love your children deeper and protect them better than she will you." In other words, once the baby was born, Stella would think she was the momma. And, she did.
She has loved our children deeply, taken them both for her own pups-- alternating sleeping in each room to make sure they're taken care of-- jumping up if there are cries and growling if there is a bump in the night. Cole and Stella were best friends, with Cole dressing Stella up and playing superhero with her, or throwing the stick for catch. Amelia loved to climb all over Stella, and she was just so patient, never once snapping or acting as if she didn't like it. I think Stella felt it was her privilege to help raise our children. She went to bed at 8 with them, and woke up once they did. She was every bit the Nana dog from Peter Pan-- I'm sure if she could have told them not to fuss or gotten them a snack, she would have!
I always said that when she died, it would probably feel like I'm loosing my brother all over again, and whether it's because I said it, or because it's true, it does. The only tangible connection from my brother-- the best and final gift I got from him-- is gone now too. She really was a fantastic dog, and Nate chose her for our family. The dog of Cole's childhood was chosen by my brother. Nate and Cole never met, but their stories have been linked together through different avenues and this is one of them. It breaks my heart to see this path close now too.
It's hard to keep a firm hand on those we love who have passed away. It's like holding the wind. Stella, was my wind for a while, and now she's gone too. The chasm of time is ever marching forward and Nate is ever staying in the past. It's almost like Stella was a bridge.
Maybe that sounds silly, but that's how it feels. I have felt so thankful and so glad Nate gave us Stella. She has comforted me in many times of sorrow. I just wish I would have been with her in the end. I hope she knew how much we loved her.