So it has gone:
At the beginning of this month, Stella started to show very real signs that she was no longer getting much pleasure/joy/characteristic exuberance out of life. Despite massage, exercise, pain medication and, towards the end, home visits from the vet & chiropractic care/acupuncture, it became apparent that Stella was simply not enjoying life very much. Then, all of a sudden, it seemed, she needed help to do the most basic tasks of living – getting up, laying down, walking, & going to the bathroom.
She really got my attention when she started to lose her appetite. One day she walked away from a pound of fresh raw bacon I had been trying to coax her into eating! She just left it behind…
“This ain’t right,” I told Janelle, then called the vet. Our vet explained that tests would be required to figure out what was wrong with Stella.
“What kind of tests?” I said.
“First, blood tests. We would hope to find an infection or something relatively easily treatable like that. If not, we would take x-rays, in search of something more serious, like a tumor.”
(I tried to imagine Stella, our sweet coyote-crone, going through a battery of tests at her age & level of functioning. It seemed unnatural and a little cruel, even.)
“I don’t think Stella would want that,” I said to Janelle, “I think she’s letting go.”
Thus began our long, painful grieving process of late nights, depersonalization and random sob attacks.
Now, Stella was around four and a half or five years old when she took up with me. (Her previous owner wasn’t sure how old she was.) She came under my care in the high altitude desert town of Crestone, Colorado, in the summer of 1999. I was a twenty-five year old piece of continental driftwood & Stella was in her prime. And she stayed in her prime for pretty much the entire time I knew her, too. Here, at the end, things got pretty bad pretty quick…But we had a hell of a good run together, Stella & me. Stella & TheDriftwood.
A few days ago I came home from teaching my hungover undergrads and found that Stella had moved herself somehow into the bathroom. She was curled around the base of the toilet. I brought her bedding in and made it comfortable for her in there. She lingered for several days, without showing any signs of bad discomfort – she just appeared tired and seemed to be readying herself for death. The vet gave us signs to look for that would indicate suffering. “I can come ease her suffering if I need to, but I think it’s better to let her go naturally” she said, all of which was a relief to Janelle & me.
The days came and went. Stella’s eyes grew faint. Janelle & I sat with her often, giving her love and affection and telling her all the things you’d want to tell a dying friend. She seemed grateful. I guess we did too. Eleanor? She didn’t seem to notice Stella’s state. She’d run in and want to play and hug on Stella, all boisterous. And we’d say, “Eleanor, Stella’s not feeling well.”
“Owie?” Eleanor’d say back, her huge eyes beaming.
“Yeah, she’s got some owies.”
The day we decided Stella’s suffering was too much - that was the day Eleanor really seemed upset. The vet wasn’t even there yet, she just ran over to Stella and said, “Eat? Eat?!” When I tried to comfort Eleanor, she started crying. I looked down: Stella’s eyes rolled up at us, full of concern. Winds blew strong from the Northwest. The sun streamed through the window, onto us all.
An hour or so later, with Eleanor at daycare, the vet gently administered an injection of pentobarbital directly into Stella’s heart (her circulation already too compromised for an intravenous shot). She died instantly here at 1100 E. Jefferson Street, around 9 a.m. today, in the arms of Janelle & me. Outside, the crows bleated.
We buried Stella out at a friend’s house in Solon, Iowa, on the banks of Lake MacBride.
Pictured above is her grave.
“What is that feeling when you're driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? — it's the too-huge world vaulting us, and it's good-by. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.” – Jean Caraway