Stella's Last Good Swim, August, 2012.
Today is Stella's last day on this Planet she called home for over 12 years. It is going to be one of the most difficult days of my life ... And so yesterday, I took her home again. Back one last time to visit our old house in Bolinas, to walk down through the yard and onto "Jack's Path," to meander over the stone bridges, past the wooden benches and wild flowers and around the bend to Agate Beach ...
Stella never was the same after the death last August of her best buddy Macaroni. At first, for months and months and months, we treated her symptoms (separation anxiety and horrific anxiety attacks which escalated at night, characterized by excessive panting, pacing, and often an inability to find any comfort until daybreak) as if they were signs of grief. But early this summer, we changed vets and Cushing's was confirmed.
The 'thinking' bench just before beach along Jack's Path. Agate Beach, Bolinas, CA. 9/16.
None of the treatments worked. And continuing to administer a toxic med to kill off layers of her Adrenal glands was just inhumane. I tried until she told me in no uncertain terms Friday night, her eyes closed, her white muzzle resting in the palms of my hands: ENOUGH.
Imagine growing up in paradise? There is no place like home. We walked this path, played on this path, so often the environs are infused with memories. Alive, unchanged. Throbbing with emotion and timelessness.
So I stopped all treatment and she spent her last two days peacefully. Saying goodbye to friends. And places. And going home.
Bridge to the "Enchanted Forest." Behind our house. Agate Beach, Bolinas, Ca. September 16, 2012
Yesterday, we take our last trip together back to West Marin, her first and only true home. And, as usual, the moment we make the turn onto Panoramic Highway, she sits up and sticks her nose out the window. The nose knows.
Stella heading down from the porch of our old house to walk through the yard and onto the enchanted path leading to Agate Beach. September 16, 2012.
We reach Stinson and the tennis ball is already in her mouth, her tail wagging, as we head out to her favorite slip of sand for a few last sets of fetch. A younger dog runs away with her ball after just a few fetches, heading delighted down to the public and crowded section of the beach.
"Bet that's not what you had in mind," says a woman passing by. And, admittedly, I feel robbed. To have driven so far. To have her cheated out of her last game. To have been humiliated on her own turf, something that NEVER would have happened when Stella was in her prime.
I try to push these negative thoughts from my mind and soon enough, as if on autopilot, Stella turns and heads back towards the Calles where her best old buddy Vinnie once lived. She turns into his house's entryway as if it were yesterday. A handyman, standing near the trashcans in front, says he remembers Vinnie and he pets Stella's nose.
Then a voice behind me: "Hey, here's that ball." It is the woman from the beach. She had found the dog, retrieved the ball and returned it to us.
Our old home in Bolinas. It's brown now and a story taller than when we lived there. Today's 'owners' can actually see the beach from their bedroom.
We head back onto Highway 1 to Bolinas, to visit her home, to walk down the path beneath our old home to Agate Beach. The folks who bought the house from us are NEVER there. It's just a vacation home for them.
Walking along the path to Agate Beach. September 16, 2012.
But this is where the souls of all my family remain forever -- my daughter, my ex-husband and the bodies of three of our pets whose ashes are buried beneath the trees alongside Bobo's decaying dog house.
Passing over one of the bridges along path from house to Agate Beach. September 16, 2012.
The path turns and there between the cliffs .... it's the ocean!
I know she is overjoyed to walk down into her yard, to carefully navigate the steps down the hillside, and wind her way down to the path. Though struggling against fatigue and panting heavily, she meanders over the numerous bridges which crisscross the dry creek and rounds one final time that magic corner, between the cliffs to see the ocean. No matter how many times one makes this journey, this glimpse of the sea never fails to take one's breath away; so unexpected, so incongruous after walking along such a verdant, exotic distilled path through such an intense, though slight, niche of a forest.
By the time we return and reach the top deck of the house, Stella is exhausted. Cushings, coupled with her age, have made this last trek an overwhelming struggle for her.
The last few yards along the path before turning up to the house. September 16, 2012.
I fetch the hose on the porch and mist her down. It's right where it always was. No one can take this place away from us. The new owners are the ultimate trespassers on this land, which remains forever part of our souls. The place we return to for solace and connection with all that is real. With all that remains. With all that truly defines what we live for and why we live.
Our old Arab horse, Mohave, still lives in Bo. September 16, 2012.
Before leaving Bolinas, we stop off to say goodbye to Mohave, my daugher's old horse. (We sold Mo to another young girl in 2007 ... but what she doesn't know is that I took that check and signed it over to the Pony Club with implicit instructions that should the 'new owner' ever think of moving Mo away from the ranch, she was to be informed that she actually never really owned him!)
Mohave walks right over to greet me. I take over an old brush from the glove compartment in my car, one which I am somewhat sure still has wisps of my daughter's hair. He sucks up the scent as if he just can't get enough of her!
I pet and I hug and I cry with him until I realize that we are both old abandoned souls, that we still have each other. For truly, of what consequence, really, the words on a mere piece of paper?
Stella sleeps all the way home as we drive over Mt. Tamalpais. I have no doubt that her essence is already settling in the indeterminate space around Bobo's old doghouse; she's communicating now with the spirits of our sheepdog Wondrous Willie White Paws; with Augusta (our Coyote-Aussie mix); and our eternally happy black lab Bo, the only one of the three who shared actual "Stella space-time."
I can feel each and every one of them with me today, as I prepare to release all that remains of dear Stella to their care.
There's no place like home, Stella.
There's no place like home.
Bark at the waves.
Chase those birds into eternity.
God, I will miss you.
Stella's last trip home. Bolinas, Sunday, September 16.
Stella At Baker Beach. Fall 2010.