Test Headline No. 4 Goes HereBy DAVID GUSTAFSON,
I adopted Stella the Dog in 2009. When I went to pick her up from her foster mom, I was immediately introduced to this 5lb furball who was doing her own thing. She was not playing, just simply checking out the world around her.
Literally. She paid me ZERO attention.
The only thing we know about Stella’s history is that she was rescued from the side of the road with her two siblings after her mom was hit by a car. She was then fostered with someone who had a BIG weimaraner/lab mix.
But! If I’m building her life story, because it’s my column and I can do that, I imagine she was the steady sibling. The one who the other two leaned on during the crisis of being on the side of that road.
If you’ve met Stella, you know exactly how determined and stubborn she is and how the above could be true. But if you don’t… let me tell you a story.
I knew she was my dog immediately. She just didn’t seem to be bothered by any of the attention I was showering her, and when I picked her up to tell her how cute and cuddly she was… she wiggled out of my arms to follow the big dog out the doggy door.
Her foster mom informed me that the pups had been following the big dog’s lead, and were technically potty-trained. They knew what it meant to go outside.
Anyways, she shimmied out of my arms and out the door to handle her business and then came back in and sat at my feet.
But this is my favorite part. She didn’t clamor for my attention, she just sat. It was like she knew… and in an instant, we were a family of two.
And while I say I chose her, we all know she chose me.
It’s like she knew my adulting abilities would need some work and encouragement. And since that day, we’ve trekked through figuring out life together… and man, has it been a journey.
I tell people often, and I think I’ve mentioned it here a few times, but Stella changed my worldview.
My compassion level was so incredibly low before I adopted her. And within 48-hours of her being mine, I became increasingly aware of the responsibility that was sitting at my feet.
And just as I imagined her being the reliable one for her siblings, she’s been that for me.
I get it, that might be weird for a non dog-owner to understand.
But she’s been there for every single moment of the last seven years - years that have defined who I am as a professional and as a human.
And to be completely real with you, she’s pushed me to grow up a lot.
Over the course of the last six months, I’ve mentioned to you several crazy moments that have occurred in 2017.
In addition to the busyness I mentioned in my last column, there was also a perpetual rain cloud over my head that wreaked lightning and torrential downpours in my home life.
A third of that was due to actual storm-related injury to my home; but the remaining was due to Stella facing a litany of issues that all cropped up in a matter of two-ish weeks.
Just to catch you up… we went to the vet to address what seemed like a bladder infection in January. We came out with several meds to deal with that and an appointment to remove a cyst that had formed above her eye and a blood panel to check her thyroid.
Ole girl was roughly 90ish pounds and was in the danger zone for dog obesity. Yes… that’s a thing.
Her blood panel revealed that she had a thyroid level of ZERO. It wasn’t even there. Nothing.
So, in addition to the antibiotics, steroids and pain meds we were on for the bladder infection and cyst removal, we also added a pill that has to be administered twice a day.
But we didn’t stop there!
The cyst removal required eye drops to maintain wellness. If you are keeping track, add that to the medication cocktail she was receiving daily.
Want to know what it’s like to wrestle a 90lb dog in a cone just to put drops in her eye? Well. Let me tell you!
You know the determined and stubborn I mentioned earlier? It appeared the strongest here. She was determined I was not getting eye drops in her eye. And stubbornly, we fought each other daily.
It was not fun. Not in the slightest. And it often ended with me in the floor crying and cursing in the same stream of conscious.
Her response? Lying next to me as close as possible, often with her head in my lap. Which was awkward with a cone on her head, but I digress.
In the midst of complete frustration, she showed compassion.
I wish I could say the story ended there, but she then developed a corneal ablation due to the sutures from the cyst removal. That led to drops being administered every four hours… on the dot. And if not, losing her eyesight was a probability.
I remember that drive home from the vet the most out of the entire situation. I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore. And all I could think about was her losing her sight because of my inability to care for her properly.
Y’all. I know she is a dog, but if we want to talk about a giant pit of failure… I felt it the most, here.
Together, we fought through it. For five days, every four hours, we went through the eyedrop battle. On the final vet visit [for that], we got the all clear that her eye was in a good place and that we were finally on a path of healing.
That is, until she went back into the cone of shame due to an allergic reaction to a flea bite a month later. Because of course, if any dog was to have an allergic reaction to a flea bite, it was Stella.
That cleared up by the first of May and as of yesterday, we got an all clear on all of the things. And thanks to the thyroid medication, I now have a dog who is 25ish pounds lighter and who is still as stubborn and determined … but now with more spunk.
When I say that Stella has been a catalyst for me growing up in a lot of ways, this period of our lives is a big part of that.
There were real moments where I did nothing but cry, because I didn’t know how else to deal with it. Every single time I sat in the vet’s office, I had to make decisions that were in her best interest.
Making decisions outside of work has never been my strongest skill. And at a point in my life when I really needed to be more assertive and make sound decisions, this experience pushed me.
But more than anything, this experience and Stella helped me understand a different level of compassion and trust.
There were moments I was afraid she might not trust me due to all of the eye drop wrangling. But, she continued to greet me at the door with her tail wagging, crawl in my lap while we watched TV, and simply show me compassion even when it was hard.
I adopted a dog because I always wanted one, and because PUPPIES ARE CUTE!
But what I’ve learned is that if allowed, owning a dog can provide ample opportunity for you to simply show up, appreciate life in a different way and grow in others.
I hope you have a Stella in your life… and if you don’t, I hope you find one.
When Samantha is not posting pictures of Stella (check out her instagram account @samemac to see the sarcasm and stubbornness for yourself), she can be found talking about how Town and Country Animal Hospital’s staff is the best in Hattiesburg. If you’d like to reach out to her, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.