Stella, you taught us great lessons about loss and love. We returned from our trip to Mexico and couldn’t wait to see you. We talked about you while we were on the beach, hoping you were behaving yourself and being a good houseguest for my parents. We hoped you were having fun running around at the lake house.
I opened the door to my parent’s knock, looked down to greet you, and saw nothing but hallway carpet. I looked up and the pain in their eyes said it all. You were gone. J was at work that Sunday morning, preparing for trial, so it was only me who knew for a few hours. They said you were walking in the woods, heard a loud noise, and ran. They searched for hours, for days. They put up signs and offered a reward. They did everything to find you. But you weren’t findable.
My tears came quickly, but not as quickly as my sadness in knowing how much your loss would hurt J. Then came the scenarios that played over and over like a movie reel that wouldn’t—despite how hard I tried—turn off. The lake property is surrounded by woods that house coyotes. I know this because I’ve slept in a tent and I’ve slept in the house and both ways you hear the screaming coyotes throughout the night. You ran away after it had snowed. You weigh no more than 25 pounds. Heartbreaking. Awful. Tragic. Your end must have been shrouded in terror and viciousness or freezing loneliness. Whatever way it happened, it was unbearable.
We learned about your plight 11 days after it began. There was no hope that you, a condo dog, feisty as you were, had survived 11 days and nights in the winter woods. All that Sunday, we tried to make our peace by crying and holding each other and crying and staring at your empty bed and crying and grocery shopping with swollen eyes and crying and sadly watching the Seahawks’ big win and crying when the dryer buzzed and you didn’t bark and finally climbing into bed at 9 p.m. because there was nothing better to do.
You were our family. The three of us made a life together right after J and I graduated college, first in Fremont (a perfect post-college years neighborhood), then to Mercer Island (none of us much approved), followed by South Lake Union (that was more like it), a stint with me in Boise (you sure loved those sunrise hikes in the hills), and finally to our longest-term family home in Eastlake. You loved watching the boats and barking at the dogs across the street and saying hello to our neighbors. We, a family of three for over seven years, were suddenly a family of two.
In all honesty, the Facebook post was meant to inform our friends and family that our beloved pup was gone more than it was meant as a true request for help in finding you. 11 days in the freezing woods is not a fair match for a little guy like you. But, post we did, because we didn’t know what else to do.
But, to our extreme shock and pure giddy joy, the Facebook magic touch worked like a charm. Enter: the snowball effect and friends of friends of friends caring and the goodness of humanity coming together for a 25-pound common purpose. Three days after you were reported to us as forever gone, suddenly you were looking into my eyes, freshly bathed and fed, curled up in your cozy bed. No major injuries. No illness. No rabies. A miracle. Your story of what exactly transpired during your excellent adventure will forever remain your secret. What we know is you were likely in the woods for 4 days and 3 nights before a nice family found you walking along the road like you owned it. 4 days. 3 nights. Freezing temperatures close to the Olympic Mountains. Coyotes and countless other creatures large and small. You survived, essentially unscathed.
Thanks to humanity for showing us your love. And thanks to Stella’s excellent adventure for teaching us what she really means to us. And thanks to Stella for being the Winningest Wiener, as our dear friend deemed her. She’s our fave and we’re so happy she’s home where she belongs.