Stella, the dog that Gabe and I adopted when we were 22, was put to sleep yesterday at the vet near Jefferson, NY, where she had been living since 2001. Nobody is sure exactly how old she was, but we know she was no younger than 14.
I first met Stella when I was working at Dog and Company, a pet care outfit based in Williamsburg and the East Village (my first job out of college save a brief, terrible stint at the NBC Experience store). Her owner was one of our boarder clients, which meant Stella came to stay at the facility overnight for a week or so at a time. Back then she was a slick, wiry, and very nervous dog; we were always cautioned not to feed her on the last day of her stay because she would vomit in the car.
The owner was a young woman whose last name was Overman. I spoke with her on the phone a couple of times but never met her. She'd adopted Stella from the Humane Society a couple of years before and now was trying to give her the greatest life possible: a Park Avenue address, lunch at sidewalk cafes. But the dog, who had a few behavior problems, proved too much for her when she decided to move away from the city. She surrendered Stella to the care of Dog and Company until we could find her a "forever home."
Gabe Silva, one of my best friends from college who remains a dear friend today, was my roommate at the time and also the one who got me the dog care job. We lived together at 604 Riverside Drive, constantly drinking. I had misgivings about adopting Stella, but he leaned on me every day: "When are we going to get Stella Overman?" (She was often referred to by her first and last name, to distinguish her from the other Stellas we took care of.) Before I knew it, Gabe and I were calling her Stella Our-Dog, pronounced like Stella Artois.
Stella was a sweetheart at home with us: she would sleep with Gabe on the futon and nudge magazines out of my hand with her nose, so I could pet her instead of reading. She had a smirking, mischievous air; her back legs swung back and forth when she walked, because her tail was always wagging. However, when we left her alone in her crate she raised the roof for hours -- neighbors complained about her piercing, incessant bark. We could never take her into the dog run because she would climb the fence and run away, chasing squirrels.
A couple of weekends I rented a car to visit my parents upstate along with Gabe and my then-boyfriend, Jordan. We took Stella with us, though she did puke every time, and noticed that in the country she became a different dog. She could run around and chase/murder animals, and never had to be alone for long. My mom and stepfather recognized this; they told me they would adopt the adopted and take Stella in as their own. A few months later they got Tilly, a farm puppy who became Stella's constant companion. Stella was the boss of the duo -- Tilly, an anxious "Velcro dog" that needed to be cuddled all the time (my stepfather calls her a "faggot") existed in sharp contrast to Stella, who was aloof and queenly. Tilly would also never kill, whereas Stella regularly got into trouble for attacking animals bigger and more dangerous than her. During her tenure she had run-ins with deer, raccoons, beavers, and porcupines.
(Gabe's routine, spoken in the voice he created for Stella: "Well, I tell you Tilly. There's one thing you should neeeever eeeever do, and that's chase a porcupi -- OH LOOK A PORCUPINE!")
Throughout Stella's long life in the country, there were a few things about her that remained a mystery. Weird clues would surface that we never traced: why did she love anyone who smoked cigarettes? Why was she so cautious about the doggie door, hating the idea that a door would close on her? Just how many chipmunks, groundhogs, bunnies, and even cats did she kill unbeknownst to us in her long days of roaming unsupervised? We'll never know. The important part was that she was loved by us all for exactly what she was: weird, funny, disobedient, full of life.
There is so much more I want to say about this dog. I knew her for essentially my entire adulthood. But in the interest of space it's best for me to just open it up to comments from you guys. Leave some! RIP STELLA XOXOXOXOXOX