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Final Goodbye

Stella wasn't just a dog, at least not to me, she was a piece of my soul sent to be reunited with my heart in this life. She was pure joy, guaranteed laughter on a shitty day, a fierce protector, a loyal partner, a believer in deep love, and seeker of adventure great and small. For months I have guarded our final moments, protecting their significance, but today I am ready, a love this great deserves to be shared.

December 19. 2021. SNOW! As many of you know, snow was Stella's absolute favorite adventure. While we had seen several inches of snow in prior days, this was the first "big" snowfall of the season, and Stella was thrilled. The day was bright and the snow was fluffy and soft, perfect for rolling, running, and digging. Stella was gifted this day, it was her final adventure in the snow and in life. Hillary took all the dogs to Toepath trail near our house, it was Stella's favorite spot. She ran with her sisters, ran with Hillary, and delighted in all her favorite things. She was truly happy.

**more on this day later**

The next day was a normal Monday, I went to work and Hillary worked the day from home. It was the last day I would come home from work to be greeted with bounding joy, love and excitement. We went for our walk across the street, as I only had 20 minutes due to an appointment. I brought her tennis ball and we drove there to save a few minutes. She was not her typically excited self, but obliged because going for walks is what we did everyday after work. I threw the ball, she chased it but without enthusiasm or immediacy. We walked in a short circle, it was clear she wanted to go home. That was the last time I ever threw a ball for Stella, the last time we would ever play fetch. We went home, I went to my appointment, and when I returned it was clear these were going to be our final moments.

Stella laid peacefully with her sisters all night, they never left her side. She was never in pain, just tired from the anemia. We shared our favorite memories with her, surrounded her with love and tennis balls, and softly whispered that it was time to go be with Brody. She had no interest in anything but being near us, there was no final meal or chocolate ice cream, just shared moments of love, and tears of grief and gratitude. We laid awake together all night, anticipating our final goodbyes in the morning. She slept peacefully, Kazi and Georgia by her side, my quiet tears a steady stream throughout the night.

Stella died on December 21, 2021, the winter solstice. I feel the significance of this day deeply, it is complex and meaningful, and I hope to share parts of this one day. Other parts are just for me and Stella to understand.

It was an early morning, the sun was bright and warm, a contrast to the cold air. We all piled in the car together, all the girls in the back for one final ride. They were all excited, even Stella. We made the decision to have Stella euthanized in the car, she was terrified of the vet but loved the car. Her safety and emotional wellness in these final moments felt deeply important. Stella and Hillary sat in the trunk while I stood on the outside with the vet as she delivered the first shot, Stella was sitting up with Hillary beside her. It only took a minute but Stella began to rapidly look all around. I am unsure whether she was confused or taking in all the beauty of the world in her final moments, whatever it was, it allowed her to settle into the moment with love and peace. She quietly laid down as I took her beautiful soft face in my hands, her eyes steadied and found mine in the most perfect way. We locked eyes and she began to lick my face, her final goodbye, her final expression of love, one final perfect moment of true love. She died licking my face, saying I love you the most, saying thank you, she died knowing I also loved her the most. It was beautiful

I miss her terribly each day, in all the ways I knew I would and in ways I never considered or imagined. She was never just a dog, she was a piece of my soul, she was a constant source of love and joy, she was the being that grounded me to this Earth, she was our fierce protector, and the very best daily adventure. Fly high my sweet Stella, Mama misses you with every breath. Each day I find a little more peace knowing it is not goodbye forever, but goodbye for right now. Rest peacefully my sweet girl and don't let your big brother be too bossy!

Note: Days after Stella died the brightest cardinal we have ever seen started showing up at our bird feeder. He has been here almost daily since, and was perched on our wedding pergola as I wrote this piece. These are not coincidences but signs she is still beside me, there have been many, this is just one.

**I will be continuing the blog in coming months, documenting all of our past adventures here**

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