This little bundle of fuzz is a spitfire swirled into a tornado, mixed with a big glass of stubborn. This is the little girl Erik (aka E1) adopted after meeting my pup, Mr. Milo, and falling in love. Naturally.
Milo and Stella were the twins of the litter but couldn't be any more different when it comes to their personalities. The first day I met Milo, he snuggled his little head into my neck and that was that. He's my little mellow Milo. Stella on the other hand, has more energy than can possibly be contained in that one little body. I once had her on my lap and she was so excited she was whimpering and licking and waggling and when it finally got to be just too much, she flipped herself over onto her back and started doggie paddling the air. She's an effing weirdo. And I love her.
As does Milo. They're lucky enough to live conveniently close to each other and get sibling play dates together at least once a week. When Erik travels out of town, puppy slumbo time! They go to their vet appointments together and even got spayed, neutered and micro-chipped together. If, at any point so far, you've rolled your eyes even once, it's totally justified. The ridiculousness of it all has been recognized and then just as quickly discarded ages ago. In fact, when I think of the hundreds of dollars I've already spent that could have gone towards new shoes, I kind of want to staple myself in the head. Until I look over at that sweet little face and then I just want to snuggle it until he sighs his deep, martyr-like sigh and I know he's had enough molestations for the moment.
Little Miss Stella has led a charmed life during her first 7 months. She's been happy, ridiculously loved and never gone a day hungry.
And then she had to go and try to ruin it all.
A play date had been scheduled. Milo and I picked up Stella and I drove them up Millcreek Canyon that allows dogs free reign off leash. Both pups have always been amazing and come when I whistle or call them by name. They absolutely love this canyon. They tore through the snow, high marked the sides of the hills before tumbling back down and tag teamed any other dogs roaming the trails.
On the way back down, a skier swooshed past me and got in between me and Stella. He could see he was scaring her so instead of trying to pass her, he loudly swished to an abrupt stop. That sound was all that was needed and Stella bolted. I sighed and grumbled and Milo and I took off running after her. The trail curves quite a bit. She was fast and already out of sight. Assuming she'd run back to the car, I wanted to catch her in the parking lot before she decided to head down the road. It was already getting dark.
Finally huffed my way to the parking lot only to discover Stella was nowhere to be seen. A woman sitting on her tailgate said she'd been there for the last 30 minutes and hadn't seen her. The first whisper of worry hissed through my heart.
Milo and I head back up the trail and I bellow her name while squinting into trees through quickly fading light. We hike all the way back to where she initially bolted and back down to the parking lot, calling for her the whole way.
By now it's completely dark and I'm without a headlamp. I pile Milo into the jeep and have to drive halfway down the canyon before I can get cell service all the while peering into the darkness and cursing my eyes for playing tricks on me. My heart is pounding, I feel as though I'm on the verge of losing it and briefly wonder if this is what a panic attack possibly feels like.
Erik answers and I completely break down. I have to pull over after blinding myself with the torrent of tears.
"I've lost Stella!" I belted into the phone. I had to repeat myself 3 times before he could understand what I was saying through my hysteria. He said he was on his way.
I called my Erik and blubbered the situation to him. He grabbed the headlamps and headed up as well.
After the 3 of us searched for what felt like an eternity, we called it quits and drove off the mountain without her. I don't remember how many inches we got that night but it snowed. A lot. And I cried.
The next four days were torture mixed with smatterings of marvelous. My friend Specialized printed off tons of flyers for me to put up and even put some up himself. My sweet friend Tara made her own posters and plastered them all over the canyon in the spots I'd missed and nearby areas. So many people offered to help search for her. I posted her picture on every site I could think of and by the end of it, her picture had been shared over 1,000 times by absolute strangers. Calls to animal hospitals, vets, and daily walk-throughs of the shelters produced nothing. I was reduced to trolling Craigslist looking for the thieving wretch who stole her, ignored the fact that she was chipped, and decided to sell her for meth and/or blowjobs. Because just the thought of her still being lost up in the cold and snow with nothing to eat was more than I could stand. I was absolutely useless at work. If anyone even glanced at me sideways, I'd burst into tears.
On day four, Erik (E1, Stella's Dad) had to leave town for work. He debated cancelling but had worked hard to get the contract in the first place. There was nothing more to be done and I promised to continue to check the shelters every day and return to search the canyon.
I sat at my desk and continued trolling Craigslist. And then my cell rang. A number I didn't know. Normally I'd decline those but my cell was on Stella's posters. A hiker had heard barking up a steep incline near a picnic area. He gave precise locations. I wasn't optimistic but it was a lead. I called my Erik since he has the flexibility of working from home and off he went to search.
Thirty minutes goes by and it's another number I don't recognize. I answer it and the first thing the woman says is, "I think we've found your dog". My heart starts galloping in my chest and I feel like I can barely form the questions. I want so badly for it to be Stella but what if it's not?
"Is she wearing a blue Kong collar?"
"Does she have one blue eye and one brown eye?"
At this point, all my amazing, patient coworkers who have been dealing with my random bawl fests sporadically throughout the week, have all popped up and are peering over the cube walls with hopeful, questioning expressions. My boss, Cathy, has come out of her office and is standing next to my wall.
As soon as the woman assured me it was the pup I've been searching for, I completely lost it. I started sobbing, couldn't even speak, and handed the phone to her.
Cathy made the arrangements to meet up and since I'd carpooled that day, she bundled me into her jeep and went tearing down the freeway while I latched onto anything I could with a death-grip wondering if the next corner would be the one we roll.
I tried calling both Erik's. Mine was still searching the canyon with no reception. E1 was still on his flight. I left mine a message letting him know what was happening. I didn't leave E1 a message just in case there was some huge cosmic screw up and it wasn't really Stella.
It was Stella.
I'm not sure who was happier to see who. Cathy managed to snap this shot amidst the chaos of one of Stella's angels holding her LOST flyer.
After running from the skier, she'd made her way up an incredibly steep hillside with a cliff drop off on the other side. She dug herself a little burrow and hunkered down. From the first callers description, Erik was able to find where she had been but she'd already been rescued by the time he got there.
The couple who rescued her, heard barking. The husband hiked all the way up to where she was, scooped her up and headed back down. Stella slipped out of his grasp about halfway and ran back up to her bunker. This dear man trudged back up to get her again and they managed to carry her to their truck.
After more tears, awkward hugs that the couple didn't especially want but I couldn't help myself, and many thank yous, I jumped in the back with Stella while Cathy ferried us home.
On the way, I snapped the photo below to send to E1 with the caption, Someone wants to say hi. On our way home now.