Hooked On Recovery
January 8, 2010
Dumb Little Dog
“We have found much of heaven and we have been rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence of which we had not even dreamed.”
~Alcoholics Anonymous, pg. 25
Stella was a good dog. We didn’t train her very well though. For example, she went through
several groomers. Hard to imagine that an 18 pound (if she weighed that much) cockapoo could
turn into a snarling, snapping terror when confronted with shears and clippers. Plus, I don’t
think she was ever fully house- broken. But Stella was a good dog, a very good dog. She loved us well.
Samantha named her after the character in The Italian Job.
She used to sit on the back of the couch and watch the world go by. And like all good dogs she
greeted everyone with ridiculous enthusiasm when they walked through the front door. When
her energy reached a level that could no longer be contained, she would fly around the house
using pieces of furniture as lunching pads. She loved ice cubes. As soon as the freezer door
opened, there she was. Stella was a frequent and welcome visitor at work where people new in
recovery often found her to be a great sense of comfort. When I was going through the trial last
year, sometime I came home and just sat on the kitchen floor where she would crawl upon my lap
and let me hold her tight. It was like she absorbed some of the pain, the anguish, the fear.
Whenever someone was hurting, the dog was right there. She healed us. She had a spiritual
gift. Not to say, she didn’t have attitude. At night, she had free run of the house and when I went
upstairs to check on the kids, she would always be on one of the kids’ beds. She’d raise her head,
open her eye and look at me and seemed to say, “What now? What do you have to say about it?” Then she’d sigh,
put her head back down and grumble, “I didn’t think so…”
Stella was with us for less than two years. In October, she died. I was in Minnesota when Sandy
called sobbing, incoherent. Stella was on her run in the back yard when she was attacked by a
swarm of paper wasps. She hung on for about 36 hours, but her little body couldn’t handle all
that venom. I got home the next day, and we got the call at 2:00 in the morning. Nothing good
happens at that time. A very tearful veterinarian told us that our Stella had passed after a
courageous fight. I sat in shock. I told Sandy. Sandy sobbed. We waited to tell our kids the
next morning. The house became enveloped in sadness and heartbreak. We all went through the
motions kind of numb. I didn’t realize how much I loved that dumb little dog. Until she was gone.
We discovered a huge underground nest of paper wasps right by the steps to our outside deck, a
place where we all walk. The exterminator said it was a very aggressive strain. No kidding. But
as Sandy was talking with him, God whispered to her that “Stella took the hit, it might
have been Mary.” As I write this I choke up, it rings true to me. Mary is our littlest one,
four years old at the time. Now it could be we hung on to that notion to make some sense out of a
seemingly senseless tragedy…
Until just a week or so later, Mary and I are out running some errands,
and we stop at a local farm shop to get some pumpkins for Halloween. As I’m paying, I see a big old Labrador who
looks sad. I say something to Mary about it. A woman sitting behind the register says that he is
sad. They just had to put down his lifelong buddy, another lab, whose aging heart couldn’t last
any longer. So I told her about Stella and the bees. She said, “Really? My brother spent four
months in the hospital from waspstings. He was leaning against the barn and they got him.
Healmost died. Gee, that has toabout 55 years ago now. I hadn’t thought about it in a long time.”
I asked, “How old was he when it happened?” The answer, “Four or five.”
Thank you Stella. Dumb little dog.
Hooked on Recovery is a biweekly message from CCAR Executive Director Phillip Valentine, person in recovery since 12/28/87,
devoted husband, father of five and just another surf fisherman. These thoughts, views and opinions reflect on his personal
recovery and are not meant in any way to speak for the entire recovery community. He welcomes all your comments and suggestions
on this column, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the website at www.ccar.us to read the entire series.