Stella at Two

Robyn Arouty Photography

Michael Baugh, CPDT-KA, CDBC

There was a night I feared she would not survive.  She was twitching incessantly and crying inconsolably.  We knew her disease was often fatal, but she had to survive.  We’d only had her a few weeks, but already she was ours.

Something magical happens when a dog turns two, especially a retriever.  She is young but no longer a puppy.  She is socially mature but not yet old.  The bonds she forged in the months prior become solid.  All that she’s been taught, including the ability to learn, takes hold.  And, she takes on the quiet wisdom that is the signature of her kind, the very best of her kind.  She comes into her own.

Our dear Stellla is imperfect and quirky, undoubtedly.  She stands nearly as tall as she is long.  That counts for something because her height and length are each considerable in measure. She is equally lithe and narrow.  She is a leggy strawberry blond.  Add to that her twitch, constant and rhythmic, as if she were keeping time to a song no one else can hear.  Stella is, well, odd and cartoonish and beautiful.

To be certain she is not a classic beauty like the Goldens and Labs in her genetic buffet.  Hers is the beauty of movement, grace at an open run, the leap and grasp at a thrown ball, the dance of play with her own kind, strength and inhibition in equal measure.  Stella is the gangly egret at rest, arresting beauty in flight, the gasp and the awe.   Even when resting she is never still.  Only her eyes hold fast, a lasting gaze with a subtle wink just before they close and carry her away to sleep.

Something magical happens when a dog turns two, especially Stella.  She is breathtaking in the way so many normal dogs are.  This is, with certainty, because of who she is.  She is a dog, imperfect and beautiful and that’s enough.  But, she is so much more.  She is ours.  We plucked her from death in a cage at a shelter and claimed her.  She peed at our feet and shat and barked and we loved her just the same.  She twitched in my arms and cried late into the night, fighting a virus none of us could see.  I cried with her and loved her imperfectly.  We were reflections of each other, the best of all that is dog and all that is human, goodness from each in equal measure.

Stella turned two today, our magical dog.  Tonight she will rest by my side.  I’ll watch her ear twitch as she falls into a deep refreshing sleep.  She never stops moving, not ever.