There are moments when you realize that something is wrong, very wrong, and the decisions that are made next may, or may not, be able to correct what has happened. Then comes the second guessing on the decisions that were made that led up to this present moment, which could have contributed, or be totally unrelated to it and have had nothing to do with it. It is a heart pounding, uncertain which way to move feeling of denial, panic, maybe I am over reacting and maybe not, and comes with an enormous need to do something, anything to try to fix it now. I have moved in this mode for the past days and so far have failed miserably to right the situation. It is not a pleasant thing to have to tell anyone that you have lost anything of theirs, but telling our daughter that I had lost her sweet dog, Stella, was one of the worst things ever.
Stella is, or was, (at this point we don’t know and are keeping hopeful), a nine year or so old Australian Terrier with some family relationship to our former terrier Jack. Female, of course, she is/was a beautiful, coarse coated, short legged/long bodied, circumferentially enhanced, broad headed dog with enormous dark eyes that peer out from under long bushy eye brows. Fondly referred to as “Pig”, due to her ample belly and amusing waddle, Stella had mellowed in recent years from an exuberant young puppy, into a older dog that quietly took on her new role to guard our granddaughter when the baby arrived almost three years ago. She would lay near the crib for hours, dozing and watching. As the baby grew into a toddler she learned just how far to stay out of reach of little hands who reached for her fur. Once this baby started to go to school during the day Stella was off duty and took retreat into the dark recesses of the garage in the back yard. For hours on end she slept until her family came home, then she would howl and talk in high shrill screams, spin in circles, and be animated for a while. Then after being fed, it was back to sleeping guard duty. Her life was good.
Over the past years Stella has come out to our farm many times, when taking her with them on a trip wasn’t the best option for my daughter and her husband. Playing farm has been such fun for Pig and she has always stayed out of harms way by being very careful and unadventurous. It was always good to be able to hand back over a happy but filthy Pig to them when they got back. While here her patterns were always the same, and her territory never grew. She was happy to stay with the program and always got along with whatever dogs were in the pack at the moment. When I was asked if it would once again be okay for Stella to come out for another weekend visit I said of course.
The 4th of July weekend was shaping up nicely going into it. The weather had cooled a bit, some friends were coming from out of town to stay, we had plans for eating many barbecued things off the grill, and there was going to be a rotation of friends and family through out the weekend. Stella was dropped off, to her absolute delight, to which she sang loudly and twirled like a dervish. She fell in with the pack and together we went to the barn for afternoon feeding and to her favorite place here, my tack room.
The tack room is/was her sanctuary here like her garage at home, her go to place when activity elsewhere was boring or if it was too hot to hang on the porch with the other dogs. She loved to sit in my wicker chair down there in the darkened room with the whirling fan overhead and the air conditioner making white noise and cold air behind her. Here she could meditate on her coming next meal with solitude and reverence. It was here that we last saw her heading to on Friday night before we went into fireworks mode.
We have learned that it is a good idea to send off a warning, desensitizing, and relatively quiet fire cracker like a bottle rocket before doing any further pyrotechnics, and so we did. The horses have learned to appreciate this and moved to the far end of the field, nonplussed but avoiding the issue. Stella took our warning shot the same way and made a slow waddling amble towards her place of quiet. We took that as a good plan so she wouldn’t be frightened. (We were told later that Stella tolerated loud sounds well and was used to them, which blows a few theories of the mystery.) We had a short burst of fireworks and the night was over.
Saturday morning, there was no Stella. When I opened the front door to feed the dogs, she was not among them. Nor, was she in the tack room. These are the two basic places she had ever ventured to and she was in neither. Figuring a possibility of her being bothered by the noise badly enough to move further away, I called my neighbor who lives across the fence and who has a pack of friendly pups to see if Stella had gone over to visit. No again and still no Stella. Panic hit pretty quickly, but was tempered by the fact that she was a known hide and seeker, often playing hide until she was well ready to come out to play, and might well be doing that now. We channeled our Marlon Brando voices and called her name "STEELLLAAA" and checked every hiding place we could think of, but no signs anywhere of anything, and no dog. I put up lost dog posters on the road, went to neighbors’ houses and asked if they had seen her, combed our farm and the neighboring farms over and over by golf cart, on foot, and by horse.
I put up another poster at Mosely’s Store, the information hub of our community, and source for fuel, wine, jewelry, and chainsaws. There were other lost dogs posted there and even a lost pony sign up, each indicating the sadness of the loss and the not knowing of their lost pet’s whereabouts and condition. I taped mine up next to them, and felt further guilt of my inability to find her and make it all better.
I have gone to the shelter and left a photo there. I walked through row after row of the sad faced, incarcerated dogs, mostly of pit bull breeding, to see if she was there. I have posted everywhere that I could that on social networking, but somehow I don’t hold much hope for finding her there.
Today is her third day of being gone and in each day of continued searching, all of the possible scenarios of her disappearance have run in a loop through my head. There are so many dangers out here, snakes, coyotes, bobcats and who knows what else that could have taken her. I try to put the thought of her coming to a bad end far away, but have to acknowledge it as possible. Another possibility is that someone has picked her up thinking she was a stray, hasn’t seen the signs I posted, and once they do they will return the little Pig to her home peeps. So far nothing is making sense. There just aren’t enough clues that fit, and yet Stella remains missing. Hope is fading for her return, but, in the absence of an answer, that, is what is left for now.