Blockhead Brigade is a diverse network of people committed to working towards equity in our society for people and their animal companions. We provide each other with an inviting, judgement-free environment in order to support, advocate, share and learn from one another. We offer free pack walks for people to socialize their dogs around others without having to meet them, free dog management workshops, housing support, and community outreach. Our various programs can be found here: CLICK FOR OUR PROGRAMS. Join the pack by clicking here: EMAIL TO JOIN.
GINA & STELLA
Stella came to me as a hospice case from a high-kill shelter in the Central Valley. She was scheduled to be euthanized because she had advanced cancer, and the plan was to live out her remaining weeks or months in comfort, if we were lucky. I was not intending to adopt a second dog long-term, but Stella had other plans. When she arrived at my house off the transport van, Stella came bounding up the stairs and tore through the hallway with the exuberance of a puppy. You would never have guessed that she was dying based on her demeanor, though her poor little body was a gruesome site. She had a huge, softball-sized tumor on her hip, and her chest and belly were covered in open, oozing sores, likely from years of living outdoors in the blazing heat with no protection from the elements. It appeared she had been used over and over again as a breeding dog, and had recently had puppies. The veterinarians who first saw her predicted that she would live a few months. Those few months turned into the most blissful three years either of us had ever known.
Despite the neglect she suffered, Stella was the happiest dog I had ever met of all my 40 previous foster dogs. She and my other senior dog, Bruno, became inseparable, and Stella charmed everyone she met even though she was a pitbull, a breed often feared and maligned. Stella developed a particularly unique bond with my best friend’s daughter, who was 4 years old at the time they met. They would snuggle for hours, and the child would read to Stella as she listened with undivided attention. Stella was extremely intuitive – when I was stressed or sad, she would come up to me and place her paw on my lap as if to say, “Mom, I’m here, and everything will be ok.” Stella was not without her flaws – she had a particular affinity for re-arranging heavy furniture and consuming expensive shoes. But her sweet demeanor and comical nature melted any irritation away.
Stella battled three different kinds of cancer with a grace and positivity that was otherworldly. I have a chronic health condition myself, and she showed me how to live in the moment and take each day as a gift. Stella had two initial surgeries, but the tumors would come back and I had to make periodic decisions about whether to pursue further surgical options. Each time I confronted this choice, I would look into her eyes and ask myself: if I were in her body, would I want this surgery? The answer was always resoundingly clear. One day, she suddenly could no longer walk, and I knew. Even then, she would rally to bring me a toy or put her paw on my lap. But the suffering was palpable, and I had promised her the day we met that I would never keep her alive for my own sake, that she would never live a life without dignity.
After three years, Stella’s cancer had spread to her internal organs and was beyond treatment. Two days later, on my birthday, I held her in my arms as she left this world. The grief felt like a gaping wound in my chest that no amount of love could heal, a force so overwhelming it brought me to my knees. It seemed impossible to breathe without her. Five months later, I still cannot look at Stella’s photos without crying, but I find myself also smiling through the tears when I think of her. I may have given Stella a home, but she was the one who rescued me. After her death, I thought I would never want to adopt another dog because I could not suffer such a loss again. But I know that Stella would want me to stay strong so that I can continue to rescue more animals and advocate for pitbulls and other misunderstood dogs. So I press on, for her and for all the dogs out there sitting in shelters, just waiting for a human they can rescue.