Elegy for Stella, 1998 to 2011

Stella was the very first pet that came into the Harrison household. As is the case with most cats, she found us.  She strolled into our lives on Christmas Eve at my sister’s home in Kansas. There wasn’t really much debate about it. We just loaded her up and drove her home to Tennessee, because early in our marriage, Troy and I were insane like that.

Stella at 12 weeks old

Stella came home to a new world full of interesting things. She excelled at stalking and biting my bare toes while I was hanging out on the sofa and she pretended we couldn’t see her when she hid in a laundry basket to spring out at us. We played along with her like the delighted kitten parents we were.  Then we decided she needed a friend. Holden arrived a few months after she did. Stella instantly hated him and spent the first week hissing and growling. Troy negotiated the tuna armistice of 1999 over a bowl of tuna fish which they were forced to share and there was peace across the land, or at least, the Harrison household.

Stella's first mortal enemy, Holden

Years later, Holden got his own cat, Etta, who graced us with her presence for nine years before we lost her to cancer.

Even our pets have pets

Stella put up with the cats, but the worst surprise of her life came in the form of our first dog, Zoe, followed quickly by Floyd. Zoe lit up when she saw Stella, and Stella never really knew what hit her. After Zoe and Floyd, then came Baxter, Bess and Sunshine.  Somehow, Stella managed to make them all behave.

Zoe and Floyd as babies - tormentors of Stella

Stella was not just the apex predator in the household. Stella was the model citizen who taught every dog who was Queen. More than 300 foster dogs have passed through our doors over the years, and every one of them has been schooled by Stella. Stella taught them all that cats are to be treated with respect and that no one gets to sleep on her Daddy but her. If you have one of our foster dogs, it is thanks to Stella that they know how to behave with cats. Stella bit Chloe on the nose as recently as Sunday morning for daring to disturb her sleep.

Stella lording it over the pack

 Stella had been with us for so long with no health issues that we came to consider her immortal and eternal.  This afternoon, we were reminded that we have all of our animals only on loan for a short time and that the day will come when we have to give them back. This day was made even back on the day when a tiny little kitten crawled onto our lap and purred. Today, we had to give Stella back. Although our hearts are broken, we did the right thing in not being selfish and trying to hold on to her for ourselves. Stella has already given us everything she had and it was time to give the gift back. Stella left us today and although we are broken at the loss, we know we are luckier for having had her in our lives and we would not trade a moment of it. God speed Stella and we’ll see you on the other side.

Stella, 1998 to 2011