Stanley - Forever in Our Hearts
Stanley, and his girl-friend Stella are the true Patriarch and Matriarch of Streetdog Foundation. Without these two very special pups Streetdog Foundation would have never come into existence. Stella is a beautiful, intelligent, sweet pup, and Stanley adored her. Stella was the true leader of the Pafford pack, but she delegated her authority to Stanley. Stanley is the face of Streetdog Foundation. It is Stanley’s sweet face you see with his head cocked on the Streetdog logo.
Stanley was incredibly empathetic. If you were sad, he would come over and put his paw on your chest, or on your arm, then he would rest his head in your lap. Once, Mel was feeling down. I was at work, and couldn’t be there to cheer her up. Stanley came to her, placed his paw over her heart and licked her tears away. He was such a sensitive boy.
Stanley was a great leader. He took responsibility for his pack very seriously. His girlfriend Stella is missing a front leg. Toot is deaf. Fiona had special needs as well. Stanley was always vigilant in protecting his girls. When Stella would get too tired to continue walking, we would put her in her own special wagon, hook Stanley up, and he would pull Stella’s wagon while Daddy steered. When Van Gogh came along, he was the perfect sidekick for Stanley. He stuck by Stanley’s side. You could see the admiration in Vannie’s eyes when he looked at Stanley.
Stanley was a wise teacher. With puppies, part of their development in the litter is learning how to play without escalating things into a fight. When a puppy is separated from its litter and from its mom too soon, they lose this vital socialization. Several Streetdogs learned how to play appropriately under the tutelage of Big Stanley. He was so patient with them. When they would get too rough, he would use his growl to let them know to ease off. If that didn’t work, he would pin them down until they calmed down. He would patiently work with them over and over until they understood what was appropriate play and what was too much. He never bit them, though his own neck might be peppered with small scabs from their bites. Pilly was a particular challenge because she was deaf, like Toot. Pilly’s play would get rougher and rougher. We knew this would be a problem for her if she couldn’t learn how to play. We brought her in to join our pack. Stanley understood deafness because of our own Toot. Mel took Stanley and Pilly out in the courtyard alone, without the rest of the pack. “Stanley, she doesn’t know how to play. She plays too rough and she is going to get into trouble. You have to teach her how to play.” Stanley knew just what to do. When he had to correct Pilly, he would pin her down, then lay his throat across her head so that when he growled she could feel the vibration. Pilly graduated from Stanley’s Charm School with honors.
Stanley was brave. One night something happened that I have no explanation for. I only tell this story to demonstrate the true bravery of this amazing boy. One night, for no apparent reason, Stanley saw something that terrified him. He fixated on a blank spot on our wall above the couch. We had never seen him act this way. His hair stood up, he was growling in a ferocious tone that we had never heard before, nor since. His eyes were open impossibly wide. His entire body trembled violently. I don’t know what had frightened him so, but I can tell you that he was mortally in fear for his life. I was so unnerved I didn’t know what to do. Stanley was inconsolable. I went to slap the wall to show him that nothing was there, half fearful myself, at this point, that my hand would go through the wall into another dimension. And what did Stanley do in the midst of his terror? He placed himself between us and the wall. This went on for about twenty minutes! I was afraid his heart couldn’t take it! Whatever had him so terrified, he didn’t run, he didn’t hide. He stood his ground and faced it to defend his pack. He would not let any level of fear cause him to abandon his pack. Bravery isn’t the lack of fear, it is standing up to that which terrifies you the most.
Stanley was smart. When he and Stella were just four of five months old, we had a little kiddie pool. We got it so that Stanley and Stella could play and cool off in these Memphis summers. Stella LOVED it. She couldn’t get enough. Stanley wanted to join her, but he was afraid of the water. He so wanted to join her, but he just couldn’t bring himself to. Melanie threw him a Kong to try to distract him with play. The Kong bounced across the ground…right into the pool. It was right at the edge, just inches below the surface. He stood over it peering from the edge of the pool. He barked and looked at Mel. “Just hold your breath and get it.” He barked at it, whined and danced. “Go, on.” Finally, he plunged his head in and pulled it out. He ran off about ten feet to chew thoughtfully on the Kong. After several minutes, he picked the Kong up, walked to the edge of the pool and dropped it in! Then he fretted more before pulling it out. He continued to do this, training himself not to fear the water, so he could enjoy the pool with his girlfriend. After repeating this several times, he stepped tentatively into the water. Soon he was splashing and playing with just as much joy as Stella! He loved the beach, and loved to go to Crab Island on a rented pontoon boat and play in the water, chasing fish.
Stanley had a sense of humor. He would actually laugh sometimes. If you could surprise him into laughter, he would come up to you laughing, and jump around and paw you as if to say, “That was hilarious! Do it again!”
Above all, Stanley was a soulful boy full of love. He could communicate with you just by looking deep into your eyes. Such pure and unbridled love. He had a special tail wag that he reserved for someone returning home. It was his way of greeting you when you got home. We called it helicopter, or roundy-round. He would swing his tail around and around in a circle with his biggest, toothiest smile on his face!
Had we not adopted Stanley, we would have never gotten the call that sent us to the Memphis Animal Shelter and sparked the urge to start Streetdog Foundation in the first place. Streetdog Foundation truly owes its existence to Stanley and Stella. With that in mind you have to credit Stanley and Stella with saving the lives of the over 1100 dogs that Streetdog Foundation has saved. 1100 lives and counting. What a beautiful legacy.
The fall of 2018 was a season of great loss for us and for many of our friends, both human and canine. If you choose to stop reading now and just appreciate hearing about a truly amazing dog, I would totally understand. I might even recommend it, actually.
Thursday. December 13. We awoke and started our day like any other day, oblivious to the seismic shift about to take place in our lives. We had lost Fiona to cancer just a few months before and we were still in pain at the loss of such a happy pup. That girl was always smiling. Stanley wasn’t feeling well that morning. He wouldn’t eat, which was totally unlike Stanley. I started to walk him down to our Vet, but he was reluctant to walk. Again, not like our boy. Stanley would normally drag us down to Grace. He loved that place. Doc detected some pain in Stanley’s abdomen and had us leave him with them. I went home, but was soon called back. Stanley’s spleen had three tumors in it, two of which had ruptured. He was bleeding internally and needed surgery right away. Our brave, stoic boy had kept his pain from us. The best surgical team in Memphis went to work. The medical details at this point don’t really matter, we lost our brave, sweet, wonderful boy. Too soon. There is a quote from author Dean Koontz that speaks better than I could hope to about the loss of a pet: “Dogs, lives are short, too short, but you know that going in. You know the pain is coming, you’re going to lose a dog, and there’s going to be great anguish, so you live fully in the moment with her, never fail to share her joy or delight in her innocence, because you can’t support the illusion that a dog can be your lifelong companion. There’s such beauty in the hard honesty of that, in accepting and giving love while always aware that it comes with an unbearable price.”
As I mentioned, the fall of 2018 was a difficult season of loss for us, for several in the Streetdog family, and for personal friends of ours as well; both canine loss and human loss. My heart breaks anew with each new morning as I wake to a world without Stanley and Fiona. I know that, in time, color and beauty will slowly return to what now looks like a cold and dark world. I take solace in knowing that I will see them again, and of that I have no doubt. I would ask anyone reading this to see each day for the gift it is. I texted the following to a friend on the eve of our loss- “Life changes on a dime. Hold those you love close and tell them that you love them until they are tired of hearing it, then tell them some more.” Thank you to those who have comforted us in our grief. Your love has meant the world to us.
Stanley. Fiona. You are deeply loved. You are sorely missed. Until we meet again…
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