Saturday, February 29, 2020

Stevie Wonder: A Very Good Dog

World's Best Dog

This week we said goodbye to one of our most special friends, Miss Stevie Wonder. We had Stevie in our lives for 15 years... almost to the day. She was about 16 years old and died of the effects of cancer and old age. 

It's hard to put into words just how wonderful and special our Stevie was... She was a gentle and pensive spirit, she thrived on connection, and was a true friend. 

Most of all, Stevie was PERFECT. She was a perfect spirit. She had perfect little button ears, perfect black paws, a perfectly shaped dome head, perfect and sturdy little legs, perfect athletic agility, a perfect hairless little "pig belly," a beautiful and elegant perfect tail, perfect brown eyes, her perfect feathery Farrah Fawcett hair, perfect lady-like proportions, and a perfect heart full of all the complexities of a living being - love, fear, oddities, confidence, and mystery. Somehow, she was a surprisingly complex being, and knowing her felt rich and layered and meaningful. 

There is a yoga teaching that says "You're perfect the way you are. And also there is always work to be done." Whenever I would hear this teaching I would think "I am obviously not perfect, this doesn't apply to me." But when I really learned to love Stevie, I saw that she WAS perfect - even if she growled at other dogs and was an absolute weirdo... maybe even BECAUSE she of those things? It helped me think about myself and my quirks/"flaws" in a new way.

Stevie preferred quiet little pets, "tiny pets" as we called them: cheek scritches, ear rubs, and especially tiny armpit rubs. Her little armpits didn't have any hair, and she loved to roll over on her back and lift up her arm "PET MY PITS." You couldn't be rough or sudden with her, so she taught us to find a quiet place in ourselves. 

The very first night we brought Stevie home. 
Her eye was shaved because of a small surgery she had on her eyelid.

We adopted our Stevie from the ARF group in Walnut Creek. We drove up that day, determined to come home with a dog, ANY DOG, but we had no idea just how lucky we were.

The Stevie we met was extremely fearful. She was panting a lot, but mostly it was because she was anxious and unsure. She was afraid of the car, afraid of leashes, afraid of lots of men, afraid of people with hats, afraid of being hit...

But over the months and years, Stevie grew into herself. She became the quiet and undisputed alphadog of our pack. She knew what she liked, and what she didn't like and she wasn't afraid to stand up for herself. She didn't particularly like other dogs, and was sure to let them know immediately, with a sharp growl and snarl of the teeth. Ha ha. We were always having to apologize to other dog owners "Sorry! It doesn't get any worse than that! Shes's just a grump!"

Young Stevie

- Stevie's fuzzy, reddish puppy undercoat. She looked so different back then. I think she must have been 11-12 months old when we got her.

- When we adopted Dottie, Dottie showed Stevie how to shred up stuffed toys. Before that, Stevie didn't really understand how to be a rowdy young pup. But, she embraced this new idea with great joy, and there was a long phase wherein we lived with polyester stuffing all over the house. Ha ha.

- Can you see Stevie's beautiful perfect tongue, and the two black half-moon shapes on her tongue? She used to love to run and run and run and run and run and run and then lie down in the cool grass and unfurl her huge tongue to catch her breath. She looks so happy in this picture. 

Stevie at the Beach

Stevie was such an agile and elegant athlete. She was a creature of the natural world and nothing brought her more to life than her off-leash time in nature. Around the house, she would sometimes just look sorta glum and mopey... like an existentialist contemplating the meaninglessness of it all... But as soon as she hit the trail, or the beach, or the forest - her whole spirit would transform. She would run and chase and dig and sniff and wade and explore with confidence and vitality. It was so beautiful. 

Our Stevie always loved to be reassured that she was very good and very loved... she kinda had low self-esteem. She LOVED her own name, she loved being told what a good girl she was, she loved rousing affirmative good-girl snuggles, and even when she went deaf, we had a special hand sign for "Good Girl" - which made her wag her tail EVERY TIME until the day she died. We called this "puffing her up." Sometimes, on a walk, she'd check in for a sec, just to get "puffed up" and we'd razzle her fur and douse her in lots of praise and she'd start to rev up and get all overjoyed and then she'd run off again - all puffed up and recharged for more fun. 

"Go Swimming!"

Stevie loved a good wading session... not much a fan of the full-body swim, she loved to get her naked tummy and her naked armpits wet, just enough to cool down. On our many, many, many walks through the forest, we would reach a spot with good access to the creek and say "Gooooooo Swimming!" and she and Dottie would tear down the hillside and into the water. Dottie usually just gingerly stood there and drank and little water, but Stevie would leap in and have a soak.

It makes me so happy to remember the joy and energy she experienced on these walks. Of all the wonderful adventures and walks we shared every day for 15 years, the forest was her absolute favorite. 

A Head-Out-The-Window Dog

Stevie always loved to feel the breeze in her hair. She never enjoyed long drives, but she LOVED a short drive to the park or the woods...  her head would pop out the window almost immediately. It was so fun to sit in the passenger seat, look in the side mirror, and see her contented little face, squinting into the air. 

She valued calm and peace and safety, and was a natural protector. She almost always slept by the front door, by the back gate, by the door to my yoga room - taking her self-appointed job as our guardian very seriously. One time the FedEx man came in our back gate with a package (WTF?!), and I heard all this barking... I went to the backyard, only to find little 28-pound Stevie had him pinned up against the gate with terror. I apologized to him, but afterwards I praised her effusively. 

All that said, although she preferred calm, she was also a joyful part of the absolute chaos whenever someone rang the doorbell ( FREAK OUT!), when we left for a walk, when we were doing tricks and training time, or when all the dogs would start to howl and sing together. I love about her that she had a distinct comfort zone, but also found ways to enjoy an emotional range outside of that. 

She loved learning tricks, loved treats, loved being praised, and was easy to train. When we first got her, we had a really exceptional trainer, whom Stevie immediately loved. We learned so many good tricks from that trainer, which held us in good stead for all those years. Doing tricks together always made Stevie so happy - she loved the attention, and she loved the routine of it all. Her favorite tricks were probably good ol "sit, down, shake"... but she was a very cute and proficient high-fiver too. 

More than anything, Stevie was a sweet and loving being. To be loved by her felt like an achievement - like you had been awarded a valued status. She was wary, until she loved you, and then she was a loyal and lifelong friend. She remembered people she loved, even if she had not seen them for a very long time. She was deep like a river, and it felt good to shower her in love. She just soaked it up. She loved being in bed with the whole pack...  in the mornings she loved to sleep in all the way until breakfast time, and she loved a soft pillow under her beautiful head. 

Life will be different for us without this special beauty, but boy do we feel lucky that we accidentally brought home a dog who turned out to be such a marvelous and special friend. Onward, sweet perfect Stevie Weevie... 


  1. This is the most perfect tribute to a truly perfect dog and friend. <3

  2. A lovely tribute to your sweet Stevie.

  3. I'm waggling my hand back and forth in memory of our special black dog girl, Miss Stevie Wonder, the perfect. And I'm waggling my hand back and forth for you and Musty, her furever hoomans.
    Thanks for sharing this memorial of your life with Stevie.
    Love you.

  4. Amey, I'm so sorry for your loss of sweet Stevie! She was a lucky pup to find such a wonderful home where she was loved and cherished for so many years!

  5. What a beautiful tribute to your friend. I know all of us out here in the world who have only known Stevie and your other furry family members through your words have come to feel like we know & love them too. I love that you had a "good girl" hand sign for her that still made her perfect tail wag. Thinking of you, Amey.

  6. Stevie's sweetness comes through your writing and pictures perfectly. Though I never met her, I know that if I did, she'd be one of my favourite dogs of all time. So sorry for your loss, thinking of you in this tough time. <3

  7. Such a moving memorial to a true Good Girl. Thank you for sharing, and I'm so sad you had to say goodbye!

  8. What a beautiful tribute to a most perfect dog. I too had never met Stevie, but I love all dogs and I think we'd have hit if off. What you wrote about her--what a gift of love. You truly understood her and she loved you for it. I hope she meets up with my Precious across the Rainbow Bridge. As a friend once told me: Dogs are the best people. <3

  9. This is such a beautiful and incredibly touching tribute to sweet Stevie <3

  10. Such a beautiful goodbye to such a perfect little girl. I'm so sorry she's gone but what amazing experiences you had together!


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