Struttin’ Stella

When my Basset, Hennessy, died in 2009, I started searching the Internet for a young female Basset. None of them really caught my eye until I saw Rita. Then I realized she was with Dawn Smith at Daphneyland. I’ve known Dawn for a million years. I asked her if she thought Rita would be a good fit. She said, “Come and get her.” Rita had come into ASPCA Fresno a year before, starving, without any hair. They were going to put her down, but Dawn had room and took her in. She’s probably a Basset/Springer Spaniel, which is why she caught my eye (my first dog was a Springer). I took the big dog and drove up to meet her.

My favorite moment was when Johnnie and I went in the gate and forty Bassets came running at him, barking and howling. Dawn has up to 100 Bassets (with a few mixes and other breeds) at the ranch. Rita was a little timid, but she and Johnnie got along just fine. She came home and became Stella, named after the beer. For those of you keeping track of my boozy dog names, they’ve been Chandon, Moet, Hennessy, Bailey, Johnnie (Walker Red), now Stella (Artois). It turns out there used to be a French breed called the Artois Hound, and it was formerly called the Picard, which is my maiden name.

Stella’s had a hard life, and it shows. She’s been slowly gaining confidence, though she’s still shy about strangers and other dogs. So of course we went to the Strut Your Mutt event. 1,000 dogs and their owners, 21 local pet charities, run by Best Friends. Registration was 6:30AM in the parking lot next to the Santa Monica Pier. Being summer in Santa Monica, it was cold and foggy. Registration went smoothly, Dawn arrived with some of her hounds and all her gear. After some investigation, I found out the parking lot attendants show up at 7:30, which means all of us had to go back and pay, standing in the dark between the attendants and the cars lined up. Could have paid them to show up an hour early, if you ask me. We were all ready to walk at 8:20, when some woman got up on stage and tried to get us to do yoga. We’re standing in a parking lot, leashes in hand. Not really conducive to yoga. Finally, we started our walk.

One thing you have to know about Dawn. She does things in style. She had a carriage for the King and Queen Bassets, and Karen Rosen, who raised the most money. She had signs with photos of hounds who couldn’t be there. And every hound (and many owners) got a festive plastic lei. It would be hard to miss 45 Bassets on any day, but we sure stood out in the crowd.

Stella did very well. She wasn’t happy, but she stuck with me and Johnnie and we all raised over $8,000 for her former home. Best Friends did a great job running the event (next time, the parking thing, right guys?). 1,000 dogs and their people had a lovely day. But no yoga.

© 2010 Janine Smith. Not to be reproduced or distributed without permission.