READY TO HANG – Instructor Franco Zacha, a Brooklyn based artist/illustrator, looks over the work of Sitka Fine Arts Camp students putting the final touches on their gauche paintings this morning. Students will show their work at an opening in Yaw Art Center on the SJ campus Saturday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Students pictured in foreground are Kai Thomas, 17, from Anchorage and Audrey Mack, 17, of Seattle, far right. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson) 

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Daily Sitka Sentinel

Family Dog Stella Comes In From the Cold

By GARLAND KENNEDY

Sentinel Staff Writer

After going missing from her neighborhood more than two months ago, Sitka’s luckiest golden retriever was found clinging to a perch high on the face of a rock quarry on Yaw Drive Sunday.

The 13-year-old dog is now much thinner than she was before her ordeal, and is scarred from an encounter with a bear, but Stella remains the same affectionate animal she has always been, say her owners, Sarah and Jerome Mahoskey.

The Mahoskeys, Kai, 5, Quinn, 7, Sarah and Jerome, and dog Stella pose for a family portrait in their living room this morning. Stella, a 13-yearold golden retriever, was found recently after being spooked by fireworks and living alone outdoors for 65 days, during which time she apparently was swatted by a bear. Stella also survived being buried in a landslide eight years ago. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Eight years ago, Stella survived a landslide that killed three people on Kramer Avenue.

Jerome Mahoskey was surprised Sunday when he got a call from a friend, Tim Eddy, who said he thought the dog might be in the Yaw Drive rock pit. He rushed to the site where Eddy was waiting.

“We were at the bottom of the pit,” said Mahoskey, recalling the moment. “And there’s probably about maybe 100 feet of elevation gain, and there’s a couple of benches and she was on the second bench up there. And Tim was like, ‘Do you see her?’ I was like, ‘No, I don’t.’ And he spotted her out on an orange ash bank, and she blended right in. Finally I saw her and she was just standing so still like a statue. Literally no movement, and right away I knew it was her.”

He scrambled up the rock face and, with caution and Eddy’s help, got the dog down.

He recalled the reaction of his two small children when their missing dog came home.

“I think they were more stunned than anything, in disbelief… I just showed up with the dog,” their father said. “She was so excited for the kids, but at the same time she was so dangerously weak… It was unreal,” he said.

Sarah Mahoskey summarized the dog’s personality – affable and easygoing, a friendly fur ball who makes people smile.

“She is the biggest lover you have ever met,” she said. “She brings so much joy to everyone.”

On July 7 the family had gone to Sandy Beach with Stella. “And so many people were coming up to me saying she’s like the beach patrol,” Sarah said. “She’s running up and down the beach checking on all the kids. She just has always been the biggest lover.”

But back at home that night, Stella, spooked by fireworks, disappeared. The Mahoskeys searched for days but couldn’t find her.

“In our heads, initially, we were like, ‘Well, she’s just going to come home.’ This is her place where everyone loves her. She has such a good life… It got dark. And finally, we’re like, OK, we’ll go to bed,” Sarah Mahoskey said. “She’ll be on our porch in the morning. And then she still wasn’t here.”

She was thankful for the help of friends and neighbors during the search.

“Friends would plan their weekend hikes in our area just so there could be an extra set of eyes looking for her,” she said. “Since she’s been found we have had deliveries to our door including canned salmon and venison bone broth – to nurse Stella back to health.”

It was not long after the search for Stella started that a neighbor delivered alarming news: they had heard what sounded like an altercation between a bear and a dog, and they feared the worst. As the weeks dragged into months, it was hard to accept that Stella might be gone, Sarah said.

“At some point, we kind of had to accept that she would have come home,” she said. “If she was out there, like this is her safe, happy, loving place and why wouldn’t she be home unless she wasn’t alive? Right? So time went on. I was having a very hard time finding closure.”

But their seven-year-old son Quinn refused to give up hope.

“‘But mom,’” she recalled the boy saying, “‘we don’t know that she’s gone, we don’t know that and there’s a chance that she’s still out there.”’

All told, Stella was alone outdoors for 65 days. The family said veterinarian Nicole Caraway found the dog had signs of being clawed by a bear on her left hip and down her leg.

This wasn’t Stella’s first brush with death. Eight years ago, she survived a landslide that killed three people on Kramer Avenue.

The Mahoskeys had adopted Stella from Tracey Sylvester and her partner Jesse Remund, a Port Alexander couple, in 2014. “She has lived a life full of adventure in Southeast as a fisherman,” Sylvester told the Sentinel via email, “fully explored the beaches of Cape Cod, and is known all over Boston as well as Sitka!”

Stella split her time between Massachusetts and Southeast Alaska as a young dog, Sylvester said in a follow up interview.

“She spent a lot of time on fishing boats as a puppy... One of the biggest reasons why we re-homed her with Jerome and Sarah was because she didn’t really like... being on the fishing boats, so we didn’t want to torture her with that,” she said.

Sylvester currently lives in Massachusetts, and remembered Stella eating countless slugs as a puppy and generally enjoying the outdoors.

Only a year after the adoption, Stella and the Mahoskeys’ other golden retriever, Cooper, were in Jerome Mahoskey’s truck at a house construction site on Kramer Avenue during a heavy rainstorm. A landslide was triggered, killing brothers Elmer and Ulises Diaz and city building inspector William Stortz.

Mahoskey was able to escape the slide on foot, but when he found his truck smashed by the slide, he thought the dogs probably had not survived. But Stella, trapped and partially crushed, was pulled from the wreckage by firefighter Craig Warren, who now is fire chief. Cooper had managed to escape and was found alive hours later.

When the family found Stella this past Sunday after her second near-death experience, she weighed only 30 pounds, about half her normal weight. She is on special diet for a healthy weight gain, and now weighs 33 pounds, the Mahoskeys said.

She’s thinner, they said, but is still the affectionate dog she has always been, eager to cuddle up beside her family.

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20 YEARS AGO

July 2004 

Homes for sale: Stunning view, 4 bdrms., 3 baths, master suite,hardwood-laminate floors, new appliances $369,000; Three-level family home, apt. 3 bdrms., 2 kitchens, 13/4 baths, $232,000.


50 YEARS AGO

July 1974

    Lee Salisbury, speech and theater arts professor at the University of Alaska, will be drama instructor for grades 7-12 at the Regional Fine Arts Camp. The camp is sponsored by the Southeast Alaska Regional Arts Council and is held on the Sheldon Jackson College campus. Jim Hope is camp director.


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