Before last week, Stella James was just a butter-loving 4-year-old terrier mix who enjoys going on walks, sleeping in later than most dogs and has a guinea pig for a best friend (which she rescued from hiding in the family backyard).
Now, Stella has a new title -- Pleasanton's 2023 Ambassadog.
"Now therefore it be resolved that the city of Pleasanton hereby confers upon Stella the distinct honor of serving as the 2023 Pleasanton Ambassador dog, and wishes Stella well as she pleasantly paws her way through Pleasanton in her new role for our dog friendly city," Councilmember Valerie Arkin said during the March 21 City Council meeting.
Originally a foster dog at the Valley Humane Society, Stella was adopted by Pleasanton resident Michelle James in January 2021. James was no stranger to fostering animals from the nonprofit as she and her daughter had previously helped her neighbor who fostered kittens.
"(My neighbor) would have me and my daughter, Hannah, come over and play with the kittens so they would have more social time, and so she got us into fostering," James said, adding that it was mostly kittens that they fostered.
But with her kids wanting a dog, James decided to take a chance by temporarily fostering the now-Ambassadog, Stella.
"I thought we would think 'no, it's too much work' but Stella just acted like she was part of the family and so we just kept her," James said.
Since then, James has come to appreciate Stella's cat-like personality of not waking up early, befriending her other pet cat and even preferring cat food over dog food.
"She sleeps in until like 10 or 11 a.m., no matter if the whole household is up, which obviously we're up at that time," James said. "That's why I didn't want a dog because I see people get up at, like, five and six in the morning to walk their dog no matter what … so Stella is kind of perfect like that."
James, however, had no idea that her sleep-loving terrier would eventually represent all of Pleasanton's puppy population.
She explained how last October, the Valley Humane Society held its annual Tails at Twilight gala where James' fiancee won an auction for the title. James said that he had originally wanted it for his own dog but instead gave the title to Stella.
"I had no idea what I was getting into, but it is funny and it's cute," James said.
The title also included a proclamation from the City Council during the March 21 meeting, special attention on a Tri-Valley Community Television program and a designated place of honor for Stella and her family in the city’s annual Hometown Holiday Parade.
"Valley Humane Society has been saving animal lives and supporting our community for more than 35 years, so we are pleased to have the city participate with them in recognizing the Pleasanton Ambassadog," said Assistant City Manager Pamela Ott in a press release. "Having an official canine representative highlights our dog-friendly community, while recognizing a valuable local non-profit organization and its efforts to save and improve the lives of Tri-Valley companion animals."
James echoed what Ott said in the press release and said that as a longtime foster volunteer who cares for dogs and cats while they are prepared for adoption, she sees the importance of the work the nonprofit is doing.
"I think it's huge what they do because they're saving so many animals, they're giving them their surgeries and they're taking them out of kill shelters," James said. "They're finding such good homes for so many animals so I like to be a part of that, however I can."