A thick, white plastic bowl chained to a water fountain on Veterans Parkway in Manhattan Beach, CA, has quenched the thirst of many a panting dog over the years. But few owners who pause to water their thirsty pets at this modest little oasis realize it’s an unmarked memorial for a beloved dog called Diba, who ran and walked on the greenbelt alongside her owners, Alta and Bill Stauffer, for most of her 14 years.
The Stauffers installed the bowl on the greenbelt above the corner of Valley Drive and Blanche Avenue in Diba’s memory a few years ago. They weren’t sure if they were allowed to put an inscription on it to commemorate the dog, a black lab mix that died in 1999. That was shortly after the couple moved from their home in Westchester, CA, to retire in Bellingham, WA—a city filled with trails that appealed to the pair, both avid runners and hikers who first met on a Sierra Club backpacking trip.
But Diba never really took to Bellingham. “Her ashes are in Los Angeles,” Alta said, “so we decided to put the bowl in the greenbelt, where she was the happiest.”
Every year, Alta and Bill head south in their motor home to spend the winter in Hemet, CA. They take the time to visit the greenbelt to give the bowl a good scrubbing.
“It’s getting a little scuzzy,” Alta said. “We want to replace it with a good stainless-steel bowl. We’d like to have it engraved. But we don’t want to break any rules.”
The couple have since replaced the bowl with a large, shiny stainless-steel model they hope will be more durable than its predecessor. “It’s the most beautiful one in the entire greenbelt,” Alta said.
It was shortly after their marriage in November 1985 that the couple decided to adopt a dog. They found Diba the day after Christmas through a Recycler ad. A little smaller than a regular lab, she was only 8 weeks old when they got her.
Active and playful, the dog accompanied them everywhere, enjoying the world from the comfort of her own bed in the back of their van or through an open side window, her nose and ears catching the breezes. She accompanied them on their backpacking trips in the Sierras, throughout the U.S. and to Canada and Mexico. “She was the best traveler,” Alta said.
But Diba was probably happiest on her visits to the greenbelt. The Stauffers took her there on Wednesdays and Fridays after work (Bill worked for TRW and Alta worked for a software company) and on Sunday mornings. In her younger days, Diba ran alongside her owners. In her later years, the couple would walk her first, and then let her rest in the van while they went for their run.
As Diba aged, the hair around her eyes and mouth turned gray, but she was still alert and eager for a walk. A few months after moving to Bellingham in July 1999, the Stauffers and Diba made a return trip to Los Angeles in their RV en route to Florida to visit Bill’s family. It was in L.A., not far from her beloved greenbelt, that Diba’s health failed and she died. Her ashes were scattered nearby, but for Alta and Bill Stauffer, her memory remains indelible.
“Not a day has gone by that we have not mentioned her name,” Alta said. “She had a wonderful life.”