STELLA: In front of a Temple on Aegina Island 27 kilometers from Athens, is Alison, Michael and Stella. Courtesy photo

In 2013 I wrote a column about my friend and neighbor Alison McLea entitled “Alison Flies with the Greatest of Ease on the Pier Trapeze.” It was inspired by her fearless approach to her trapeze lessons at The New York Trapeze School on the Santa Monica Pier. At 38, Alison had a life long dream of joining the circus by the age of 50. (The question is, did she make it?)

Also in that column I mentioned Alison’s wonderful dog, Stella, whom I often walked because Alison was swamped with massage and yoga clientele. Stella, a mix of a Hound, Yellow Labrador and Rhodesian Ridgeback, was the sweetest dog you’d ever meet.

Three years ago Alison and her husband, Michael, moved to Greece and took Stella with them. Sadly, Stella who lived to be 16, recently passed away so I’m writing this harrowing tale in loving memory of her. (Even though what she did that night in question almost took years off my life.)

It was a fun “side gig” walking Stella and this particular day seemed no different than all the others. I first went to Colleen Hughes 14th floor apartment to pick up Oscar De La Rascal, a Golden Retriever Service Dog who often seemed more human than canine. Oscar was always excited to see me knowing the fun that would soon follow.

With Oscar in tow, I went to the first floor and got his good friend Stella and off the three of us went to watch the gorgeous sun slowly setting into the ocean. (Actually I watched the sunset, the dogs sniffed the derrieres of other dogs.)

Then we headed to nearby Hollister Avenue where Andy, a surgeon friend of mine, owns Miley, a Vizsla, a Hungarian sporting breed, and a house with a huge backyard. So I took off all the leashes as the three dogs noisily chased each other while Andy and I went inside to have a beer.

As we were about to have a second beer we noticed the dogs were suddenly quiet. Uh oh. We immediately went outside and to my horror we saw Oscar and Miley but no Stella whom we quickly surmised dug a hole under the fence and had escaped! OMG.

I grabbed Stella’s leash and asked Andy to watch the other two as I ran outside where I saw a man walking his pooch and he could tell I was a bit frantic. (Okay, maybe more than a bit.) “You looking for your dog?” he asked. “Yes but she’s not mine, I was just watching her!” I exclaimed. “He ran to the park and made a left like he knew where he was going.”

“Thanks!” I replied, not correcting him that Stella was a “she,” and sprinted toward to the park.

Scanning the park in the darkness of night, I repeatedly shouted “Stella! Stella,” but didn’t see her anywhere. As a result of my shouting, however, I inadvertently woke an inebriated homeless man on a bench who seemed annoyed that I had disturbed his slumber.

“Who do you think you are, Marlon Brando?!” he sarcastically said while slurring his words. I was actually impressed he knew Brando’s “Stella” from Streetcar Named Desire. So much so that, as I resumed running south, I was now shouting “Bella!” to avoid further comparisons.

In the distance I saw an elderly woman with two dogs. I sprinted toward her to ask if she had seen Stella only to realize the second dog WAS Stella! I profusely thanked the woman and headed back to Andy’s house thoroughly relieved. I could only imagine what I would have said to Alison. “Al, good news, bad news. The bad news is Stella is lost. The good news is, if you get another dog, you won’t need to buy a new leash.”

Alison and Michael were so highly thought of by so many in Santa Monica I’ll bring you up to date on their activities in Greece. Firstly, Michael and his sister Leslie founded Verita International School educating the hearts and minds of children from 14 different countries around the world and ranging in ages from preschoolers to Year 5. Verita is described as offering “an unparalleled education where British curriculum meets 21st century learning.” (Frankly, it sounds so enlightened, if you have kids that age you may have to move to Greece.)

It’s unsurprising to anyone who knows her that Alison is still highly involved in “healing through movement,” as a Master Trainer at Beyond Fitness Greece and Master Bodywork. She’s also busily involved in Verita International School which brings me to did Alison finally join the circus by age 50?

“I’m at the school teaching and playing with the kids.” Alison says. “And we do everything a circus would, so the answer is… yes!”

Please Google “Veritaschool Athens” while Alison can be reached at: and Jack can be reached at: