You get a once-in-a-lifetime dog… and Bella is mine.
I fiercely loved this little dog for her entire life. All 14 1/2 years. And I’m going to miss her with my entire heart until we can be together again one day.
Bella was a Valentine’s gift from the Pilot when we’d only been dating for a few months. We had gone to look at puppies and she was my very favorite: the runt of the litter with slightly apricot curly fur and what I could tell was a spunky spirit and sassy personality. I was studying at my apartment a week later, and the Pilot left to “run an errand.” He came back with Bella, who was damp from the quick bath the owners had given her, and wrapped in one of their t-shirts. I fell in love with her instantly and from then on, she was my very best friend.
She lived with us in Fayetteville, Valdosta, Orlando, Tucson, San Diego, back to Valdosta, and back to Tucson.
She was with me as I finished college during the Pilot’s first deployment. We were together for three more deployments, the birth of our babies, job promotions, major life changes, the highest highs and the lowest lows. She’s been my constant in the chaos that was our military life and she loved me and always had tons of puppy kisses and a tail that would shake her entire body with excitement. She’s been to movie theaters with me, many patio dining experiences, parks, vacations, and so many car rides and neighborhood walks.
Although she routinely ate her servings of dog food, any human food left unguarded in her vicinity was at risk of being snatched up when we weren’t looking. We joked that she was the “trash can” and she had a stomach of steel. Over the years, she’s had an entire chocolate bar(!), coconut curry chicken and rice, pizza, waffles, pancakes, pasta, and anything chicken, to name a few.
(That one time she stole a chicken tender and took it outside to enjoy on the grass.)
Bella was more of a person than a dog. She was wise and brilliantly smart. She always had a twinkle in her eye and knew exactly when you needed a kiss or a snuggle. We called her The Healer because if you were sick or sad, she snuggled up with you and stayed by your side until you were feeling better. I never really felt like I had to “take care of her.” Yes, I gave her food and and water and made sure she was groomed, etc. but it always just felt like we were hanging out and having fun together. If anything, she took care of me.
She thought she was a big dog. At the dog park, it’s like she was offended that she had to stay on the little dog side. She’d bark along the fence at the big dogs until they’d sprint with her, back and forth. We could never believe how fast she could run! She would sprint back and forth until she finally trotted over to a shady spot to roll in the grass and relax. Just until this past week, she’d still get the zoomies and run around upstairs, or coerce Caro into chasing her in the backyard.
She had a thousand nicknames (Bell, Belly, Za Beal, Bealerton, Señor Beal-o, Bell-bell, Bella-boo, Bamboozler, the list goes on and on and on…) and it was very common to add her name into top 40s songs. Even the girls did this and it was normal for P to sing, “I love it when you call me Bell-erita.”
I read somewhere that we don’t deserve dogs and wholeheartedly agree. She always felt too good to be true, and since she was a tiny puppy, I never took her for granted. Every single night, I would snuggle her, tell her how much I loved her, and I’d jokingly tell her that she has to live forever.
This past weekend, Bella’s tiny energetic body gave out on her, after a lifetime of unconditional joy and love she brought into our house. The sarcoma ravaged her so quickly it still boggles my mind. The ophthalmologist said we had days or weeks left with her and I didn’t want to believe him. I’d think, “It’s Bell. It’s a horrible prognosis, but she’s strong and feisty. I think we’ll get longer than that.” When she stopped eating and just wanted to be held the last day, we knew it was time. It was an impossible decision but in the end, we didn’t want her to suffer or feel pain, or to selfishly wait a couple more days just to have more time with her.
The vet came to our house so she could be in her favorite spot. The girls kissed her goodbye and my mom took them up to the playroom, and I cradled her in my arms. As she began to fall alseep, the Pilot pet her curly fur and gazed into her eyes while we both told her one last time how special she is, how much we loved her, and thank you for always being there. I held her the entire time as Bella left earthside, and cried into her fur when she was gone. I can still feel her body snuggled up in mine as I type this. Forever wouldn’t have been enough time with this amazing girl, but I feel so thankful that she was with us for so long.
She taught our babies to love dogs. She taught me how to be a mom. She’s a part of me that will always be there but I can’t believe she’s no longer here. I’m still trying to make it through a day without randomly crying. The emptiness and loneliness is crushing. I still expect her to come bounding through the garage door with her tail shaking her entire body. She’s slept next to me for 14 1/2 years and she was always in the kitchen when I was cooking, hoping for me to give her a bite.
I’m going to take a couple of days off the blog and will be back for Friday Faves. I know that blogging will help to give me a sense of normalcy as I navigate all of this.
Thank you for those of you who have reached out and for loving Bella from afar for all of this time. I’m sure she’s up there watching golf with my Tata Gene, sprinting with the big dogs, and eating whole rotisserie chickens.