[Our pal Andy Fisher, who serves as the Readlarrypowell.com Northeast Correspondent in Denville, N.J., has written this wonderful tribute. He described it as “a few words and some pictures” about Bella. And that headline, “Requiem for a Noble Dog,” is Andy’s. Here’s the story by Andy Fisher.]
Bella joined our household a little over a year ago, while we were mourning the loss of Barley, a handsome Husky/retriever who had been rescued by my stepson Ian, using his First Communion money. Barley had been with him and his mom for 15 years, and had even chaperoned Annie's and my first date.
We had gone to the pet-supply store for cat food on a Saturday, when our local Eleventh Hour Animal Rescue group was holding an adoption session. Bella was in a cage at the back of the adoption area; she was old and plain and no one was looking at her -- except Annie, who made eye contact.
As Annie turned to walk away, Bella put her head down as if to say, "You were my last hope..." According to her backstory, she was 11 years old; had been raised from a pup in North Carolina; her family had gotten a puppy for Christmas; and on the day after Christmas, she had been dumped in a "kill" shelter.
"I can't get that dog off my mind," Annie kept saying for the rest of the day. By early the next week, Bella was ours. She arrived shell-shocked and fearful. Annie gave her a small squeaky toy, and for days, Bella walked around with it in her mouth, as if to say, "I never had anything, and I'm not going to let this go."
Soon, she realized that she had picked a new family that would give her anything she wanted or needed. She loved hearing "Bella's story," about how she had come to live with Mommy and Daddy, and we never got tired of telling her the story as she was about to go to sleep at night.
We were never really certain what breeds were represented in her heritage; she was listed as "flat-coated retriever" on one document, "cocker/chow" on another. She had a cocker's muzzle and high spirits, but her floppy ears were smaller than a cocker's, and she was larger than a cocker and much larger than a chow. Whatever her background, she was truly endearing, although she was very shy, even with Ian. She would back away from those who tried to pet her, although when they walked away, she would follow them.
Her first visit to Kim Sperun, her groomer at Back of the Bike Pet Grooming in nearby Randolph, NJ, started hesitatingly, but a couple of treats quickly won her over, and soon she had changed from, "Daddy, I want to go home," to "Don't let the door hit you on the way out..." and when I came back to pick her up, she had a big smile on her face and looked like a million dollars.
It became clear over time that she was battling some serious neurological issues, always a concern when one adopts an elderly pet. She became more and more unsteady as she made her way down the front stairs for her walks, and the walks became shorter and shorter.
I developed a technique of picking her up with both arms like a forklift, and sometimes I would carry her around like that; I couldn't see the expression on her face, but Annie took a picture that showed her with a big smile.
We never once heard her bark, except when she was sleeping and dreaming! Her feet would start running, and we could only imagine her dreaming about being a puppy again, dashing across some long-forgotten field and barking with joy.
Bella was only with us for a year; the vet suspected a brain tumor, and eventually she began suffering some serious falls and her vision and hearing were clearly compromised. But in her short time as a cherished family member, she taught us patience, appreciation, forgiveness, and unconditional love.
She never failed to be thrilled when Annie came through the door after work at the end of the day, and she always slept on the floor by the head of the bed, on my side.
She was my first dog, but she will not be my last.
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