Goodbye, sweet Bella boo

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.

xo,
Gina

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120 Comments

  1. Kristen on September 8, 2020 at 9:25 am

    It is completely apparent that you gave her the best possible life, and I hope that knowing you didn’t ever take her for granted gives you some peace❤️ So much love to you, there are few things harder than losing a pet.

  2. Alex on September 8, 2020 at 9:36 am

    Gina, we had to say goodbye to Domino, our sweet border collie mutt of 13+ years (though we got him full grown, so he was likely 15 or 16) on Saturday as well so our family knows a little bit about what you’re going through right now. So sorry to hear about Bella…perhaps our good dogs are getting to know each other in Doggie Heaven right now. Sending love.

    • Dee on September 9, 2020 at 10:38 pm

      My deepest condolance.I lost my one in a life time fur baby 5yrs ago.He was a 25 pound Pom who thought he was a 5 yr boy human boy.He had diabetes for 8yrs od hisb14& 1/2 yrs.He would stand and put his head down for his insulin injections then go run to play. Maybe Bella is playing with my Kujoe Star since he would welcome her joyfully!!! Peace & hugs!!!

  3. Katie on September 8, 2020 at 10:19 am

    This made me cry. I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s always hard losing a pet and I’m sending you strength and comfort. 🙂

    Our cat is also 14 (and also named Bell, or Belly most of the time!).

  4. Pamela on September 8, 2020 at 10:26 am

    I’m so sorry for your loss Gina. What a touching tribute and great reminder to appreciate these brief but powerful seasons with our beloved pets. I snuggled my 7 year old chiweenie Fritz extra hard this morning while crying after reading your post. ❤️❤️❤️

  5. Reeni on September 8, 2020 at 10:45 am

    Awwww…. so sorry. It’s so hard to lose a pet. Hugs and prayers to you all. xo

  6. Erin on September 8, 2020 at 11:40 am

    Crying as I read this. I’ve been a longtime reader of your blog (Valdosta!) so I know how much you love her. She was a special girl & was blessed by the life you gave her.

  7. Kristin P on September 8, 2020 at 11:50 am

    Big ugly tears. Your words are my thoughts of my own sweet boy Toby. The pain lessens but the love is always strong. It has been a year and I still cry randomly. May her love be with you always until you meet again.

  8. Stacey on September 8, 2020 at 12:16 pm

    Well that was crushing to read… and I had to do it in multiple stages so I wasn’t a blubbering mess. Losing an animal is legit one of the hardest things to go through. I know for me I always wonder, “Did I do enough? Love enough? Take them enough places? Did they REALLY know how much they meant to me?” But in the end, it’s like having kids and wondering the same thing (especially after a very hard day)… if you care to wonder any of that, then the answer is yes. You did it all correctly and then some.
    How is Caro doing? That is always something I worried about too… the other dog. We’ve lost 2 dogs in 3 years time and during all of that the second dog has still remained. I always wonder what she must be thinking… For the first dog loss we took her to the vet to smell her brother after he was put to sleep so she would (hopefully) understand she shouldn’t go looking for him. The second dog was killed in an accident, but they were together so we assume she witnessed the entire event and then went for help… which is how we got her back.
    While this was incredibly hard to read, I do appreciate the vulnerability of your writing.

  9. Donna on September 8, 2020 at 12:33 pm

    So very sorry. Minus the kids, this could have been me writing. My baby girl lived 3 months short of 17.
    My heart hurts for you…..]

  10. Melissa on September 8, 2020 at 3:01 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear about Bella and sending you and yours my vibes and love. It’s so hard to say goodbye but I hope you know that she knows how much she was loved by you and your family. She could have not have asked for better people.

  11. Rachel on September 8, 2020 at 3:13 pm

    Sending you and your family lots of love – so glad you and Bella got to share so many years of happiness together <3

  12. C Ma on September 8, 2020 at 4:12 pm

    I am so sorry for your loss. She seems like a real sweetie. Best to you and your family.

  13. Trish on September 8, 2020 at 5:27 pm

    Cried like a baby reading this. My perfect little girl Sophie was almost 17. Slept on our bed every night, would go get her ducky when I said the word and loved me throwing and her bringing it back. She became demented in the end and wondered away from home several times but I would always find her. Until the last time. I looked and looked but I tell myself she did it that way cause she thought it would be easier for me. I don’t know what’s harder, holding them or not knowing.. I still miss her so much. She knew more than most humans. The only thing that has helped me was when a friend gave me a adorable morky. But as cute and smart as he is I still miss my Sophie. I do believe I’ll see her again when I go home.

    • Patricia Giattina on September 8, 2020 at 10:16 pm

      Oh my I’m crying as I read this I too have a dog that looks just like her and we recently got attacked by a Pitbull dog and that really bonded us. We are Ok but it was a hard recovery along with scares he will have. He had 4 surgeries but happy now. I love him so so much. I’m so sorry for your loss but know she was very much loved and she knew and felt it

  14. Melissa S. on September 8, 2020 at 7:24 pm

    Oh sweet girl. Very sorry for your loss. Take care.

  15. Patricia Giattina on September 8, 2020 at 10:15 pm

    Oh my I’m crying as I read this I too have a dog that looks just like her and we recently got attacked by a Pitbull dog and that really bonded us. We are Ok but it was a hard recovery along with scares he will have. He had 4 surgeries but happy now. I love him so so much. I’m so sorry for your loss but know she was very much loved and she knew and felt it

  16. Sarah on September 8, 2020 at 10:23 pm

    What a touching tribute. Sending you love and strength.

  17. Chelsie on September 8, 2020 at 10:55 pm

    Gina

    I am so so sorry for your loss. I have always loved seeing Bella in your posts. You were such a good mama to her and she was blessed to have such a loving family. I am thinking of you and cried as I read this sad update. My family will be praying for you.

  18. Carlas on September 9, 2020 at 12:20 am

    So sorry for your loss, dear. My heart grieves with your heart. Had to put my sweet boy of 14 years to sleep two weeks ago. A beloved black Lhasapoo named Coal. Mine from ten weeks. I know how you must love and miss Bella Boo, but please know that your article has helped me so much. Thank you. We gave them the best lives and they gave us every ounce of themselves. So grateful for the warm furry cuddly gifts of love they were to us. God bless you and your family.

  19. Adrienne on September 9, 2020 at 12:47 am

    I’m so so sorry. I’m Crying Big big ugly tears. I completely understand what you’re feeling and going through. A month ago I had to say goodbye to my sweet special mini dachshund. She was 15, and like Bella was with me from college, moving, to my engagement, wedding, having kiddos-all of it. She was my constant, always. I didn’t deserve her and I will never get used to not having her following me everywhere. The only comfort I get is knowing she was the best Little dog who is now happy and healthy in Heaven. I’m SO sorry for your loss. Hang in there and know we are saying prayers for you and your family.

  20. Emily on September 9, 2020 at 2:26 am

    What an incredibly lucky dog she was to have you as her owner. You gave her an amazing life in every way. She got to live in safety and love with a family who adored her. That is the doggie lottery, man!! This is an incredible and beautiful tribute. I am holding you all in my heart and I bet Bella is already having lots of fun across the rainbow bridge <3

  21. Brandy H. on September 9, 2020 at 10:13 am

    I am so sorry Gina!!! I am sitting here crying at work because my heart just aches for you. I tell my dog the same thing, “please just live forever.” Hugs!!!

  22. Cindy on September 9, 2020 at 11:13 am

    I am so sorry Gina. Those pics above are precious. A loss like yours takes time… take it. She will always be in your heart.
    Am sending prayers.

  23. Lorna on September 9, 2020 at 12:35 pm

    <3 <3 <3 <3 I'm sorry, Gina.

  24. Zoe on September 9, 2020 at 1:31 pm

    I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s the worst feeling to loose a pet, especially a beloved one. Sending love and healing to you and your family ❤

  25. Carla on September 9, 2020 at 9:24 pm

    Crying for you. i know how painful it is to lose aloved pet… Family member. Bless you. She will meet kindness in doggy heaven.

    • T Crisp on September 10, 2020 at 8:46 am

      Thank you for sharing your Bella with us. Thank you for teaching your children how to love/treat animals.
      After each of my 3 Dachshunds died
      15 -17yrs old, I felt them brushing up against my legs or butting me with their cold wet nose or curled-up on my lap or sleeping next to me.
      Best dream was of my Maysie pawing/banging at the door to come-in to the house, staring-up at me, as if to say, ” Well, there you are. You think you got rid of me that quickly? ” She then ran to her bowl.
      You will still feel Bella often. It is her way of letting you know that she is ok, at peace and laments “twas heaven here on earth with you…just waiting for you”.
      I am so sorry for you and your family’s loss. Yes, and they should live forever!
      Hugs!

  26. Tracy on September 11, 2020 at 5:52 pm

    Gina, my heart goes out to you. It is truly one of the hardest life experiences. And I think I cried sporadically for months after I lost mine dog of 14.5 years as well. Take all the time you need.

  27. Ari on September 11, 2020 at 7:32 pm

    I’m so sorry Gina. <3 Sending you lots of love and comfort.

  28. Ulli on September 12, 2020 at 3:30 pm

    I’m so sorry for your loss!! I’ve had pets my whole life and had to let go already of my two cats that moved in with me in my very first apartment. It was so hard, I had to take a few days off and cried for weeks. So I send you a big hug from Austria!!! Ulli

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