Monday, July 28, 2014

Sweet Bella B

I've always been a dog person.  Growing up we always had dogs and/or cats.  I don't think I've ever lived in a home without an animal.  Fourteen years ago, when Tim and I were freshly in love and living together, we decided it was time to expand our family.  We spent weekends visiting the local animal shelters looking for just the right dog.  That's when we met Duke.  He was a wild, sweet, energetic puppy.  After having Duke for about a year it became clear he needed a friend.  He would get pretty anxious when Tim and I would leave the house and that resulted in tearing apart the sofa and getting in the trash can.  I wanted a baby puppy.  We got Duke when he was around 6 months old so he was big.  I wanted a small puppy with that sweet puppy breath.  Every Sunday I pulled the classifieds out of the News & Observer (*gasp* there was no Craigslist back then) and looked for free puppies.  I came across an ad one Sunday for free lab mix puppies.  That's what we were looking for so (with much convincing from me) Tim and I were off to check out this litter of puppies.  When we got there the puppies were all outside running around.  I would have taken them all, but there was this one...I think she picked us out instead of the other way around.  This sweet black-faced, fuzzy, clumsy little puppy ran straight up to Tim and I could tell then he was sold. 

We named her Bella.

We brought her home and she and Duke were best buddies from the get go.  Duke immediately stopped acting out.  Besides the potty training, Bella was the best little girl.  She had these quirks that were so endearing to Tim and I.  She had to have a ball in her mouth to go on a walk, whenever one of us would come home, she would pick up a shoe and bring it to us to greet us, she would do what we called "clean" with her nose--if there was some dog food on the ground she would rub it with her nose and push it all in to a pile.  She was the most lovable, soft, good-smelling, high maintenance dog around.  Up until having kids she slept in our bed with us. Usually up above Tim's head between him and the headboard.  She loved to play catch, go on car rides and swim.  Although she had only been a few times, she loved the beach.

And then we had kids.

Bella welcomed home each and every baby we had.  She was always so sweet and docile with the kids.  She never tried to be the alpha dog and was always very submissive.  Life got busy and our focus and attention was more towards the kids than the dogs.  But Bella was always there to greet us at the door--up until the last year or so--with a shoe.  She was always ready to walk when she heard the noise of her leash--until she couldn't hear anymore.  When we would walk into the room we would always hear the *thump, thump, thump* of her tail--until she could barely see anymore.  She was a constant companion.

And then the cancer took over.

Bella had a growth and it was clear to the vet it was cancer due to how fast it was growing.  It was too big to remove plus it wasn't recommended on a 12 year old dog.  She was not given a certain amount of time to live so we took it a day at a time.  This past year Tim selflessly took care of his pup doing things that would turn my stomach.  He treated her with dignity up until her last moments.  He proved to me that his big ol' daddy heart goes beyond his human kids and fully extends to his fur babies.  He carried her frail body up and down the 12 steps to our house to use the bathroom.  He bandaged her tumor when it would bleed.  He cleaned her when she would have accidents on herself...all of this while still hugging her and telling her what a good girl she is.

And then she was gone.

I'll never forget the day.  It was my birthday, actually.  I went home for lunch.  Tim was home watching the kids.  Bella was in her spot in the kitchen sleeping.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  But once I got back to work Tim started messaging me telling me that Bella wasn't walking or eating.  He was offering her all the yummy stuff from the fridge that she would normally flip over and she wasn't eating.  He knew it was time.  He later told me that she had been telling him with her eyes all day that it was time.  I came home for work to stay with the kids and Tim took her in.

And just like that...our companion for 13 years, a part of our daily lives, a living breathing part of our pack was gone.  How do you explain to a 3 and 6 year old that Bella isn't coming back from the vet with daddy?  How do you look at her spot in the kitchen and not expect to see her?  It's funny how use to something you get and not even realize it.  Bella was just always THERE.  The days following Bella's death were filled with tears.  This is the first time our family has grieved together over something.  This is the first time I've lost something very, very close to me.  Bella was a part of mine and Tim's lives for 13 years.  We've been together for 16 years.  The majority of my relationship with Tim has had Bella in it.

It's been over a week since we said goodbye to our sweet Bella B.  The dog food is lasting longer, there is half as much fur for me to sweep/vacuum and the house only smells a little like dog instead of a lot.  I don't expect to see her when I walk by her spot in the kitchen.  I have a picture of Bella in a silver star shaped frame that had gotten buried under kids artwork and other miscellaneous stuff over the years.  I'm glad I was able to find it because it's sitting front and center on our side table in the living room now.  I smile every time I look at it.

Honestly, as much as I hated battling the fur, I would take the fur any day if it meant having her back.  She was the best dog our family could ask for and we miss her so much.

Until we meet again Bella B.  We can't wait to play ball with you in Heaven.  

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