There were five or six Boxer puppies contained in a large plastic pen inside a neat brick ranch house in Monroe, NC. Two of them stood out from the others. One was lying sweetly in the corner, her front paws crossed neatly over each other. Her collar was soft pink and clean.
The other puppy was simultaneously pulling one of her siblings around by the collar while kangaroo jumping off her brothers and sisters’ heads. Her collar was bright red and tattered around the edges. I scooped up the one with the pink collar and nuzzled her to my neck. She melted into me. I hoped that she was the one that my husband, Tony, would pick. The dog was his Christmas present from me so the ultimate decision was his.
He ultimately decided on the wild woman in the frayed red collar who was harassing her siblings. She tried to jump out of Tony’s arms as soon as he picked her up. He said that he liked beautiful black Zorro mask and her spunk. She had spunk to spare.
She was our dog. She was our friend. She was our family. She was our Bella.
After 13 years of fun, exhausting, loving adventures we had to make the heart wrenching decision to put our sweet Bella to sleep. My brain knows that it was the right decision to make. The logical part of me knows that it was time, probably past time. I know that she was tired and old. I feel that she just kept hanging on because she knew how sad we would be without her. So, I understand that what we did was kind and humane.
However, that doesn’t mean I don’t miss her steady, sweet, goofy, clumsy, loving presence. I do. I miss her even though at the end, when she didn’t have control of her back legs and started having accidents in the house again, it was stressful. I miss acting like I didn’t notice my daughter, Conley, slipping Bella parts of her dinner under the table. I miss how Bella patiently tolerated Conley dressing her in superhero capes and princess tutus.
As a puppy Bella sprinted like an uncoordinated Usain Bolt. She ate my books, my flip flops, a soccer ball bladder and even a condom. Her penchant for swallowing non-food items caused digestive issues that once woke Tony and me up in the middle of the night - by the smell. If you have ever been awakened by a smell you know that it does not bode well for you. When she was two she found a five pound bag of all purpose flour at my mother-in-laws, ripped it open and then pranced around with the bag in her mouth and a Hansel and Gretel line of flour trailing behind her. When we finally caught up with her she had biscuits rising in her mouth.
Vacuum cleaners, umbrellas and men’s dress shoes were the monsters who haunted her dreams. However, lawn mowers, garbage trucks and leaf blowers were her sworn enemies and she would eagerly risk life and limb to defend all of her loved ones from their evil ways.
Bella was eight years old when we brought our daughter home from the hospital and we were unsure of how she feel about sharing us . She was curious and enthusiastically sniffed her for a couple of minutes when we introduced them. We tried to make sure that we gave Bella plenty of attention as we were afraid that she would feel replaced. Our concerns were unfounded. As I woke that first night, bleary eyed, for one of Conley’s many feedings I swung my legs off the bed and my feet connected with something furry. Bella usually slept in our bed under the covers. However, that night she slept at the end of Conley’s bassinet. When Conley moved to her own room, Bella went with her. After Conley transitioned into a full size bed, she went through a stage where she was convinced that an assortment of scary things lived under her bed, we told her that Bella was a certified monster eater and her fear subsided.
Conley went with us when we took Bella to the vet for the last time. We debated if we should take her but decided that she should have the right to tell the one who had loved her and protected her from all those monsters goodbye. When it came time to say goodbye to Bella, the three of us hugged her and told her how much we loved her. Before the vet took her away, Conley slipped her collar off, squeezed it and stuck it her pocket.
We will get another dog, probably sooner than later. It is too quiet around her and Conley doesn’t know what to do with the vegetables she doesn’t want to eat. We will love and cherish this new dog, but he or she will never be a replacement for Bella. Bella will always be our families’ first dog. Tony and I were young when we got Bella. She taught us how to love more deeply and openly. She showed us unconditional loyalty. And, from her we learned that some days a good cuddle can make all the bad melt away.
I know that Bella knew we loved her and I know that we made the right decision. It’s just that sometimes the right decision is the hardest one to make.
Rest easy, our girl.