Bella Nina was found wandering around a highway near Tacoma, where she had for months eluded local folks who tried to help catch her. When this sweet dog finally let a person retrieve her and bring her to a local shelter, Old Dog Haven was asked for help and Bella’s new life began.

Her ODH Final Refuge person tells us, “For the first few months Bella was very standoffish and only showed excitement towards food and treats. It was clear that she enjoyed being loved, but seemed unsure if she deserved it. Then I took her for a walk in the woods during a big snowstorm: As soon as we stepped out, she sprinted ahead full speed and dove headfirst into about a foot of snow! She wiggled her whole body, all four paws sticking in the air, while making some very interesting noises. I just knew she was showing her personality and letting me know that she felt safe. Soon after that, Bella made it clear that she’d only be ready for bedtime once I had tucked her in and rubbed her belly for at least 10-15 minutes, a routine that continues to today!”

Thanks to your support of ODH, Bella has received three needed medical procedures, all of which have greatly increased her quality of life. First, she had a dental surgery to extract numerous rotten teeth that had likely been damaged from eating pebbles while she was a stray. Then she had a number of growths removed which were causing her discomfort. Bella was also diagnosed with a splenic tumor that had grown very large and urgently needed removal. Thanks to donors to the Maranda Fund, a Board-certified surgeon removed the spleen. She did amazingly well during hospitalization and recovered like nothing happened!  Fortunately the tumor was benign and today, Bella is a happy, healthy girl living her best life.

While Bella’s favorite thing is relaxing and getting those good belly rubs, a close second is food/treat time after walks. At an estimated 14 years of age, Bella still gets out for her daily one-mile walk and just cannot contain herself when she knows it’s time.  Her person says, “After I put her harness on she’ll flop on the ground and make us rub her belly, barking and squealing and with the cutest smile on her face—we call this her ‘Bella Flop’—and when we get back home she knows that it’s cookie time!” Bella is so well known in the store where her people buy her treats, the staff double checks that they’re stocked up each time they visit. Even her favorite spots reflect her love of treats: Her person’s bed overlooking the front yard (which leads to treats), and the couch near the kitchen (where you keep them).

Her person tells us, “My favorite thing about Bella is the immense amount of communication she has with me and her ever-growing trust. She trusts me to keep her out of danger and communicate with her when needed and I trust her to do the same. In fact, just the other day as we were walking with our other two dogs, Bella put her front paws on a dirt mound and stuck her nose straight into the air. Because this was out of the ordinary I knew she was trying to tell me something. I looked out over the bushes and there was a black bear not even a hundred yards away! I would never had seen it if it wasn’t for Bella.”

Though she arrived a very cautious dog that shrank from contact, Bella’s now growing into the dog she was always meant to be, asking for love and reveling in energy for life. She allows herself to be vulnerable with her family and even strangers. And just this summer, Bella showed her family that she knows how to play fetch and with dog toys! There are still so many things to learn about this girl, and this illuminates the lesson of ODH: In even the most desperate of situations, senior dogs can and do find their golden time with love, care, and a little patience. Bella’s person affirms this truth. “Bella came into my life when I had just lost a dear, lifelong friend. She reminded me what it means to love someone as well as to receive love. Bella became my comfort blanket when I needed her—and I think she needed me. Without Old Dog Haven, experienced and loving veterinarians and staff, and generous ODH supporters, I would not have met Bella and we both would have missed out on these life-changing experiences.  Thank you one and all.”

Update:  Dear Bella’s health failed suddenly and her person made the very hard and courageous decision to send her on.  She received and gave so very much love.  Bella will always be remembered as one of the very special ones.