As some of you may know, our beautiful Bella had cancer. Sadly, her pain got to a point where it was necessary for us to send her over the Rainbow Bridge at 5:50pm, Friday 30th December, 2016.
Not only are our hearts broken, but we are totally lost without her. It is a struggle to know how to move on: she was a gutsy girl and would expect us to. And then I realised that I needed to write ……
Rest easy, beautiful girl: a letter to Bella
You will never know how much you have enriched our lives. We gained far more from you than you ever gained from us and we will be forever thankful for you being in our lives. As you know, the day we bought you home we were not even looking for a new furbaby. A few months earlier we had lost our furboy, Joey, to a snake bite. We always knew we would get another dog, just didn’t know when. The day we found you, we were actually looking for a new barbeque. The pet shop that you were in was on the same road. A sign out the front said: “Jack Russell Puppies”. We just thought we would have a look: we quite liked Jack Russell’s …..
And there you were. All by yourself. You were the runt of the litter and your brothers were all sold. Your colourings were beautiful – and you were so tiny. As we neared the cage, you looked at us with those beautiful eyes and put one, tiny paw on the cage, inviting contact. The girl at the pet shop told us that you were very timid but we could have a cuddle if we wanted to. In my arms, you felt like that’s where you belonged. The girl gave us a safe area to spend some time with you and you melted our hearts. But you know what we are like: not prone to impulse buys. So we told the girl we would think about it and left you there.
We were not five minutes down the road when Daddy and I looked at each other. Without speaking a word, Daddy turned around and we went back. You came home with us – and sat with us while the barbeque was put together.
You were so tiny! We all, including your 2 human brothers, agonised for ages over what to call you. You were so beautiful, it had to be Bella. We took you to our vet for a check up: we were not taking any chances. That’s when we found out that you were more likely a Chihuahua x Jack Russell: it certainly explained your size.
So many moments that I can never record them all. Remember when you were given a McDonald’s giraffe to play with – and you completely gutted it? We called it Barry after the ad that was on TV at the time that went: “That ain’t livin’ Barry!”. But you continued to play with Barry. Don’t worry: I have put Barry away with your collars, and your training badge and the other things we will keep forever.
And you loved going for a walk so much that we couldn’t even say the word ‘walk’ within your hearing. Come to think of it, we couldn’t even open a sock draw or you thought you were going for a walk. How you knew it was the sock draw and not another draw is beyond me, but you did. We couldn’t let you off the lead though: despite training, coming back to us when called was not something you did unless you wanted to. Until your last 6 months. Just before you were diagnosed with cancer, we started being able to let you have a really good run because you would come back. I so wish we could have got you to do that sooner. You loved to run so much.
Most of your running was done from one side of the house to the other, chasing people who had the hide to walk past your house with another dog. It was surprising how fast you were. And you weren’t that fond of other dogs until you started going to puppy playgroup at Petite Paws Doggy Daycare with Emily. You made lots of friends there – both human and dog! You loved to go there. Even on your last morning, we went there to see Emily and you had a great time. The other dogs were so gentle with you: they must have known how sick you were.
And you were a lap dog – nothing better than sitting on someone’s lap and watching TV. Except maybe burrowing beneath the blankets on a cold night. And that included the blanket on our bed! But we didn’t mind. I’m not sure if you realised, however, that sometimes you were not as covered as you thought: but that made us laugh.
And you always made us laugh. You had such a beautiful nature but were a tough girl all at the same time. And sometimes you just did stupid things – like the day you got caught in a shirt sleeve!
And of course, you are famous for hiding pieces of your dry food everywhere in the house. They have been found under cushions, in bedding, in gym bags – and in our pockets! Usually it was one of your two-legged brothers pockets …. cracked them and their mates up. We have found 3 pieces since you left us and I imagine their will be more yet.
Then about 6 months ago, you started to favour one of your back legs. You were getting on a bit so we took you to the vet. They thought it was arthritis and gave you medication for it, which worked. But a few weeks after that, you were in terrible pain and we had to take you back to the vet. You had x-rays and even the vet was shocked. It should a mass on your bone that was typical of osteo carcinoma, a cancer that was more common in the front legs of large, male dogs. A biopsy confirmed the diagnosis: you had 3 to 4 months left.
We were in total shock. Other than that, you were such a healthy dog. No-one believed how old you were. We were faced with making some big decisions very quickly: amputation; amputation and chemotherapy or palliative care. We decided on amputation and chemotherapy: it would give you a few extra months.
But the day before we gave the vet our decision, we had visitors with young children. You loved babies and children. You were so gentle with them and had such a good time with them. We did a total rethink. Even with the aggressive treatment, you would still go through the horrible period of end stage bone cancer. We opted for palliative care: better to not to have to go through the surgery and chemotherapy and just keep you comfortable. I hope we did the right think, sweet girl. I think we did.
We took you absolutely everywhere we possibly could – even Bunnings!
You remained good for quite a while. but you used your bad leg less and less. they added Tramadol to your pain relief schedule. You let me shove it down your throat but the taste was horrible: you would shake your head to try and make it go away. So I would give you a strong tasting treat to make the taste go away. When you could not longer chew hard things, we discovered carob. You loved it! Even on the 3rd and 2nd last day that you had with us, when you were not eating, you ate your carob. Such a girl: chocolate to the very end.
Five times we decided that it was ‘time’, and four times you livened up and we breathed a sigh of relief. On the fifth, we already had an appointment with Jesse, your vet, so we kept it to see what he thought. I knew what the answer would be. The vet nurse on at the time, and Jesse, were so gentle and caring with all of us and I will be eternally grateful to them. I hope we didn’t leave you too long, sweetheart: I dread to think you were ready way before we could let you go.
It is a few days later now, and it still hurts. I am lost. I wait for you when I open the back door to hang clothes on the line. I came home this morning and started saying hello to you – but you weren’t there. Probably the worst was when I put a tee-shirt on that I was wearing last Friday morning and, about half hour later, I found a small black hair on it. Cried my eyes out for ages. So many tears have been shed for you – and not just from your family. So many people loved you – how could they not?
You loved the sunshine, chicken nuggets and chips, puppies and babies, children, us, chasing things and life in general. You gave us unconditional love. I hope you knew how much we loved you and will love you forever.
So rest easy, beautiful girl: your pain is over and your job is done.
Kerry A Waight - Author
A writer of historical fiction and paranormal stories.