When I think back on the past year, one memory that shines as bright as day is the adoption of my lovable, playful, and absolutely hyper Jack Russell cross, Bella. Sadly my beautiful Bella passed away on December 26th.
Each December I always do my ‘year in review’ blog post, in which I share the highlights and the ups and downs of the previous 12 months, but given the tragic turn of events of the past week, I have instead decided to end the year with a blog post tribute to my black beauty who made 2017 amazing and a year I will never forget.
From the moment she arrived at our home she brought us so much unexpected love and happiness all at once. I truly believe pets are like angels that have been sent into our lives to teach us some valuable life lessons for the length of time they are with us, and this was definitely the case with Bella. I know not everyone will get what I mean, but if you have ever owned and loved a pet, you will understand.
I remember the day in January of this year, I turned to Dylan out of the blue and said: “I’d like another doggy”. He looked at me puzzled as we had two already, Coco and Harper, and while they really are no trouble, he thought two was enough. I explained to him that I wanted to rescue a little doggy and give it a chance. I wanted to open our home up to a puppy that hadn’t been as fortunate as Coco and Harper and give it some of our love. We regularly donated to dog charities but I felt we could do more to give back and give a dog a new life. In the end, Dylan agreed and we started looking into the idea of bringing a new puppy into our home. I was so excited.
A few days later, as I was scrolling through Facebook, I noticed a friend had just uploaded pictures of her beautiful new pooch from Dogs Trust; A beautiful little black puppy. I instantly fell in love and messaged her about it. Holly had told me that the litter was pretty big and there were still a few puppies left and I had to move fast. I immediately messaged Dogs Trust and the following morning Dylan and I was at the door waiting to see the remaining doggies in the hope of welcoming one into our home.
They brought us through to this enclosed area to meet the puppies. They explained that it was, in fact, the full litter and some had already been chosen so I asked to see the doggies that hadn’t been chosen and instantly Dylan already had his eye on one in particular. Dylan picked her up and she was the cutest little thing we had ever seen. All of the puppies were Jack Russell cross and most had a white patch somewhere on them, but this little baby was pure black – black as a raven with the most beautiful almond shaped eyes we’ve ever seen. She was the one. It was her we wanted.
After we had met the litter, we addressed our concerns about already having two females and how spoilt and settled they were. We were worried it might not work and that our two might not accept her. The girl we were dealing with in with Dogs Trust suggested trying things for a few weeks and to see how we got on. She said it could be temporary if things didn’t work out, but I knew in my heart that this wouldn’t be the case.
On January 18th, we collected our black beauty and brought her to what we were hoping was going to be her forever home. We name her Bella (Belle meaning ‘beauty’)
Introducing her to Coco and Harper was actually very funny. Here was this 10 week old scared and fragile tiny little puppy, (or so we thought!), coming into a big house with two very dominating and spoilt Maltese. I thought she would whimper with fright, but nope, instead, she pegged it straight over to THEIR food bowls in the kitchen and demolished their nuts. Talk about showing them who was boss!
We couldn’t believe it! You’d swear the poor little thing hadn’t eaten in days. She was so used to fighting for her food amongst a big litter of puppies that she thought by demolishing their food fast she would get it all for herself. She even barked at Coco and Harper as they came close to their bowls. I smiled at her bravery and instantly fell in love with her cheekiness and feisty ways.
Fast forward a few weeks of sleepless nights, many in a row, I personally developed a very strong bond with Bella. Every time there was a row amongst the doggies, Dylan would remove Coco and Harper from the situation and I, Bella. When we went walking, I always had Bella on the lead, and when we went to my mams, Bella always sat on my lap. If a row broke out, I would jump to her defence. Within weeks she became my shadow. She knew I was her mammy.
I remember the picture above I took on my iPhone the very first night we got her. We were in the kitchen on our own, just the two of us – she was too scared to be on her own, so I lay down with her. While lying on the couch together, with me trying to encourage her to fall asleep, she kept snuggling into my neck.
I decided to take a picture and what I captured was a picture I will treasure for the rest of my life. The way she looked at me melted my heart. I could see in her eyes the love she had for me, and I knew she was thanking me for bringing her home and giving her a chance. Looking back, I know now that she knew in that moment she was going to be my special one!
I quickly realised a while later that I might be developing an allergic reaction. When I was around Bella my eyes instantly would become itchy and red. After some time it became apparent that I was, in fact, allergic to short-haired animals. Coco and Haper are both long haired and non-shed, whereas Bella was the opposite. Over the months, my eyes got very very bad. Even while taking antihistamines, I still had a very bad reaction. They were always swollen, red, and I developed what looked like dermatitis on my eyelids.
As the months drew closer to our wedding, my family and friends were worried that if it got worse, my eyes would look red and swollen on our wedding day. We powered through however and never once did it affect our relationship, nor did I ever love her any less. In fact, it deepened our bond, because, despite my reaction, I loved that dog more than she will ever know.
Bella was different. She had her little ways and one of them you all know very well – the shoe escapades. While Bella was a baby, I would leave my sock or slipper in her bed with her. I know she loved my scent and so I thought this would comfort her when I went to bed and while she slept. As she grew older, Bella couldn’t sleep without a sock, slipper or shoe of mine in the bed with her. I would find my shoes anywhere she slept or napped – in her bed, on my bed, under the bed, under the coffee table – you name it Bella had my shoes. If I couldn’t find a shoe or slipper Dylan would always say, “Did you try Bella’s bed?” It became a running joke and it used to make me laugh all of the time.
Only recently I bought really heavy boots from Zara which you guys might remember from my VLOGMAS #1. I was getting ready in my room one day and she was on the bed beside me. My boots were on the ground, and of course, she spotted them! I watched her jump off the bed, take each heavy boot one by one in her mouth and jump up onto the bed with it. She slept on my shoes and it’s something I will miss about her every single day.
I can’t even look at my Chanel espadrilles without crying – they were her fave! A dog with style, some might say
Bella was a character, bold, feisty, cheeky, brave, nosy, hyper and above all lovable. I could never stay mad at her for more than 5 minutes. I won’t lie, she tested my patience! She’d eat everything from shoes to expensive furniture to makeup (my wedding lipstick!), to dog beds, teddies, toys, you name it – if it was left down Bella would eat it.
She would annoy Coco and Harper constantly and sometimes hurt them as she didn’t know her own strength…but every time I would give out to her she would just give me this ‘look’. Her eyes would stare right into my soul and I would be saying sorry to her 5 mins later and hugging her and feeling guilty for giving out to her
I remember one-time Dylan was waiting on his new bank cards, we were out that morning at a meeting and when we returned home all of the post on the floor had been eaten including Dylan’s bank card. There wasn’t a digit left on the card, every ounce was chewed and all we could do was laugh. One time we came home and Bella had pooed on the post, I kid you not. Frustrating at the time, it just shows you how funny and bold her little character was.
Shortly after that, we ordered a post box for the wall outside our house and the post drama stopped. Another thing Bella loved to do was soak herself in the shower. She would wait for you to get out of the shower and she would run in, stand into the shower and play with the drops from the shower head. Afterwards, she would come out soaked and it always made me laugh.
Bella knew how to work me, she knew how to annoy me, she knew how to test me, but by God, she also knew how to make me laugh and feel like I could never love an animal the way I did her. There was just something about her. I loved her spiky ears. I loved her smell – she had this lovely scent that I would give anything to smell again.
She would follow me everywhere, I couldn’t go to the toilet without Bella being there. She would snuggle up to my neck every night before her bedtime, she loved being on my shoulder. She would look into my eyes when I’d rub her nose and kiss her goodnight every single night. She had to be around me, beside me, by me, close to me, and I am absolutely lost without her.
If I’m being truly honest with you and myself, I had a special bond with Bella that I never had with Coco or Harper. I loved them all deeply, but Bella was different. There was something about her and she knew she was my favourite.
One thing I am thankful for is that Bella was apart of the most special day of our lives – our wedding day. She was there with Dylan and I as we exchanged our vows, and, looking back at the church photos, we are so thankful that she along with Coco and Harper were part of the most important day of our lives.
Dylan misses her equally as much. He is devastated by her death. So too are Coco and Harper. They know she’s not there and you can tell they keep looking for her. It’s heartbreaking to watch.
The bad news…
As a family, we decided to head off for Christmas this year. My dad retired earlier this year after having worked with Dublin Fire Brigade as a paramedic and fireman for 35 years. His job always required him to work during the festive period so this was his first Christmas off entirely and we were all so excited, especially my mum. By luck, my brother, Robert, who is also in the same profession, happened to have Christmas off this year as well, and so, after a tough year personally for us, we thought it would be a nice idea to all head off as a family and spend Christmas abroad.
Jessica, my best friend, always took care of Coco and Harper when we were away, but knowing the one-on-one attention Bella needs, I wanted someone to give her the same attention I gave her and there was no way Jessica couldn’t do that minding three of them.
I know by the way Bella had always been with me when Dylan might be in his mams with Coco and Harper that she loved being the only dog. She loved being the number 1 and the priority and that is why I always made her feel like that.
I had asked Grace, my cousin, a few months ago if she would mind Bella while I was going to Hong Kong on business and oh my god she LOVED it up there. Grace is a dog lover too and used to always mind our family pets when needed. She also has a little girl who loves animals too and judging by the pictures Grace used to send me whenever I was away on business, Bella absolutely LOVED it up there.
She was always being brought out for walks, and always treated as number 1. She had their attention fully, and she was often snug on the couch wrapped in her blanket asleep or snuggled in beside Graces little girl Georgia.
She showed Grace & Georgia the same love she showed me, and both, like me, they were also crazy about her.
It was the morning of St Stephens Day and my dad knocked on mine and Dylan’s hotel room door. I looked at my phone and it was 9.20am. We were a bit hungover after enjoying a few Christmas drinks the night before so I was annoyed he was knocking on the door so early.
When I opened the door, he looked worried and said he had some bad news. My body completely froze. He said, “Suzanne, there has been an incident at home, Marley (his boxer dog) opened the back door* and she and Bella are missing.” I paced around the room in shock rubbing my head with my hands, asking him what the hell had happened.
*(At home in my mam and dads, Marley is trained to open the back door to go to the toilet)
I immediately went on to social media and shared the pictures of the dogs with all the details praying they would be found. An hour went by, the longest hour of my life and in the midst of it all Dylan ran out of the hotel room with his wallet and phone and headed to the airport for a flight home to try find the dogs. It was crazy.
I was in the bathroom sobbing on my phone reading every single snapchat/email/text/tweet that came in… until I read a message that I wish I hadn’t.
A young girl messaged to say that she and her friend had found Bella but she had been knocked down. I dropped my phone and screamed crying!! My dad picked up my phone and asked the girl to ring him. He hung up and his voice shook as he said with tears in his eyes, ‘She’s dead Suzanne, she’s gone’. I cried and cried and cried… after that, it’s all a blur.
We flew home early that day and I made my way to my house. At this point, another, one of my best friends Sara had collected Bella and brought her home. Home to her house, in her bed with her blankets by the Christmas tree and they waited for me. I cried the whole way home from Lanzarote. I was inconsolable. Every thought imaginable ran through my head and I was devastated.
Myself and Dylan sat down with Bella that night and said our goodbyes. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done… I cried like a baby and just stroked her coat. She looked so peaceful, almost like she was asleep – I take comfort knowing she wasn’t in pain and that she still looked like my Bella. I also take comfort in knowing she spent her last night with us, in our house, in her bed.
We have decided on a cremation and I just can’t wait to have her back where she belongs. Here in her home, by her bed with her family.
Overall, it has been a devastating time for myself and Dylan, we are absolutely heartbroken. The house is so quiet, her little bed is still in the same spot in our kitchen, her chewed toys are everywhere, I can see her little black hairs on the floor in places and I can’t stop thinking about her. I feel absolutely broken.
I know some of you reading this won’t understand why I am feeling this way over ‘a dog’. However, in many homes, pets are embraced as an actual member of the family, Bella was part of our family, so the death of a pet is an extremely emotional and heart-wrenching experience. I read online that in general, death is a medical event associated with five basic stages, and when a pet dies, some of it can carry over to all those affected. The five stages of grief are Denial, Anger, Bargaining (with God, to return life), Depression, and Acceptance. People go through these when they lose a loved one, whether it be human or animal.
For some people, a pet is almost like a child. For others, it’s like a sibling, a best friend, a long-term companion. A pet becomes a huge part of your family and daily life and therefore their death can be just as painful as that of a family member.
Having a pet is truly a gift that can change your life and Bella 100% changed mine. She brought me monumental happiness when I needed it most, and she taught me so much in her short life.
Bella was hyper, at times bold and very needy but no matter what she did I loved her more and more – she taught me what unconditional love is and for that, I will be forever grateful to her.
Bella was my blessing, and I take solace in knowing that she was my angel on earth and now in heaven. I know she helped us find Marley, and I am so thankful to her for keeping her safe until we found her.
Bella, my baby, my special one, thank you for all you have done, you made my 2017 the best year to date and I miss you so much.
I love you with all of my heart and I will meet you at the rainbow bridge my darling!
Sleep tight, my love.
Forever in my heart.