Survivor dog starts a new life with a loving family

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Bella the dog being adopted from Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
Leaving her traumatic past behind, Bella finally gets the chance to enjoy what it really means to be part of a family.
By Sarah Thornton

Though not yet even two years old, Bella has already been through a whole lot. She was found tied up and abandoned in the backyard of an empty home. She’d run out of food and water and was without shelter to protect her from the weather. And in an attempt to free herself, she chewed off her own back leg, only to remain stuck where she was.

Once found and rescued, Bella soon had a whole community of people around her — people who loved and supported her and did everything possible to make sure this three-legged pup who had a difficult start would not only survive but thrive. From where her story started at Saginaw County Animal Care and Control in Michigan all the way to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in southern Utah, Bella has made many, many friends and has many reasons to celebrate. But now, it’s time for the big celebration: She has gone home. She has a new family to call her own, as well as the freedom to be the energetic, happy (and sometimes a little naughty) young dog that she is.

© Molly Wald

New home for a special dog

In October of 2021, Kim Diehl and Jason Reding, sadly, had to say a final farewell to their senior dog, Roxanne. She was a gentle eight-year-old dog adopted from the Sanctuary, and they had given her a warm, loving home to live out her golden years. Now they wanted to adopt another dog to shower in that same love.

When Kim came across Bella’s story on the Best Friends website, she knew she had found the one. “Bella just has an irresistible face,” Kim says, remembering a photo where she first saw Bella’s big, happy dog smile. “It was love at first sight.”

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Kim and Jason were soon traveling to the Sanctuary to meet the smiling pup. They stayed at the on-site cottages and signed up for a sleepover with Bella. And if her story and pictures hadn’t already made them fall for her, her exuberant personality certainly sealed the deal. She was happy, bubbly and full of energy, and Kim and Jason fell more and more in love with her as they spent time together.

With the decision made, Kim and Jason went to Dogtown to load Bella into their car for the drive to her new home. Bella barreled through her play yard directly into Kim and Jason’s legs, so excited that she nearly knocked her new people off their feet. She ran laps around them, as well as around the gathered Sanctuary staff that had come to see her off. And then when she’d run off a bit of energy, she climbed happily into the back of the car with Kim and they were off.

© Molly Wald

A second chance to just be a puppy

Bella has been in her new home for a few weeks and she’s absolutely loving it. “We’ve been busy,” says Kim with a laugh.

A nonstop blur of energy, Bella is far too busy finding new things to get into to slow down. If Kim and Jason take their eyes off her for an instant, she’ll either be chewing on something or running off with a stolen towel or rug.

“She’s the total opposite of Roxanne,” Kim notes. “She (Roxanne) just got more mellow with age, so we were used to that. (Bella) is the opposite. But that’s OK. She’s a puppy. So, we’ll let her be a puppy, let her enjoy life.”

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Kim says they’ve found a wonderful trainer who is helping them figure out ways to keep Bella’s energy focused on more constructive pursuits. They’ve been trying out different food puzzles for meals, and she’s started occasionally going to doggie daycare to meet and have fun with canine friends and really play herself out.

Of course, just being worn out doesn’t mean Bella’s ready for a nap. “Sometimes she fights going to sleep,” Jason says. Kim says some nights the pup is like a tired, naughty toddler who doesn’t want to go to bed and fights it. “But … you let her run around a little bit and she gives up and goes and lies down.”

When Bella does decide it’s time for sleep, she wants everyone to go to sleep. Around 7:30 each night, she trots off to her bed, which is right next to Kim and Jason’s, and she settles down. But if they don’t follow her quickly enough, Bella comes back out to check on them before heading back to the bedroom.

“And then,” Kim says, “if you still don’t come fast enough, she lets out a couple of barks from the bedroom: ‘Hey, it’s bedtime, people, where are you?’ That is adorable.”

Finally, when everyone is in bed, Bella is down for the count. She sleeps through the night and then is right back to full energy the next morning. When she wants to go somewhere, she plops down right in front of the back door. When she’s tired on a walk, she’ll either sit down or turn right around and start leading Kim and Jason back home.

Bella’s family is happy to go along with whatever she wants. “Last night we came back from a walk and she went and stood by the car door,” Kim says. “She wanted to go for a ride in the car, so we got in and we went for a ride.”

Kim and Jason say the plan is to spoil Bella rotten, and they’ve certainly been following through on that promise.

Photo courtesy of Kim Diehl and Jason Reding

Finally feeling the love

From the moment Bella was freed from the cables that entangled her, she’s been a bouncy, bright dog who’s always happy to meet new people and make new friends; however, she did have a bit of trouble relaxing and accepting the love she was finally receiving.

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It was a happy milestone, then, when she finally rolled over on her back and asked for belly rubs. “She’ll sit up and sit by you and let you scratch her belly,” says Kim, “but she doesn’t get the whole I’m-going-to-lie-on-my-back-and-roll-over kind of thing. There are a lot of dog things that she doesn’t know. But she actually laid on her back and let Jason rub her belly the other day.”

Jason says, “I had her in my lap for a little while in the rocking chair last night” — another little milestone for the hesitant pup who previously hadn’t really opened herself up to cuddling.

Bit by bit, Bella is relaxing into her new life. She might still spend most of the day running around and being an energetic youngster, but when she does take her few-and-far-between breaks, she’s learning that she’s got a family she can really, truly lean on.

Photo courtesy of Kim Diehl and Jason Reding

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