The Best Friends family suffered a very sad and entirely unexpected loss over the weekend.
On Sunday morning, we had to say goodbye to the magnificent German shepherd, Bela, who captured our hearts over the holidays. Bela was the object of international attention and affection in the weeks leading up to Christmas, when it came to light that the will of his recently deceased owner contained a discretionary clause that placed his life at risk.
The will entrusted the late owner’s close friend to make the decision whether Bela should come to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary to live out his days or be killed and his ashes interred with his lifelong human friend. Following international coverage and arrangements with the deceased’s attorney and friend, Bela made a snowy cross-country car trip over Christmas with our trainer John Garcia.
On Sunday morning Bela’s caregiver noticed that his abdomen was distended and he was breathing rapidly, so he was brought to the Best Friends clinic for an emergency checkup.
Tests revealed fluid in his abdomen and also surrounding his heart. Most critically, X-rays revealed nodules in his lungs. Our medical director diagnosed Bela with a very fast-growing cancer and there was very little likelihood he would have lasted more than a very stressful day or so. Reluctantly, Bela’s caregiving team made the decision that euthanasia was the right option. This was a very difficult choice, as it is with any animal in our care, but we approached the decision from the perspective of what was the kindest course of action for Bela.
It is our custom to bury Sanctuary animals who have crossed the Rainbow Bridge at Angels Rest, the permanent resting place located in Angel Canyon. However, in this case we felt the right thing to do was to fulfill Bela’s owner’s last wishes. Therefore, we are cremating Bela and sending his ashes to Indiana so he can be buried with his owner, who passed away in November.
Bela was a great dog who made many friends and was quickly becoming one of the most popular dogs at the Sanctuary. Our staff had grown to love him as the sweet and wonderful dog he was, and every one of us who knew him is devastated by this turn of events.
Bela will be greatly missed.