Once upon a time, in Middleboro, Massachusetts, there was a family of six (a mother, father and four children) and a beloved black Lab named, Max.
Although he’d not been sick a day in his whole life, when Max was 13 years old he became severely ill with a heart condition. The entire family was heartbroken because Max just layed around on the couch without any energy. He was dying……..
The mother of this family, whose name is Sharen, had the very sad job of having to take Max to the vet to have him put to sleep. Sharen’s heart was utterly broken over this and so her oldest son, Al (who was 23 years old at the time), accompanied her to the vet that day to lend his support. Al went into the vet’s office with his mother, and although his heart was broken over Max too, he stayed by his mother’s side and accompanied her into the room where the vet would give his dog the fatal dose of medicine which would end his suffering. It was over in a matter of minutes and Al and his mother left the vet’s office without their beloved Max. His mother’s knees collapsed outside, and she started crying. Al picked her up gently, carried her to the car, and they drove home. The children came home from school and found out the sad truth about their dog Max and thus John, Cathy, and Carmen all knew the heartache of losing a pet who was the equivilent to them of being a sibling.
In the next few weeks, Sharen was filled with overwhelming grief over the loss of Max. The house was empty without the “pat pat pat” of his paws on the hardwood floors. She was so grief-stricken in fact that she was emotionally disabled for several weeks. Upon seeing his mother’s distress and sadness, Al decided to step in to try and help. He told his mother that he needed some new clothes, and that he wanted to go shopping at the mall. Sharen, ever desiring to accomodate her children, complied and off to the mall they went. They casually walked through the stores, and then as if by chance, Al led his mother to the pet shop and told her he needed to look for a dog for himself. However, Sharen did not want to go into the pet shop. Al coaxed her in by telling her how beautiful and cute all the puppies were inside and that she just had to come in to see the puppies. Reluctantly, she obliged her son and walked into the pet store. There she stood in front of rows of puppies. Her thoughts about Max were lifted for the moment, and then a little, white Maltese caught her attention. Al asked the sales lady could she please take out this little puppy so his mother could hold it. Sharen, unprepared for the feelings which might accompany holding a new pet, gasped, but Al reassured her. She cautiously entered a little room where the sales lady waited to hand her the Maltese. In one breath, Sharen knew immediately that she loved the little dog, and she decided to buy her right then and bring her home. Al was happy to see his mother smile again. Sharen named her new little puppy, Bella.
Bella was a joy to this grieving family. Max had only been gone one month, but this cute little two pound munkin filled the house with joy and laughter once again. Max will always be remembered and revered for the 13 years he grew up with this family but Bella was now making her mark as the next most loved pet. She cuddled, yipped and bounced around under foot, like a little white mouse. She received all the best vet care that money could buy. She was an absolute joy.
Three months later, at 5 months old, it was time for Bella to be spayed. Sharen took her little puppy to the vet and left her overnight. She picked her up the next day and asked the vet if she needed to cover the stitches with a bandage; he told her not to bother, that it would heal with the air. At home, Sharen allowed Bella to go outside like she did before. Bella seemed a little groggy, but Sharen didn’t think much of this, considering the operation. On the third day, Sharen came downstairs in the morning to make coffee. She sat at her kitchen table and waited for the coffee to brew. She looked over at Bella, still sitting in her little homemade bed. Sharen called Bella to come over to her, and Bella got up and walked to her, but she swayed to the side and bumped into a chair on the way. Sharen thought this odd and continued to watch Bella while she made her coffee. Bella continued to walk around the kitchen bumping into the other chairs and the walls. Sharen called out Bella’s name again, and once again Bella turned to head in the direction of her voice but bumped into another chair. “I think she’s blind!” said Sharen, as she put her coffee down on the table. She called out to her husband and children and when they were all in the kitchen she pointed to Bella, calling her name. Bella once again bumped into a chair while making her way to Sharen. The children threw toys for Bella, but Bella did not try to retrieve them or try to play with them. Sharen collapsed into her kitchen chair, lowered her head, and rested it on her hand and said again, “I think she’s blind.”
Sharen immediately brought Bella to the animal hospital, where she was diagnosed with distemper. It seemed the vet had not vaccinated Bella adequately for distemper, which is a totally preventable virus for dogs. Bella probably caught the infection while walking outside without her stitches covered. By the time Bella was seen at the animal hospital, the infection had already taken the poor puppy’s eye sight, although she could still see some shadows. Sharen brought Bella home a few days later.
It was difficult for the family to adjust to having a blind dog, but especially for Bella because she was such a happy, energetic little puppy. She still played around a lot, but she had many bumps and bruises. Within the next few months Bella also lost her hearing due to the infection. This poor little puppy now could not hear or see and Sharen was heartbroken for her. So, she decided to get another puppy to keep Bella company; another Maltese whom she named Giorgio.
Giorgio, a cute 1 1/2 pound little fluff ball, came into the family a skiddish, fearful kind of puppy. He disliked sudden moves, and loud noises frightened him. He was not as cuddly as Bella but that was okay because he was suppposed to be Bella’s friend anyway. From the moment they were first introduced, Bella and Giorgio were inseparable. Giorgio never, ever left Bella’s side. It was amazing watching Giorgio become Bella’s “seeing eye dog” without any training what-so-ever or coaxing from anyone. Giorgio taught himself how to help Bella, and Bella trusted Giorgio explicitly. For instance, if it were time to go out for a walk, Sharen stood at the door and called her two puppies. Giorgio would run for the door but Bella would sit, unable to hear or see anything except shadows. Giorgio would run back to Bella and nudge up against her and then run for the door again. Giorgio patiently repeated this ritual until Bella caught on and got up to follow him. When she finally did, Giorgio stayed right by her side. They walked together like one, big fluffy white dog, without ever being tied together.
Mealtime was especially poignant. Bella would be in her little bed (a bed that Giorgio climbed into every night), and Sharen would put out food. Bella did not know food had been put down because she could not see, but Giorgio certainly did. He would jump out of the little bed and run to the food, repeating the ritual of running back and forth to Bella until she caught on to get up and follow him. Giorgio would not eat or drink water until Bella was by his side. Then, when they were done eating, it was the ritual once again of running back and forth to get Bella to go outside; off they would go with Sharen following close behind the two of them.
Through the next few years Giorgio and Bella were like husband and wife, brother and sister, and best friends. The steriods that Bella had to take when she’d gotten sick made her reach a weight of 18 pounds! while poor little Giorgio never weighed more than 5 pounds. They were certainly a cute couple.
Sadly, Bella never quite regained her health after the bout of distemper when she was a puppy. She contracted a severe infection when she was four and half years old (basically still a young dog) which she was not strong enough to fight. She died at home, with Giorgio by her side. He kept nudging her to go and eat and to go outside, but Bella was too weak. She stayed in her little bed, her head hanging over the side, Giorgio licking her face. Giorgio stopped eating too those last few days of her life. When Bella passed away, Sharen took her to the animal cemetary. Giorgio sat by her little bed for two weeks and howled and cried.
Giorgio will still look for his beloved Bella sometimes, if he hears a family member say her name or hears a dog barking that sounds like Bella he’ll turn quickly to see if she is around. He loved her, and she loved him. It is a wonderful love story, and if there is a doggie heaven, Bella is waiting to be reunited with Giorgio. For now, she is content getting to know Max, who I am sure is watching over her.
R.I.P. Max 2/17/90 – 3/8/03
R.I.P. Bella 2/3/03 – 12/18/07
Sharen Wendy Robertson owns the copyright to all posts on this Blog.