The thing is, we knew it was coming.
She and Ginger Puppy were some of the happiest dogsitting clients I had ever seen, and I was sad that I couldn't ever get them together for a doggie play date.
Do not doubt for a second that dogs can't smile. They absolutely can, and Bella was living proof.
Bella's family adopted her specifically because she was an older beagle with health issues that not a lot of people would want. And yes, she was absolutely one of the chubbier beagles I had ever seen.
It didn't matter. Bella owned her weight like a boss. Trotting around like nobody's business, no I don't care how big I am, no, I don't care if there's growths on my face, and yes, I snore like a brick house, but I am the world's happiest dog, see?
You will love me no matter what, because my smiles are pure gold.
And they were. They totally were.
I got an email from Bella's mom last September. Bella wasn't doing great, her health issues were catching up with her, so did I want to come by to say hi, possibly for the last time?
Of course, of course, of course.
But Bella is a go getter. Her specialty was sneaking out of doors and gates when people weren't paying attention to her (Never on my watch, thank you very much. I am an awesome dogsitter.) The next month, painters were working on the outside of the house and despite repeated warnings from Bella's mom, they didn't close the gate all the way, and so off Bella went on her grand adventure.
This happy beagle that was supposed to be down for the count trotted her hefty, happy butt through the neighborhood. Bella enjoyed the freedom, smiling at everything and everyone, especially the nice nice lady who saw a happy trotting beagle wandering around the neighborhood and pulled her car over to see what was going on. Bella smiled at the nice nice lady and of course Bella wasn't wearing her collar that day, so the nice nice lady took Bella home, and slipped a spare collar and leash on her, and started walking Bella's hefty happy butt up and down the street to find her owner, which is how Bella's mom, frantic and sick and more than a little pissed at housepainters finally caught up with her.
And that's how Bella met the actress and nice nice lady Shannon Elizabeth.
Because that's how Bella rolled, see? When Bella went on adventures, she went on adventures HARD. Her smiles attracted FAMOUS PEOPLE. Didn't matter that she wasn't feeling good.
Maybe it was that adventure and rubbing shoulders with Hollywood actresses, but Bella rebounded and sailed through Christmas. So her mom thought it would be all right to take a 10 day cruise to Antarctica at the end of January, because why not, she nabbed the deal on Black Friday, and Antarctica was on her bucket list. And Bella's dad, the hospital pediatrician would be here should anything go wrong.
Bella started not wanting to eat a day or two before her mom's trip. They asked if I could help out, and of course I said sure. I'd stop by on my lunch hours, or after work, and would feed Bella the version of doggie Ensure, one of those caloric packed drinks that they give cancer patients. My dad was given those and didn't like them, so I didn't blame Bella one bit for not wanting to eat. But we had to get the stuff in her somehow, so her dad started bringing home hypodermic plungers, which I'd load up with doggie Ensure, and aim for the back of Bella's throat. Bella hated it, and I wasn't thrilled with force feeding one of my favorite pups, but we got a fairly good routine going, and made it through the 10 days until her mom came back. Which was really the most important thing.
Bella passed last Friday. Peacefully. In the backyard in her bed and blankets under a magnolia tree. As her mom wrote me later, she had made the fateful appointment with the vet for 12:30pm, but Bella passed around 10:30am.
Because that's how Bella rolled, see. She did things her way. Smiling the entire time.
I'm really sad, but I'm also really happy that she's not in pain anymore. And I'm positive that she's romping around in heaven, chasing squirrels and rolling in green fields and delighting God with her smiles and wagging tails.
I've heard a lot of conversations about how when we die, we get the perfect version of our bodies in heaven, the way that God intended us to be, before our base desires and/or lack of discipline took over.
I dunno if it's true for dogs, but if it is, I have no doubt that Bella is just as chubby zooming around in heaven as she was here on earth. Because she owned everything about herself. Her adventurous ways, her smiles, her bumps, and her magnificent canine Botticelli physique.
And her real name was Abby.