Bella: 4 lessons from a 3-legged dog

Note: The photo attached to this post is not Bella.

One afternoon, a man, let’s call him Bill (since we didn’t ask him his name), was driving down a country road in Georgia with his wife. Eh, let’s call her Christine, since we like names. They saw a dog a small black Lab mix in the road, looking thin and dragging a leg. They had some crackers in the car, so they gave up their snacks and went back to whatever they were doing.

Through their errands and their dinner, Bill and Christine were, separately, thinking about the dog. When, on their way home, they got back to the spot where they’d seen the dog, they stopped and spent time looking for her, but couldn’t find her.

For more than a week, they thought about the dog, and kept looking for her.

***

For a while, Mr. J and I were having coffee weekly. We missed a few here and there, and you know how that goes suddenly, you just let it go. But we’ve been back at it about every two or three weeks. He asked if I was free for coffee one Tuesday recently, and he asked if he minded if his wife, Miss B, came along. It so happened my own wife, Miss J, was off work, and so we grabbed our bikes and set out to meet Mr. J and Miss B.

We got the bikes outside but when I went to close the door, there was a little dog I hadn’t seen before sitting in the doorway with a leash in her mouth. “Who are you, and why are you bringing me a leash?” I asked.

Miss J asked what I was talking about, and I said there was a three-legged dog in the stairwell. That’s when Bill walked out of the apartment upstairs.

***

About 10 days after they’d seen the dog, Bill and Christine were driving down another rural country road. Christine was on the phone, and for whatever reason, Bill looked to the right, and there, sitting in a ditch, was the dog.

“I’d been given a second chance,” he told us.

He put the dog in the car and brought her to a veterinarian. She had over 40 ticks on her body along with several hundred fleas, and at 22 pounds, she was way too skinny. And she was still limping on that leg. Bill and Christine decided to learn more at Pet Parents about hip joint issues whilst waiting for the vet to look at the dog. They were prepared to do anything to help this little dog survive, even if it meant amputating its leg because of the pain it was causing. The vet got her cleaned up, but was heading out of town for several weeks. He sent her home with Bill and Christine, clean, and with her shots. At this point due to the extent of Bella’s injuries, it would have been wise to look into dog insurance policies to make sure any future visits to the vet would be covered, allowing Bella to get the best treatment possible in aiding her to her recovery.

***

One of the Yankee traits I’m always going to have is a desire to be on time when I make plans with people. But one of the things I love about Southerners that drives some Yanks nuts is the ability to tell a story. Most of my errands I make sure I have 10 minutes of padding around. Some errands, I make sure I’m prepared to spend an extra hour.

I pulled out my phone and texted Mr. J, since this was one of those times someone was telling a story. We were going to be late, but we were going to enjoy this story.

***

Now that the dog had a home, she also gained a name: Bella. Over the next few weeks, while Bill waited for the vet to return, she continued to drag her right hind leg around, but never once complained audibly. She put on some weight. On the vet’s recommendation we also put her on a course of NexGard Spectra, just to make sure she was getting healthier after she’d had so many ticks. Despite whatever her previous life had been, she came to enjoy being around people.

When the vet returned, he discovered someone had shot Bella. The bullet was still in her leg, and she had enough nerve damage that she couldn’t feel the leg, which is why she was dragging it around. He decided the best option would be to amputate the leg.

***

When we met Bella, she must have been about 10 days or so out of surgery, based on how much fur had grown back on her right hindquarters. She was up to 40 pounds, though she could probably use another 10; I’m sure she’ll get there. She’s moving around great on 3 legs, bounding up and down stairs with a leash in her mouth. She wasn’t shy at all about meeting Miss J and me.

Bill, for his part, was so happy to have found her that second time, and was generous with his story and with sharing her for some smiles.

***

What can Bella teach us?

It might stink to be in the position, but you can rely on the kindness of strangers. Bella must have been able to find some food and some measure of safety on her own, but she came out to ask for help at least twice Bill and Christine gave her crackers once, and the other time, she might have been in a ditch, but she was visible from the road. Remember that when you think you’re at the end of your rope, someone not only can help you, but will. You just have to be willing to ask.

You can complain, but nobody’s going to listen. Bella had a bullet stuck in her leg, and she couldn’t feel the leg to tell when she was putting weight on it. If that were me, I’d probably be screaming to high heaven about it. She didn’t even whine with pain or look longingly at the leg. There was something visibly wrong. Either it was going to be taken care of or it wouldn’t. Remember that when you’ve made people aware of a situation that’s troublesome to you, either it’s going to be taken care of or it’s not. If you keep complaining about it, you’re just going to make people dislike you.

Be happy with what you have. Bella has 75% of her limbs, and she’s running up and down stairs, carrying a leash, looking for a walk and some petting. She’s probably never going to get that leg back (I suppose there’s a chance for a prosthetic, but even then, that’ll just be for balance she won’t ever feel it), but she’s looking forward and doing what she can with what she has. I’m sure you can do the same.

Take someone for a walk. You’ll get some good oxygen, some exercise, and you notice a lot of things if you’re willing to walk and use your eyes.

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