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12/8/15 Heart breaking update:

 

Bella overcame many challenges during her life. She survived many years of neglect by her former owner. She came through the tumor removal surgery with flying colors. She fought through congestive heart failure, Cushings and numerous infections. Through all of her battles Bella remained sweet and loving.  

We're sad to announce that despite all that was done to help her and keep her comfortable and happy, Bella significantly declined over the last six months of her life. Her heart was failing and on Halloween we had no choice but to say our last goodbye.

We would like to once again express our gratitude to all the wonderful people who helped Bella. Thank you Dr. Gubert for doing an incredible job removing the tumor and putting Bella on the road to the best life we could give her. Thank you Dr. Hamilton and the staff of Snider Veterinary Services for always being there for Bella and for us. Because of your expertise and compassion we had two more years with Bella.  

It's always hard to say the final goodbye but some are even more heart-wrenching than others. Even though I know we did our best for her I can't help being angry about the 'what ifs'. How much longer could we have had Bella if her former owners had given a damn about her? How much was her heart affected by being used as a money-making breeding machine? Are any of her pups still alive or did they succumb from genetic defects and the lasting effects of neglect? How many of them are now being used as puppy producers? How many lost their lives due to their breeder’s stupidity and greed?

I will never know the answers to any of the above questions but there are some things I do know. For every dog purchased from a pet store there is another suffering from neglect. For every dog thrown away by a greedy breeder another one is condemned to take its place. If you buy a dog from an irresponsible breeder or pet store you aren’t part of the problem, you ARE the problem. If you are a breeder who is breeding for profit over the betterment of the breed you too ARE the problem.

Even with all that she went through Bella was one of the lucky ones. She was saved by rescue and spent her last years in a home where she was loved. I hope she knew just how much we loved her.

 

  Bella's History:

At the beginning of May 2010, Bella was surrendered by her owners to the Montcalm County Animal Shelter in Stanton, Michigan when they decided they couldn't (or wouldn't) care for her any longer. As an older, special needs dog, her chances of being adopted were, at best, slim. We would soon learn just how special this little girl is.

Bella's coat was matted and dirty. It was very apparent that her owners stopped providing acceptable care some time ago. Bella also appeared to have had puppies in the not too distant past. A great network of volunteers and rescues came together to bail Bella out of the shelter. She was taken to a groomer to be shaved down. What was initially thought to be a large mat of fur turned out to be a very large tumor.

When Animal Advocates of Michigan received an email regarding dogs in urgent need and saw Bella's photo, we knew we had to step up and help her. On May 15th Bella was transported across the state to our rescue. We were shocked and appalled at the size of the tumor.

 

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What makes all of this even more difficult to comprehend is that tumors such as this one are slow growing. This means that Bella has had to deal with this thing growing out of her for a very long time. She appears to have been bred many times. If this is the case, then her former owners used her as a source of income but then tossed her away once she needed some of the cash she generated for them.

As is typical for dogs coming out of a shelter environment, Bella developed an upper respiratory infection known as Kennel Cough. Per our veterinarian's instructions, she was started on a ten day course of antibiotics. Bella's first week with us was centered around getting to know her and making her as comfortable as possible. It was heartbreaking to watch her walk. The tumor hung down to within a couple of inches of the ground. Every step she took caused the tumor to swing and bang into her hind legs. Bella had learned to walk with her hind legs spread as far apart as she could get them. She had also begun to lift one of her hind legs when she urinated in order to keep the tumor from hitting the ground as it would when she squatted.

On May 23rd we took Bella to our vet for a consult on the tumor and to have her checked out from nose to tail. Bella's heart and lungs sounded fine and her heartworm test was negative. She was given a rabies vaccine and we spent a lot of time discussing our options. We felt that Bella deserved a chance to live out her life as normally as any other dog. We scheduled the appointment to have the tumor removed. Instead of putting her through an additional surgery in the near future, we decided to have her spayed at the same time.

On May 28th, Bella was brought to the vet for her surgery. We knew the surgery would be extensive and expensive, but we felt we had no choice as asking Bella to spend the rest of her life living with this tumor was unacceptable. There are always risks involved with anesthesia and surgery but putting an older dog under carries additional risk. At 7 - 10 years old, we were worried that Bella wouldn't wake up even though our vet assured us that everything would be ok. We spent much of the day holding our breath and waiting for the call from the vet.

Bella's surgery was much more involved than we had hoped it would be. Although the spay went quick and easy and she only needed two teeth removed, the tumor removal was difficult and time consuming. The 'stem' of the tumor was found to be rotting. There was a significant amount of dead tissue throughout the surgery site. Mastitis further complicated things. Our vet thought it was in Bella's best interest to not only remove the tumor but three infected mammary glands as well. After nearly two hours Bella's surgery was finally completed and she was brought out of the anesthetic.

We arrived at the vet's office at 6:45pm to bring Bella home. She was up and walking and wagged her tail when she saw us. We gladly paid her bill and carefully put her in a crate for the drive to her foster home.

The night of Bella's surgery was difficult for her and her foster mom. Neither got much sleep. Even though Bella was given pain medication she was very uncomfortable and restless. This is to be expected but it's nonetheless very hard to watch. Bella didn't have an appetite the next morning and would only eat if hand fed canned dog food. Her foster mom was (and is) glad to do whatever Bella wants or needs her to do. Bella received pain medication throughout the day along with twice daily antibiotics. By evening she was willing to eat soft treats and seemed to feel a little better.

After letting Bella walk around the yard for several minutes, we took her back inside to check her incision. We noticed a small red spot near her incision. It wasn't hot, swollen or bothering her so we decided to wait and see how she was in the morning.

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This (Sunday) morning the red spot began to expand and another area began to discolor. We had our vet paged and he returned our call within minutes. Even though the entire tumor was removed along with the dead tissue there is a probability that more tissue is dying off which is causing the discoloration. If this is the case, then we can expect these areas to ulcerate which will then require treating them as open wounds. We are hoping that this won't happen, but we spent this afternoon getting prepared.

We've collected a variety of medical supplies to make sure we have on hand everything we could possibly need should Bella develop open wounds. We have Betadine, peroxide, diapers, padding, baby t-shirts, VetWrap, specially treated pads designed for diabetic skin ulcers, various sterile pads and gauze and are designing a belly wrap to make sure her belly stays perfectly clean at all times. Of course, we will follow our vet's instructions to the letter should the time come, but we want to be ready. Bella is also being trained to potty on the cement as we don't want her walking through grass being she's so low to the ground.

Bella wasn't as perky today as she was yesterday. It's very hard on us to see her in this condition. We spend a lot of time just sitting with her and letting her know we care. Her appetite was great today. She gobbled up her dinner of lamb and sweet potato wet food and the new soft and chewy chicken treats we bought for her. We put down some dry kibble for her to see if she was comfortable enough to try some. She wolfed it down with no problem so we have to believe that her mouth isn't too sore from having teeth removed.

We are doing all that we can for Bella but mostly it's just wait and see. She'll be on antibiotics for two weeks and we have pain medication for her for six days. Our vet wants to see her again this coming week, so we'll schedule the follow up when the office opens on Tuesday. Her sutures will stay in for a full two weeks.

Throughout all she's been through, Bella has been a perfect patient. She takes her medication without a problem and doesn't mind that we ask her to lay down so that we can check her incision. Other dogs may have given up or might not be so agreeable, but Bella is determined and destined to live the good life.

We know there are individuals and rescues out there that think saving this little old dog was not an appropriate use of rescue funds. Yes, we could have provided a lot of routine vaccines and care for the nearly $500 we've spent on Bella so far. But to us it's not all about the money it's about saving lives.

Granted, we're a small group and getting donations is difficult for us but we do the best we can possibly do for our dogs. We tend to take in the dogs that are the most difficult to find homes for. We take in large breeds, bully breeds, black dogs and special needs dogs. The majority of our dogs come to us from high kill shelters when they have less than 24 hours left to live. We're grateful when we find appropriate homes for our dogs. There usually isn't a huge line of people waiting to adopt one of our dogs but we know the right home and family is out there. It just takes our dogs longer than most to find what they're looking for. That's perfectly fine with us. We would rather have a dog in rescue for months than to send it off with the first person who shows up with cash as many of the so-called 'rescues' around here do.

So, I guess to those who think we made the 'wrong' decision by saving Bella, I have this to say....take a good long look into her eyes and ask yourself if you could have made the 'other' choice. This little dog has touched the hearts of everyone who played a role in helping her from the kind-hearted people at the Montcalm shelter, to the groomer, the transporters, our vet and the wonderful people who work for him to all of us at Animal Advocates of Michigan as well as our other dogs. Bella deserved better than to be discarded as she was and we're going to make sure that she never again experiences the betrayal and neglect that her former owners made her endure. Isn't this exactly what rescue is supposed to be about?

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We plan on taking daily pictures of Bella and will update this page to document her progress.

Bella's story epitomizes what rescue is truly about.  

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In the beginning.....

7/24/2010 Update:

Bella officially belongs to her foster now! Actually, it would be more appropriate to say that the foster mom belongs to Bella. After investing over two months of hard work and training, Bella decided it's best to stay where she's at instead of having to start over and train another human.

Bella's incision healed remarkably well and is nearly hidden by her coat. The area where the 'stem' of the tumor was doesn't feel quite right, but our vet says to just keep watching it. There isn't any outward sign that the tumor is coming back, so I'm probably just overly fixated on it. We'll take Bella to the vet again in a few months for a wellness visit.

This little old dog has really come out of her shell! She's still cautious at times, but for the most part she acts like a typical dog now. It's hard to believe, but she even played with a puppy this week.

Speaking of puppies, it seems like everyone wants one while most of the time the older dogs are overlooked. What a shame. The adult and aged dogs still have a lot to offer. They're never too old to learn new tricks. Puppies may be cute, but they are also exhausting. A friend of mine summed it up very well by saying 'puppies have to be cute otherwise no one would want to deal with them'. How very true. If it wasn't for the 'who, me?' look that puppies give when caught in the act, it would be much more difficult to get past the puddles, piles and shredding. If you're thinking of adopting, please consider an older dog.

6/27/10:

Bella is finally showing her true colors! The quiet, timid little dog she was when she came to us has morphed into Bella, The Queen of ALL. We knew this was going to happen but it usually doesn't happen so fast. Bella acted like a typical puppy mill dog at first. She was very quiet and wouldn't do anything without seeking permission. She did not understand playtime and didn't know what toys were. That all changed this week.

Bella now does whatever Bella wants to do. She's learned what toys are and that the stuffing comes out of them. She's learned that she can intimdate the 70 pound lab she lives with. She's also decided that she must alert the neighborhood if someone dares to walk on her sidewalk. She runs back and forth across her yard always on the lookout for intruders. We tried to get Bella to play in the baby pool but she let us know that she's above that. She thinks puppies are stupid and all humans are here to serve her. Normally we wouldn't tolerate 'I'm better than you' behavior, but Bella's been through so much we're willing to let her reign over us for a little while longer. Yes, it's a bit annoying when she turns her nose up, flips her tail over her back and trots off, but we're just glad she's finally feeling up to showing off and taking over! 

When told that toys are supposed to stay in the house....

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Uh oh, I wasn't supposed to do this....

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I'll do whatever I want to do !!

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6/19: Before we give another update on Bella's progress, we want to thank everyone who made it possible for Bella to have a normal life.

To Laurel and her wonderful network, thank you for dedicating your lives to helping the animals that need us the most. Because of you, thousands of animals have gone on to wonderful families. Without you, they would not have survived or they would have ended up being tortured with needless experiments in research labs. Thanks also to those that fought for so very long to get Class B dealer Jim Woudenberg out of the Montcalm County Animal Shelter where Bella and many of our other dogs came from. Special thanks to all the transporters who gladly load their cars with dogs, cats and the ocassional reptile and get them moved to rescues and new lives.

Thank you to Dr. Karl Gubert, Monica and Denise of All Creatures Vet Services for always going the extra mile to provide top of the line care and for taking our early morning and late night phone calls. Thank you for your honesty and fairness and for giving our animals their best chance of a normal, healthy life. We know we can't save them all, but with your help many have been saved.

My sincere love and gratitude to my Aunt Arlene. You've fostered some of our toughest dogs and helped them to become the best they can be. Thanks for always being there for me and for them. You're the best!

Finally, and just so importantly, to David from MA, LJ, Ann, Jo Anne, Joy, Pam, Jeanne, Sandy, Larry, Susan, and the wonderful kids that donated their pennies, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!! Your moral and financial support has made a huge difference. Your donations have covered Bella's expenses!! We're still amazed at the outpouring of love and generosity shown to a little old dog who was used up and thrown away. 

On to Bella's update......

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6/19/10:

What a difference a couple of weeks makes! Bella went back to the vet on 6/12 and had her sutures removed. Our vet is very happy with her progress. Bella has healed much faster than we thought possible considering her age and all she's been through. She no longer has mastitis and the swollen area we were so concerned about isn't very swollen anymore. There are no more discolored areas and Bella is much more comfortable now that the sutures are out. The last thing our vet said to Bella's foster mom was "Take her home and treat her like any other dog. She's fine and she can do anything she wants to do". We've waited a long time to hear those words! We still have to watch her closely and will be taking her for regular check ups, but at least for now she's ok. Well, mostly ok. She's been sneezing and we think it's just allergies but if it doesn't stop soon, Bella will be going back to the vet.

We gave Bella a few more days to make sure her incision was ok and then we took her to be groomed. She didn't need a lot done since she had been clipped just before she came to us (thanks again, Susan!) but boy did she need a good scrubbing! The surgery had been very messy with all the infected tissue that was removed. The vet's office did what they could to clean her afterwards and her foster mom gave her mini baths with a wash cloth every day, but Bella needed a spa evening. Lori got Bella squeaky clean, evened out her coat, cleaned her ears and made her smell like a, well, like a lady. Bella tolerated most of it fine, but she didn't want her face clipped so we didn't argue with her. After Bella was blow dried and brushed out she was prancing around and showing off her new look. Of course, five minutes after she was home, she just had to roll in the grass but at least she stayed out of the mud.

Bella's personality continues to change as she gets used to being a 'regular' dog. She's finally feeling comfortable enough to wander around her house without stopping at every doorway to see if she allowed to proceed. She's also not waiting anymore to be told 'it's ok' before she eats. She's thrilled that she can jump up on the couch for nap time. Bella hasn't learned to play yet and she may never learn, but that's ok - sad, but ok. She does enjoy chewing on her dental bones but once it's down to half it's initial size, she wants it put away. She'll bring it to her foster mom for safe keeping on top of the refridgerator. When she wants it back, she'll sit and look up at it. Bella's also turned into a very good watch dog. She barks at strangers but will quickly stop when told to. What a great little dog!

It was terrible to watch Bella go through the surgery and recover process but it's so wonderful to see her run around the yard and be able to sit and lay down without having that tumor and infection causing her so much pain and discomfort.

Now that the bad stuff is in the past, I hope she'll learn to trust me again. This is a tough thing about rescue and rehab. The dogs don't understand that vet visits and surgeries are necessary. They tend to associate the bad things with the person who was there at the time. Since I was the one who kept taking her to the vet, leaving her and in her eyes, causing her pain, she currently holds me accountable. She's never been bad about anything, but when she sees me I get the look. She nearly cowers and if she could talk I'm sure she would say 'now what are you going to do to me?'  It will take some time and special treats but I hope that eventually the look will turn into one that says 'hi, did you bring me a present?'  

Bella's update 6/6/10:

Yesterday we took Bella to our vet for a recheck. While the news was mostly good we'll still be holding our collective breath for some time to come.

The incision is healing well and the sutures will be removed next Saturday. The discolored areas near the incision have faded and there is no more fluid leaking through her skin. There is no sign of infection at the surgery site, but Bella still has mastitis. We asked the vet for his best guess on when Bella last had puppies and we were very saddened by his response. Based on his decades of experience and full exam of Bella he believes she last had puppies only several weeks ago. This means that she had a litter within a couple of weeks prior to being dumped at the county animal control facility.

I (Joyce) need to write through some of my anger so please forgive the intrusion into Bella's update....What moron breeds, or allows to be bred, a 7 - 10 year old dog with a 1/2 pound tumor hanging from a mammary gland who is also battling mastitis and infected teeth??? Did her body reject the pregnancy? Did the puppies all die shortly after birth or were they being hand raised as Bella was waiting to die in the shelter? I can not believe that anyone but Bella's former owners owned the male that bred her as no responsible breeder would allow a stud service to a female in Bella's condition. This brings up other questions that will most likely never be answered although I would love her former owners to contact me with their story. Are you (Bella's former owner's) backyard breeders with other dogs in deplorable condition? Are you puppy millers selling sick dogs to pet shops? How many more dogs have you, or will you, be dumping on animal control once they are no longer able to generate cash? What happened to the puppies? Are they alive or did you allow them to die as they too would have had special needs? Lastly, how do you sleep at night? If Bella's former owners should happen to stop by this site, feel free to contact me. I would be happy to make the 2-1/2 hour drive to the west side of the state to meet with you and get answers to my questions.

Moving on.....we are encouaged by Bella's overall recovery but there is a somewhat serious concern. The area where the majority of the tumor was located is a little thickened. It's possible that this is normal scar tissue which is to be expected with a surgery of this magnitude, but it's also possible that the tumor will start to grow back. If this is the case, Bella may need additional surgery. However, because tumors such as this are slow growing, it may be a year or more before another surgery would be needed. Of course, our hope is that over the next couple of months the thickening will diminish and she'll never need to have another surgery. Bella will stay on antibiotics for another week but she's doing so well that pain medication is no longer necessary. She's also healed up enough to be able to walk down the couple of steps to go outside. I'm sure her foster mom is happy to not have to carry Bella up and down the steps anymore!

When Bella first came to us, she was quiet and somewhat shy. She's a different dog now that she's settled in and is feeling so much better! Bella has started to play with her toys and feels secure enough to help herself to the toy bin. Princess, the other dog in Bella's foster home, is doing her best to help Bella learn to play. She brings Bella toys and tries to get Bella to play with her. This is an amazing thing to watch. Bella is also turning into the cutest little watch dog ever. She right there barking with Princess when someone comes to the door. Bella has become protective of her foster mom too. When we were at the vets a large Rottie came over to say hi and Bella quickly let her know that Arlene would not be saying hi back. If Bella was a character in a comic strip, there would be little red hearts floating around her whenever she looks at Arlene.  

Things have been very hectic for the last week so I apologize for not having new pictures of Bella posted yet. In addition to Bella, we still have Claire in rescue and last week took in an abused Spaniel mix we renamed Gabe. I'll do my best to get Bella's pictures scanned and uploaded by mid-week when I post another update.

Bella's update 6/3/10:

Bella gave us a bit of a scare on Tuesday. The discolored areas of skin near her incision started to leak fluid. After a call to our vet, we believed that she was forming ulcers as she had all the signs of doing so. The medical supplies we gathered over the weekend were put to use. By Wednesday morning, there was no more leaking and the angry looking areas had begun to fade. Today, Thursday, she looks great. The red areas are nearly gone and her incision is healing well.

Bella's energy level and general well-being continue to improve. She even chased a bunny out of her yard but stopped running when her foster mom told her to. Her yard is now checked for bunnies before Bella is allowed outside - running is not permitted until she's fully healed (neither is going up stairs, jumping onto the couch, etc).

When Bella first came into rescue, she wouldn't do much on her own. She would wait until she was told 'ok' before she would eat, lay on her bed, or walk into a different room. She's much more at ease now but still waits for an 'ok' before she eats or chews on a treat. I've never known a dog that consistently asks permission (and gets whatever she wants!).

Tomorrow will mark one week since Bella had surgery and we're shocked at how well she's doing. She walks like a normal dog now and squats instead of lifting her leg which she did to keep the tumor from hitting the ground. She has a long way to go before she's completely out of the woods, but we are optimistic. Bella will be seeing the vet again on Saturday for a recheck and we think the news will be good.

Our biggest concern at this point is that the tumor will come back. Bella will  be monitored very closely for the next several months.  

We'll give another update (with pictures) over the weekend after our vet examines Bella.

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