My Summer With Bella

I read, with sadness and empathy, the stories of the people or their companions that I have befriended here as they journey through terminal illness. I am privileged to share in their passage, however painful, and to support them as best I can. Yet, I have not been able to write about my own journey with my beloved Bella.


Maybe it is because I am a private person. Or perhaps it is because I’m told that my happiest stories help to lift others’ spirits. God knows that we could all use a little of that. More likely, it is because – by writing about it – it would become all too real.

My Bella had cancer. Inoperable, and, despite all efforts, incurable.


My only requirement through treatments: that she be happy, no matter how unhappy I was for her.


And when she stopped being happy – of just being Bella – then it was time.

Today, it was time. After a long and difficult night, she looked at me and said “no more drugs, no more doctors, no more.” And my heart is breaking – for her, and her “brother” Jackson who will be lost without her.


Nine is too young. She got robbed. But still, nine was rich, and full, and wonderful.

My first rescue dog from Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue – a Golden puppy. A rarity in rescue.


And while an adult dog comes with so many blessings, there is nothing like the bond created through potty training, sleepless nights, and half eaten walls – something she never quite grew out of.


Always in trouble from the start, she was smart and willful.


She did everything with complete abandon,


whether it was catching a ball or guarding the backyard from marauding squirrels. So it should be no surprise that her tumor would first appear as a Grade 3.

As a puppy, she was always busy. She could never settle at night. So I would curl up with her on the dog bed and whisper quietly to her while gently stroking her leg and paw until she fell asleep; a ritual that still works – even today.


I left my job a month after her diagnosis. Not because of it, but maybe because I was meant to have this time with her. Without it, her day would have come much sooner. So many appointments and medications and special instructions. I could never have managed it with work. It bought us some time to prepare, accept, and appreciate all the more.


My summer with sweet Bella was a precious gift of time and love. And today – of departure.


Fly free sweet girl. And say hello to Pookie, Bear, Tribble and Valentino.
You are so loved.


Published by


I am a nascent gardener, rescuer, and photographer, chronicling the journey of the dogs at Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary near Sacramento, CA - and the Memorial Garden we have devoted to them.

51 thoughts on “My Summer With Bella”

  1. My heart is broken for all of you. I hope that her cousins, Butterscotch and Paris, will be around to greet her as well, and show her where to run free and without pain.

  2. I can’t even begin to express how heartbroken I am for you. It is such a helpless feeling, not being able to save them. But being able to let them really live while they are still with us is a gift. One you gave her threefold. I hope the day comes where you can look back with smiles instead of tears, though I know that seems impossible right now. My candles are lit for your beautiful girl, so her way to the bridge is that much brighter. ((HUGS)) to you my friend.

    1. The tears are temporary – the smiles are carried in my heart with her, forever. Thank you, Chris. I know you understand all too well.

  3. My heart hurts for you! The joy they bring and the pain of losing them are beyond words. I am so sorry, she is a beautiful soul!

  4. Oh, I’m so very sorry! I know your heartbreak all too well. What a lucky dog she was to have such a loving ‘mom’ all of her life. Thank you for sharing her with us in your beautiful tribute to her. My thoughts are with you. ❤

    1. Thank you, Mary. Our is a very non-exclusive club of loss, but I doubt any of us would trade the sorrow for all the joys.

  5. I am holding you, your husband and dear Jackson very close tonight. I too, lit my candle for your sweet Bella and you and your family. I am so sorry Audrey.

  6. I am so sorry. My heart breaks for you and tears fall. We all understand. God Bless all. Will light a candle for her journey.

  7. Blessings and more blessings on your sweet heart and Bella’s holy energy. In these early, thin and fragile days of grief, please know you are held and loved by so many you’ve touched with your generosity and many gifts. I’m lighting a candle for you both in my heart and hope you’ll feel the deep ties and memories that forever connect you in relationship with Bella can never be lost. Look for signs: She’s with you. Peace and gentle peace.

  8. Ogee, I am heartbroken for you and so deeply sorry for your loss. The photographs you have posted here are beautiful. Such a precious face, she has in those images, your Bella. You are in my thoughts…

  9. I’m so terribly sorry, Audrey. The touching photos of Bella’s beautiful face,and the descriptions of her determination and generous giving of herself to everything in her life do make me think that she learned a lot from the qualities you bring to life and love, Audrey. What a moving tribute to your shared love.

  10. My heart breaks for you. The photos of your sweet Bella are lovely and loving mementos. Remember, she is now without pain, she is once again energetic like a puppy, and surrounded by pals. Let that comfort you on your darkest days.

    1. I like the thought of her running around like a puppy again. I wonder if they have couches and dishwashers she can get stuck under in heaven? Thank you, Patti.

  11. Thank you for sharing Bella’s story. I can tell how precious she was. Goldens steal our hearts and we willing allow it – you could say we welcome it. I have been through this three times but I wouldn’t give up all of the wonderful experiences. The pain is intense but the love you shared will always be with you. She was a very lucky dog as were you a very lucky owner. My prayers are with you.

    1. Thank you, Karen. They should come with warning labels for the uninitiated. Not that it would deter any of us. The love and memories live on, long after the loss.

  12. Beautiful girl, beautiful story. They don’t live long enough, but she did a lot of living and loving the time she was here. If I had a choice it would be to live a shorter life with abandon, like Bella, rather than a long life just existing…

  13. Oh, Audrey, I’m so sorry about your beautiful Bella! Reading this post has brought tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat. And memories of nursing my own sweet Callie through her own lymphoma journey last August. By heart is broken for you. It doesn’t really matter how old they are when they depart; for us humans they leave behind, it’s always too soon. May you find comfort and peace in knowing that you gave Bella a great, happy life here on Earth. Maybe she’s playing with my Callie as I write this. Love and Hugs to you, your hubby, and Jackson.

    1. I would like to think that Bella and Callie have found each other. What fun they would have! You are exactly right – there is never enough time; it is always too soon. Thank you for your kind note.

  14. My heart breaks for you. Bella was a beautiful girl, and nine years is oh so short. But I know that you made each and every day special for her and I am so thankful that she had you by her side at the end. You and sweet Jackson are in my thoughts.

    1. While she never got to do New Orleans from A-Z, she managed to live a full and happy life in other ways. 🙂 Thank you for your kind note.

  15. You’ve written so elegantly of your painful loss. I’m so sorry. It does seem like a steep price to pay when we fall in love with a beloved animal, knowing we will most likely outlive them all. But the love, as you say, the companionship, the deep connection, makes it all worthwhile.

    Arms around you dear Audrey. xo

  16. Having lost our two golden boys two months apart, I still haven’t been able to write about them but our new golden boy is squirming into a heart that just keeps getting larger every time a dog – canine angels? – joins us and leaves us. Thanks for sharing your heart – feel the heavens stormed on your behalf and know that Bella is at peace.

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