Meet Bella, a dog with a sweet personality and a love for life.
She’s dying from terminal cancer.
It’s the worst possible news Robert Kugler could have heard about his best friend. First, it was cancer in the leg, which they removed. But then, suddenly, it had migrated to her lungs. Now, it was a terminal condition.
That’s when he decided to give Bella a final, amazing gift.
A Man and His Dog
“This is one of the biggest connections I’ve ever had to another living being. I don’t care that it’s a dog.” Kugler told CNN.
He had adopted her as a chocolate lab puppy nine years ago, and when he found out last May that she was dying, he was not willing to let her go so easily.
“I just didn’t want her to be gone one day when I came home,” he said.
Bella had been given a diagnosis of 3 to 6 months, Kugler was fresh out of school, and the Marine Ball was coming up in Chicago. So he packed her up and started their adventure. Since then, it’s been over a year, and the two are still traveling.
Along the way, Bella and Robert have taken turns sleeping in his 4 Runner, and they have also stayed with some friends. But they have also inspired strangers.
Several people have offered help and encouragement, and still others have offered shelter when they reach their next destination.
But truly, the most inspiring thing is seeing this man’s undying love for his dog.
A photo posted by Robert Kugler (@robkugler) on
A Final Gift
Robert knows that Bella’s time is running short. She’s lived far past her initial diagnosis, but it can’t last forever. While on a beach in Florida, he told CNN, he began to envision her peaceful end.
“Some days I’m completely prepared. I pictured her just swimming out to sea,” he said. “But there’s other days when I’m like, oh my God, I can’t bear the thought of it.”
But regardless, he is committed to staying with her until that end comes.
“We take on these animals, which means we’re gonna take on their life and their passing… To be there with them when they pass is the greatest gift you can give anybody.”
As difficult as it is to imagine, Robert has already made some plans for the time after Bella’s passing. He wants to continue to volunteer for veteran organizations as he has done in the past; places like Team Rubicon and Team Red, White & Blue.
He also wants to keep Bella’s spirit alive, and continue to travel, while remembering to “Wag more, bark less.”