Bella The Bucket List Dog Who Survived Longer Than Imagined Has Passed Away

Bella, diagnosed with cancer in March 2015, went on an epic journey with her best friend during the last months of her life.

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This photo was taken a week before Bella’s passing at Lee Martinez Park in Colorado. Via Rob Kugler/Instagram
This photo was taken a week before Bella’s passing at Lee Martinez Park in Colorado. Via Rob Kugler/Instagram

Bella, the bucket list dog diagnosed with cancer who outlasted her three- to six-month life expectancy by more than a year-and-a-half, has died. She was around 10 years old.

Bella made headlines earlier this year when her owner, US Marine veteran Robert Kugler of Omaha, Nebraska, decided to take the Chocolate Labrador on an epic road trip and documented it on Instagram.

A photo posted by Robert Kugler (@robkugler) on

Bella’s adventure started at the Marine Corp Ball, then went to Niagara Falls, Washington D.C., Virginia, and then to Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia, where they enjoyed some baseball. They spent a ton of time camping in Kugler’s Toyota 4Runner and just enjoyed each other’s company for the time they had.

I wasn’t sure if I would ever share this photo…as it’s the last intimate moment that I spent with Bella. Yet…as I wondered this morning what will come of this social media following…what the purpose of sharing has been, and what it will now grow into after her passing…I remembered that there is such an opportunity to help others as they go through their own losses, or have pain the memories of their loss. As I’m struggling today with the fact that I didn’t get to give Bella her picturesque waterside passing, I am reminded of our final goodbye. Instead of leaving her at the vet, I drove her to the crematorium and carried her from my vehicle myself. When it came time to leave…I couldn’t. I couldn’t just leave her there. My heart was crushed into a thousand pieces…my mind was spinning and my chest was full of anxiety. I felt it all happened too fast. I had so much time to say goodbye, but I hadn’t really told her goodbye. I hadn’t prepared her. I hand’t done enough..and now I was just leaving her. How will I ever forgive myself for just leaving her there? Then…I caught myself. I knew what I needed to do. I went back to her perfectly beautiful body…kneeled down, placed my hand on her chest, and found my breath. Perhaps for merely even a minute or two…I breathed in…filling my lungs and my belly…and I breathed out. The world slowed down, along with my mind and heart. I told Bella that I was sending her all of my Love…and asked her to send me all of mine. I kissed her forehead one last time…and then remembered I could now kiss that beautiful nose of hers once again now that it was no longer in pain. I told her I Loved her…and left feeling fulfilled…and at peace. Perhaps this peace…has been what I’ve been searching for all along. Hopefully in my sharing this, you can remember to find your breath…and your breath can bring you your peace. Hang in there, #TeamRobandBella, we’re still together in this thing called life…and what a beautiful thing it can be.

A photo posted by Robert Kugler (@robkugler) on

On October 30, Kugler shared a photo with Bella on Instagram, describing it as the last intimate moment he spent with the dog who was always by his side.

Kugler wondered on Instagram what would become of the following that Bella helped to generate on social media as well as what the purpose of sharing his dog’s last days with the socialsphere would amount to. His post, which is detailed above, is heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time, as it showed a man’s total and unconditional love and dedication to his best friend during their last moments together.

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  • So sorry for your loss

    Gail Cortner November 15, 2016 3:22 am Reply
  • I am also sorry for your loss and know the pain as I lost my beloved 8 year old shihtzu Ace. He was fine one day and just like that he was in pain we think when he rammed himself coming in the dog panel door. I heard a whimper and thought nothing at the time but he started to arch his back in pain and we took him to the vets and they put him on different painkillers but nothing wo buthrked and then rushed to the er and they stabilized him and he had been on steroids and he came home and he had the patch for pain and he went downhill and he did good one day before he died. He was in his kennel when my husband found him. This went on a month with him in pain. I had him cremated and he was the best friend I could ever have. I have another shihtzu and maltese but he was the baby of the three and never thought he would go first. I am so heartbroken.

    Jean November 15, 2016 10:31 am Reply
  • Thank you for sharing your story. I am crying reading it. As anyone with a dog knows their time with us is way too short, but we sometimes have the luxury of being with them and helping them leave. It is so empty without them. My thoughts, prayers and tears are with you.

    Susan November 16, 2016 12:23 pm Reply

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