The Just Love Project 023: Bella Knows Best

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“She had worn down her kennel bars trying to get to be with people.”

Even 11 years later, Lesley remembers the day she met Bella well. Her feverish desire to be around people never went away. It just needed to be harnessed. That afternoon was day one of that process. But, it wasn’t actually their first interaction. Lesley just didn’t know it at the time. More on that later.

A few months before that first meet at the shelter, Lesley had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. With her world turned upside down, she selflessly looked for ways to spend her time that felt positive and productive.

She thought working with kids with trained therapy dogs could fit the bill. Research brought her to Newfoundlands. Searching brought her to identifying a few great fits, some breeder visits, waiting lists, a couple denials, and a bit of disappointment. Until another call from a shelter came that they had just put up a Newfoundland. Lesley came to visit and Bella’s response was unlike the shelter had seen before. She shook the cages and nearly chewed through its bars. Lesley’s enthusiasm and gut feeling was as strong as Bella’s. After some meeting, greeting, and some quick convincing to her husband that Newfs don’t shed THAT much, Bella was on her way home.

Bella began therapy training and took to it like a natural. Until one day she started showing a behavior that wasn’t quite a part of the training plan.

“She kept jumping up and putting her paws on my shoulders,” Lesley remembers “it’s hard to describe why, but my trainer & I both knew something was wrong.”

After some investigating and lots of trial and error, they discovered Bella wasn’t looking for a treat, or a head scratch, or a rope-tug. She was telling Lesley that her blood sugar was low. Dangerously low. Lesley’s health complications included being hypoglycemic, but she hadn’t known. Thanks to Bella, Lesley was able to turn Bella’s behavior into a full blood sugar monitoring strategy. They do regular daily testing, thankfully with less Newfoundland shoulder jumping. Bella sniffs a swab. A nudge means Lesley’s blood sugar is low. A high-five means it’s high.

Bella also passed her therapy certification with flying colors and has visited with hundreds of kids over the years. So today, Bella didn’t only fulfill Lesley’s desire to work with a therapy dog. Bella became her personal service dog. Day in, day out, her companion to help make her as healthy and happy as possible. Eleven years later, Bella’s doing a heck of a job.

Lesley insists she’s made her not only healthier, but happier, more outgoing, and more able to face every day with confidence.

“Bella was my saving grace.”

When Lesley first met her beloved Bella, it was after a long and exhausting search for the right reputable Newfoundland breeder. She remembered the dogs she had identified. Bella, having been brought to the shelter, was one of those very dogs. Looking back on their relationship, calling their meeting a coincidence seems to not do it justice. Bella quite literally helped save Lesley’s life in more ways than one.

“It was absolutely meant to be,” says Lesley, “we were meant to be together.”

If Bella’s determined chewing was any indication, it seemed she was on exactly the same page from the very beginning.

Lesley & Bella’s story is part of Mutt Jackson’s THE JUST LOVE PROJECT – our blog series dedicated to celebrating the extraordinary bonds that exist between humans & their dogs. Every Wednesday, we’ll be sharing a new piece – be sure to subscribe to our newsletter so that you don’t miss an installment! And, if you or someone you know think you have a tale to tell, please shoot us an email at – we’d love to hear from you!