Dear J.A. Jance fans,
This is Jeanne T., J.A and Bill’s daughter, pinch-hitting today as my Mom’s guest blogger. It is with heavy heart that we share the sad family news that our parents lost their beloved little Bella Belle on Monday of this week. They are heart broken, and that is why I am writing this week’s blog.
Many of you know the story of how Bella literally ran her way into our hearts on a cold rainy October day six and a half years ago. For those of you who don’t, here’s a short recap. My son, Colt, I, along with J.A. (aka Mom or G., as the grandkids call her) were on our way back to their house from a shopping trip, when we came across a little brown dog, all alone and running for her life along the side of busy road.
We slowed traffic down, and Mom jumped out of the car to go after her. When that didn’t work the first time, she got back in the car and we tried again. Eventually another car joined the chase. That guy was quick enough on his feet that he was able to grab the petrified dog. He immediately handed her over to us and drove away.
Back in the car, Colt removed his sweatshirt to wrap up the shivering, soaking wet dog. She was terrified. Even though she was stuck in a car with people she didn’t know, she seemed to understand that she was safe. We believe that someone simply threw her out of a car. When we came upon her, she was chasing after whoever had dumped her. She had a collar but no tag. We took her to my vet to see if she was microchipped. She was not. We spent a couple of hours canvassing the neighborhood to see if anyone recognized her. Nobody did. Finally we had no choice but to take her to my parents’ home to regroup.
I met Dad, my mom’s second husband, when I was 11. From the very beginning, he had always referred to little dogs as W.O.F.s Wastes of Fur. That day, though, when we showed up with that tiny dog, still shivering with terror, Dad took one look at her and said, “Well, you’re not going to the pound!” It was a definite case of love at first sight. Dad took the leash from Colt, and the dog was his.
Colt was busy telling his grandpa how we had found the “poor little fella” in the street. Dad patiently explained to him that Fella was a boy’s name and this was a girl dog. “Okay,” Colt responded, “We’ll call her Bella.” And Bella she became. The photo at the top of this blog was taken a little over two months after she came to live with my parents.
Bella was a long-haired miniature dachshund, and I can tell you with authority that she landed on her feet. Within two months of being captured on that cold October day, she was tucked into a posh rolling dog crate and booked into the first class cabin on an Alaska Airlines plane, bound from Seattle to Tucson. On her last trip to Tucson, at the beginning of January, she actually flew in a private jet. If that isn’t a rags to riches story, I don’t know what is!
Here are a few things we learned about Bella between then and now:
Bella was never a morning dog, not ever! Regardless of where she was, she did not do mornings. She would get up only when she was damned good and ready, and she ate the same way. No amount of begging or cajoling or specialty food was going to get her to eat ON YOUR SCHEDULE. Her favorite food was cut up rotisserie chicken, but even with that she was a dainty, ladylike eater who would take one tiny bite and chew it thoroughly, all the while looking around to make sure her humans were properly present and accounted for. If you gave her something she didn’t like or tried to slip some medicine into her food? She would respond with a firm, “No doggie,” the words Colt used to use for “No, thank you,” back when he was little.
On the road as “Bella, the Book Tour Dog,” she was regal about making her presence known in airports, planes, hotels, and book signings. My mom can tell you that when Bella was in the room, there were far more people taking pictures than when the author was doing a solo appearance. While traveling with my parents, Bella turned out to be the star of the show, while my dad and mom morphed into driver and chopped liver, respectively.
When Bella first came to us as an already middle-aged dog ,she had obviously spent most of her life living in an apartment. Although she was clearly accustomed to riding in elevators, she had never met a doggie door and didn’t know how to use one. She also had no idea about going outside on her own in order to “get busy.” Instead, even though both of my parents’ yards are totally fenced, when Bella first arrived on the scene and it was time to do what needed to be done, Bella had to have a human holding onto the other end of a dog leash. That first winter my mom was not happy about being stuck outside in the wind and rain, walking a dog for NO GOOD REASON! Eventually things reached a point where as long as someone was carrying the leash, it didn’t necessarily have to be attached to the dog. I’m happy to say, however, that it turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks and Bella was finally able to master the art of doggie-door usage.
Bella was a huntress par excellence and a killer as well—a mole killer, that is. Want to know the fastest way to shut down a dinner party? Have Bella bring a still slightly moving, almost dead mole into the kitchen and drop the bloody mess in the middle of the room. Dinner party over! With Bella around, no mole in my parents’ back yard was safe. Last year, between Bella and her little sister, a piebald, long haired miniature dachshund named Jojo, the dead mole total was nine. Bella was incredibly proud of her hunting skills and always wanted to show off the spoils of her on-going rodent war. It was as though she was saying, “You saved me, so I brought you this dead mole to say thank you.”
Several years ago when my parents were in Tucson, Bella escaped from their yard and went missing. That was the first time she broke their hearts. Many of you may remember the twenty-three hour long drama while Bella was MIA. A driveway gate was inadvertently left open. She used that to let herself out of the yard. A block and a half away, she found a small dachshund-sized hole in the sound-barrier wall surrounding El Con Mall and took herself on a walkabout in the parking lot where she was immediately collected by a bike-riding security guard. He delivered her to the mall’s leasing office where the staff used a banker’s box to create a makeshift dog crate. After that. they proceeded to spoil the dog rotten. (Yesterday, when I first heard the bad news, I couldn’t help remembering and being grateful for that caring security guard as well as the Bella’s loving guardians in the leasing office!)
With Bella missing, my parents were in Tucson and worried sick while we kids were here in Washington and doing everything we could to help. One of my brothers suggested putting an ad on Craig’s List. At ten o’clock the next morning, twenty-three hours after Bella first disappeared, someone from the leasing office called my parents to see if they were missing a little brown dog. Were they ever! The people in the leasing office were worried that someone other than Bella’s real owners might show up and try to claim her. When my parents appeared on the scene, however, Bella made it perfectly clear to all concerned that they were hers and she was theirs.
Bella found her way to my parents’ homes and hearts twice, and she was meant to be theirs. They loved her unconditionally, and now they are heartbroken. We all are. The X-rays the vet took of her deteriorating back also revealed details of damage to her ribcage that indicated how cruelly she must have been treated before she became part of our family.
My parents are on tour. Book tours do not stop because sweet little dogs cross over the Rainbow Bridge. As their daughter and as a fellow animal lover, I’m asking fans be kind to my parents when you see them out on the road. The show must go on, of course, and they are doing the events the schedule says must happen. On Wednesday of this week they learned that Man Overboard will debut at #10 on the New York Times list. Bella, the book tour dog, would have been delighted since the mystery books my mom writes are what allowed Bella to live “the lifestyle of the rich and famous” for the last seven years of her life.
Dogs leave Paw Prints on our Hearts that last forever.
If you want to do something for my parents, you can donate to your local animal shelter or rescue in Bella’s honor. There are others dogs out there and kitties, too, who are waiting to find their forever families.
We are so lucky Bella found her forever family with us—not just once, but twice over.
We love you, Bella Belle. Please wait for us on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge.
This time we’ll find you.