Bella Belle

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.

Bella the Book Tour Dog

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.   

Love you always, Bella.

50 thoughts on “Bella Belle

  1. So very sorry to hear about Bella, she is at the Bridge and will be waiting there having fun and running the fields with all her new friends till you come to meet her again. ?

  2. Bella was part of your family. We also lost our Brandy, an Australian shepherd last May. After several months, we decided to go to Wickenburg Humane Society and brought home a 8 month old puppy, Cricket. She is a joy to us a little terrier . We have enjoyed your tales of Bella over the years. Keep your memories near, they will help through this time.

  3. So sorry to read this. We have followed and loved Bella from afar since her story with your family began. So much personality! Such a special dog….having been bossed around by a mini-dachshund a couple of years back I know….small package, great heart. My condolences to your parents and your family.

  4. I’m so sorry to hear this news. What a wonderful 7 years she had with your family. In my opinion, the ONLY thing wrong with dogs is that they don’t live as long as we’d like.

  5. I’m so sorry for the whole family’s loss! Great blog post, Jeanne T. Thanks for filling in for your mom. I know it would have broken her heart to write this. My love to all of you.

  6. My heartfelt condolences for you all. Our fur children ae as much a part of our family as the ‘furless’ ones and just as loved.
    Rest in peace Bella. Heal with happy memories family ?

  7. I am heartbroken to here about Bella’s passing. I’ve lost two kitties to old age within the last year and I know the hole left in your heart after they’re gone. My condolences to your entire family.

  8. I am heartbroken to hear about Bella’s passing. I’ve lost two kitties to old age within the past year. I know the hole left in your heart after they’re gone. My condolences to your entire family. Take comfort in the wonderful life she had with your family. For readers she will live on in The Last Goodbye.

  9. With my own personal loss earlier in the month, I am thinking that Mondays in March are to be avoided. I have followed the saga of Bella and am certain she found just the right forever home. That she will be missed is an understatement.

  10. Our hearts go out to you and your family in you time of loss. Bella will always have a place in your hearts. Your memories of her will keep her in your hearts and minds forever.
    Give your parents a big hug from another dog lover and a greatful fan of your mom’s books. Jan

  11. Condolences from far away Sweden.
    Hugs from me to you all and pats to Jojo.
    It hurts a lot when a family member dies.
    Rest in peace Bella.
    Jeanne T, thank you for the blog post.

    My dads former dog, she died 2013, only 10 years old.
    She was a daycare dog at my dad and his wife at first, then she decided to move to them permanently, she was almost 2 years.
    In the beginning she was afraid of me. A bit later, not at all.
    She usually turned her back to me, so that I would gently pat her lower back.
    I did wonder why she wanted me to pet her there.
    A year or so before her death, her back was x-rayed, it showed bad damage.
    After that my dad asked the former owner what he had done, we never heard from that man again.

  12. So sorry to hear of Bella’s passing. Is always heartbreaking to loose a special part of your family.

  13. Awww, we’re so sorry to hear about Bella! We feel your pain as we just lost our old boy Buddy on Wednesday. He was 17. We’re just trying to remember the good times! Our love thoughts and prayers are with you!
    Rainbow Bridge

    Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

    When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
    There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
    There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

    All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
    The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

    They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

    You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

    Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….

    Author unknown…

  14. Jeanne T., this is excellent. Thanks for doing such a wonderful job of honoring Bella in this blog. Love and hugs to you, Colt and especially your Mom and Dad at this difficult time.

  15. Sending many prayers for comfort. Fur babies are so much a part of the family. I was blessed to have met Belle once when I saw her on tour.
    May God bless you and wrap you in his wonderful arms as yo grieve your precious Belle.

  16. What a wonderful blog. I know your parents would be proud of a job well done. You have brought tears to my eyes as your wrote such a terrific tribute to such a wonderful companion.
    I feel I know Bella as my rescue, Shirley Valentine, a most intelligent, in-charge type Jack Russel Terrier took over my life about 8 years ago when she was 6 or 7 years old.
    Like Bella, she has definite ideas about how things should be in her life and acts accordingly. I just love her with all my heart.
    Shirley was taken from a home where she was beaten daily. It took her an entire year to even bark once. I’m happy to report she has more than made up for that in the following years and is an amazing watch dog. She is also very much a one person dog and extremely protective of me.
    From our little family to yours, we are so very sorry for your loss and know Bella will always be with you. God Bless all of you.

  17. Jeanne T, thank you for letting us know of Bella’s Journey to Rainbow Bridge. Tears on the keyboard – please give your dad and my my condolences and include a hug for Colt and yourself. I’ve chatted with your mother off and on for years via e-mail about her stories – Butch Dixon’s trains, dachshunds, and more. My husband and I retired from dachshund rescue several years ago. We have the honor of being “that wiener dog rescue in Phoenix” mentioned in Damage Control. I remember when Bella joined your family and how being owned a dachshund was a bit of a “culture shock” for your mom, who was accustomed to her beloved Goldens. I remember how she and your dad panicked when Bella had her little overnight mall adventure. If ever a dachshund deserved a rags to riches life, it was Bella. RIP Bella – you were loved by many people who never met you! Say hello to my herd of ‘hunds at the Bridge!

  18. Jeanne T. thanks for letting your mother’s readers know about the loss of Bella. While I am a cat lover, all of our fur babies hold a special place in out hearts and it hurts when they pass away. She found a great loving home and your parents made her life so much better that what it could have been with whoever tossed her out of their car. She was loved and will be waiting at the Rainbow Bridge for them to join her.

  19. I am so very, very, sorry for your loss. May you find comfort in the knowledge that you gave her as much joy and love as she gave you in her last years. Again, just so damned sorry for your pain…

  20. I teared up and was heart broken to hear this news. Pets ‘are’ family and Bella was a very special one. You apparently were meant to have her in your lives. Bless you (your Mom for rescuing her.) She has a huge heart which is quite evident in a lot of her postings and writings. May angels watch over you all during this very sad time and thank you for taking the time to write such a lovely dedication and explanation.

  21. My eyes are teary as I read your sad story, my heart is heavy for your parents and your family as well. As a mommy to a spoiled fur baby Zoey I certainly know how attached we get to our babies. I’ve enjoyed reading your mom’s books and blogs for years which included her stories about Bella. I know your moms a busy lady with lots on her mind right now and how she must put on that smile and carry on but I do hope she will read these messages one day or that you will share with her the prayers, thoughts and love that I’m and her other devoted fans and readers are sending her as well as your dad. Thank you for being there for Bella while your mom was away!

  22. Not a dry eye in the house. My heart goes out to you all. She was lovely. Such little beings, amazing the size of the ache they leave behind.
    I rescued my dog from the mean streets also, so I know it creates a very strong bond, knowing she was abused, wanting to make it all better.
    I dread this day coming for us.
    Kudos to you, daughter, on this eulogy. You did wonderfully, a sweet and heartwarming homage to a dear dear friend. I’m sure you made your mom proud.

  23. So sad when a loving family loses a dog (pet) They aren’t just a dog. They are loved, worried over, forgiven for boo boos, and for bringing in what they think are “gifts”. (Dead or almost dead rodents). Just remember that for the last few years of her life she was treated with love and respect. Hopefully that knowledge will help you through your sadness.

  24. Crying my eyes out now! Thank you Jeanne, for letting your mom’s devoted fans know what’s happening in your parents’ lives. This is a Very Big Deal – dogs are family. Thinking of all of you (and JoJo!) right now.

  25. Hang on let me get a kleenex! I am so sorry to hear this very sad news of Bella. Just breaks my heart. Jeanne what a beautiful tribute to Bella. I love that she was NOT a morning dog, LOL. Made me laugh. These pets of ours are FAMILY. Know how heartbroken your mom must be. I too have a Bella – (Pappilon) and she is sitting right next to me as I type this. Love and Hugs to ALL of you.

  26. When I read about Bella this morning, I started to cry and by the end of the blog I was sobbing. Our pets are so important to us. The love of a pet is like no other. Please tell your mom that I send my heartfelt condolences. Your blog was outstanding.

  27. So sorry to hear of Bella”s passing. I have dachshunds too. There is something so special about them. My Mouse crossed the Rainbow Bridge 11 months ago and I miss him so much. I know how the grief comes in waves. I pray you will find peace in your hearts in the days, weeks and months ahead. Libby

  28. Thank you, Jeanne, for writing about Bella. She was so lucky to have you folks her last years. I love how she brought her mole-kills into the house. My cat used to do that. You’ll miss her, I know, but what memories you have.

  29. Thank you for sharing about the death of Bella Belle. The death of a pet can be as heart wrenching as the death of a human family member. I send love and healing energy to all of you. Ms. Jance is an amazing woman. Even in her grief, she still “takes care” of her fans by fulfilling her commitments to go to book signings and such. And, it appears her human family is full of that same caring and grace. Thank you again, for sharing with us.

  30. I was so grateful when Jeanne T. offered to write this week’s blog. It was a job I couldn’t do. I’ve read through all the caring comments and am very grateful for each and every one, even if I am unable to respond to all of them individually.


  31. What a wonderful tribute to Bella Belle! Our furkids are never with us long enough, but the love they give while here …! My deepest sympathy on the loss of your dogter.

    • Shirley, I love that word “furkids”. I’ve never thought of pets like that, but from now on I will.

  32. I am so sorry to hear of Bella’s passing. She is at Rainbow Bridge with my Boxer Cinda. I know she spent her best years with wonderful people.

  33. It is so very hard to loose them. No matter how we get them. Bella was definitely a member of your family. Thank you for sharing through your pain. I have 7 miniature Dachshunds and love every one of them. They are all girls and I breed some of them. Tell your parents that my heart goes out to them at this time. Especially since they are on tour and mourning their lose is hard to do. Now I’m going to go read Man Overboard. Take care.

  34. “Dogs Are Not Our Whole Lives But They Make Our Lives Whole.”
    Thank you for the lovely and loving eulogy, Jeanne T–your caring for your mom and the rest of your family and well as for sweet Bella has made this passage easier for all of us.

  35. So sad to read about Bella Belles passing.
    We were introduced to her several years ago at the Sunrise Mountain Library in Peoria, AZ where we listened to J.A.’s heart-warming recount of rescuing Bella off of 405.

    What a blessing she was for all of you.

    Warm regards from a Washingtonian snowbird,

  36. I am so sorry to hear of Bells passing. I met her at a talk you gave at SunLakes As. What a lady she was.
    It is so hard to loose a member of your family. I have lost 4 goldens over the years. I am now in a senior living home in Renton and have a cat. She is a love but not a golden.

  37. This is heart breaking, what a precious little girl she was. Losing our fur babies is so very hard.
    I’m sure Bella knew she had
    Cyber hugs.??????????????.

  38. This is heart breaking, what a precious little girl she was. Losing our fur babies is so very hard.
    I’m sure Bella knew she had
    Cyber hugs.??????????????.

  39. Have had some health issues and have been slow to respond but wanted to let you know how sorry we are about Bella. We recently lost our 20 year old cat, Henry. Considering our oldest grandchild is 16, Henry has been a part of our lives since before we had grandchildren. He was pure white, with one green eye and one blue eye, and was completely deaf. Henry was here and is now gone. His loss has greatly saddened us and we are left with photos and memories of his minutiae of personality quirks, as I’m sure you are with Bella.

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