Bella Belle

Often, at the beginning of meetings, the minutes of the previous meetings are reviewed, and that’s the case here. After last week’s blog, a friend reminded me of a Bony story I had failed to include.

For a time in the nineties, Bill and I were between houses and ended up moving into—Guess what?—A no-dogs-allowed apartment. At that point, Bony, Nikki, and Tess moved to our house in Tucson along with two of the kids. We caravanned down through California in three separate vehicles, one dog per car.

Bony rode with us. His preferred riding position was to stand directly behind Bill, with the chin of his massive head resting on Bill’ s shoulder. To drivers and passengers in vehicles that passed us, it looked to all the world as though Bony was driving the car.

Does that sound familiar? Yes, the same thing happened to Beau with Lucy standing in the back seat. Yes, I write fiction, but I’m too lazy to make up everything.

Now for new business, Bella. She came to us on a cold, rainy October Saturday morning in 2008. On our way home from a shopping trip with my daughter and grandson, we spotted a panicked miniature dachshund racing down the middle of a well-traveled road a mile or so from our house.

After a brief chase, when we managed to capture her, she was soaking wet, muddy, and shaking in terror. She had a collar but no tag. A trip to the vet revealed that she had no chip. We spent the next couple of hours talking to people in the neighborhood, but no one there recognized her. Finally, we gave up and came home.

That was a big deal. On Bill’s first date with the woman who became his first wife, so long ago that a first-time date was expected to meet the girl’s parents, he went to Lynn’s house where the family dog, a standard dachshund named Moxie, took one look at Bill, and immediately attached himself to Bill’s ankle, hard enough to draw blood and wreck his sock. So Bill didn’t much like dachshunds, which is why I had been reluctant to bring our stray dog home.

At the house, Bill came out to see what all the fuss was about. As he carried the dog into the house, Colt was busy explaining how we had found this “poor little fella” on the road. “Colt,” Bill told him, “Fella is a boy’s name. This dog is a girl.”

“Okay,” Colt replied, “Then we’ll call her Bella.” And just like that. Bella she was.

She was a stranger in a strange land. We didn’t know her name. We didn’t know what she liked to eat. She didn’t know any of the commands we used with all our other dogs. She had obviously lived in an apartment because she had never met a Doggy Door and didn’t know how they worked. (Our remaining Golden, Daphne, taught Bella how those functioned.) Oh, and she was terrified of men.

We tried unsuccessfully to find her owner. Her teeth were in terrible shape. After dealing with a $1400 vet dental bill, we had her chipped and decided she was ours.

Since our preferred pet sitter is male, our attempts to leave Bella with him failed miserably. She hid out under the bed and wouldn’t come out, not even to eat. So when we had to travel to Arizona for a U of A event in December, Bella went along. On the trip back, while going through security with a computer, an iPad, two phones, and a man with two fake knees, Bella slipped out of her collar and took off down the concourse.

I hadn’t yet cleared security, and I knew if I went after her, they’d declare a security breach, so all I could do was stand there and call, “Bella, Bella, come back.”

We’d had her for only two months by then, but after skittering down the corridor past a couple of gates, she turned around and came racing right back to me. Obviously, she was ours for good and all. And everyone on our flight back to Seattle knew her by name.

When the next book tour came around, Bella was still scared of the pet-sitter. She got over that eventually, but that February when it was time for the tour, Bella went along, staying with us at what was then the Ritz Carlton in Phoenix.

It happened that that week Phoenix experienced the coldest temperatures in 82 years. The next morning while having our room-service breakfast, there was a tap on the door. When I opened it, I found the concierge standing outside with a tiny pet jacket in hand. “It’s so cold,” she said, “I thought Bella might need this.”

Bill and Bella

I was a lot younger then and doing multiple events in a single day wasn’t a problem. It happened that that was a four-event day, traveling from Sun City to Apache Junction. Bella sat up front with me during the talks, seemingly hanging on every word. Then, during the signing process, she would take a back seat with Bill.

One of the Apache Junction fans approached the signing table and asked if I would sign the book to her daughter who had been a huge fan of mine and who had recently succumbed to breast cancer. By the time I finished signing, both the mother and I were in tears. I then passed the woman along to Bill and Bella where she remained for the next half hour. As far as I know Bella wasn’t trained to deliver grief comfort, but she knew exactly what to do.

And that’s how she became Bella, the Book Tour Dog. On that first day of touring, she interacted with more than a thousand people. By the end of the day, she was exhausted and so were we.

The vet said she was probably ten or eleven when we got her. We had her for six years before we lost her to a back issue. But she was the beginning of our downsizing from large dogs to small ones.

And now, she like Mandy and Bony, lives on in the Ali Reynolds books. We believe that she had been lovingly cared for by an older woman who eventually went into a facility of some kind, leaving her beloved dog with a male family member who didn’t like her much. Does that sound familiar?

That’s because in my novella, A Last Goodbye, I told what I believe is a fictionalized version of Bella’s story. In this case, Ali’s grandkids find the dog in a Las Vegas parking lot on the eve of B.’s and Ali’s wedding. Unfortunately, A Last Goodbye is only available in audio or eBook editions.

But it’s a good story. Don’t forget the Kleenex.

26 thoughts on “Bella Belle

  1. Your blog post is truly appropriate. We just adopted a shelter dog with seizure issues. He had been at the shelter at least 6 months. We are old and I swore I would not get a dog with health problems. He needs meds twice a day. Once you are adopted by them, you have no choice!

  2. Oh no, I would love to read this, but I don’t do e book or audiobooks. I love all your books. Keep it up.

  3. Wonderful stories about wonderful Bella. I have cats, not dogs, and they have all come with wonderful stories about how they chose me or were delivered into my keeping. Isn’t it amazing that these animals choose to love us so wonderfully? Thanks for all your wonderful books.

  4. I loved A Last Goodbye except I cried through most of it! My husband and I have made provisions to place our sweet pup with a neighbor who loves her if something would happen to us.

  5. I need a Kleenex for just this Blog, I don’t think I can delve into the book at this point. Every week, my fridays mornings are consumed by the moving and heartfelt messages and all the memories they bring back. I’ve never land a Bleea, but have rescued plenty and one is at my feet right now. she’s 11, has challenges getting up and down but is happy to be planted wherever i decide to settle. She’s been with us since February and is as attached as if we’d had her for years.

  6. I had the happy experience of meeting the gracious Bella at a signing–such a sweet face! And at a later time in Goodyear, a wonderful hour with charming raconteur Bill. You bring so much more than a signing than merely signing! Contained in the paperback version of Moving Target is the novela A Last Goodbye.
    xx, Annie

  7. Great story. I only hope you will not do only audio or e-books ever again. I want to HOLD my books and use a lamp to see them. I don’t want to HAVE TO hear them or rely on a stupid computer. Call me outdated or old or whatever. I love real books. I have most of yours and continue to harass my little second hand book store downtown Renton to find the missing volumes. So please – release that book with real pages! Love you so much Judy!

    • For some people being able to listen to books or to adjust the font large enough to see, audio or ebooks may be their only option.

  8. Our miniature Dachshund was named Zaccheus after the short man in the Bible that climbed the sycamore tree. He was actually my husband’s dog. He loved me too but Bill more. ?

    • Zaccheus was a wee little man,
      And a wee little man was he.
      He climbed up into a sycamore tree
      For the Lord he wanted to see.

      Yes, I remember that song.

      • I hope there is a special place in hell for people who abandon and/or mistreat animals.

        Right now I have two dogs, both of which came from shelters. But usually dogs find just as Bella found you.

        I have never had a Bella but I had a Belle. She was a black horse tho, not a dog. One of those wonderful babysitters that the youngest kids could safely ride.

  9. I have The Last Goodbye in paperback–at the end of Moving Target.

    A close friend had a similar experience as you had with Bella. Only she has Pebbles, a toy Yorkie. Pebbles was found wondering in a dog park and Barbara, through her son, ended up with Pebbles. Best thing that ever happened to Barbara and Pebbles.

  10. When I was a teenager, I came home from camp one summer to discover that my family had adopted a female miniature dachshund, named Sugar, who had bitten her tormenters (a couple of elementary-school-aged boys) once too often. Sugar warmed up to the males in our family eventually, but strange boys and men were always the enemy.

    She officially belonged to my kid sister, who once made the mistake of leaving a half-packed suitcase open in her room, and Sugar chewed the crotches out of every pair of shorts and underwear that was in the suitcase.

    I once had to rescue a male friend from Sugar. I was having a little party when I’d been left home (I was 19) alone with the animals and my summer job. Sugar was closed up in my sister’s bedroom, which was next to the bathroom. My friend headed for the bathroom, but whoever had been in there last had closed the door, and he opened the wrong one. When I arrived on the scene to the sound of fierce barking and panicked yelling, my friend was hanging onto the top of the door, trying to keep his feet high enough that she couldn’t bite him.

    That said, Sugar was succeeded by two much friendlier doxies and my whole family is still quite fond of the little yappers. Even the cats loved them.

    The presence of pets in your books is one of the many things that make the stories well-rounded and heart-warming. I’m wondering, as a mostly cat person, if there was a real-life inspiration for Ali’s cat Samantha. If so, could you tell that story?

  11. As always I love your true life stories and hotter you wind them into your b books. I think that makes the stories so much more believable.
    As an animal lover; especially dogs, I can truly appreciate this story about Bella. I too inherited a Bella. But it ids quite a different story that we won’t go in to. lol. Thank you again. Looking forward to the next release date! Kindest regards, Teresa

  12. I grew up with dogs, but have been a rabbit-person since 1993- I converted my husband to bunny-love in about a week or less-
    When I see that picture of Bella, tears come to my eyes- Such a sweet and beautiful face- Something very special about her- I am very happy to learn that there is a print version of her story in Moving Target-
    We lost a very special bunny in February 2021- His name was Mervyn, and he was a Dutch Rabbit, a breed with a lovely temperament- He looked like he was wearing a little black and white fur tuxedo- He was loving and also dignified- Our neighbor and good friend, Mother Rhoda, one of the first women ordained in the Anglican/Episcopal Church, often had dinner with us, and would give us communion- She and Mervyn loved each other- Mervyn would adopt a reverent stance on these occasions- Both Mervyn and Mother Rhoda died in 2021, and we miss both of them, but take comfort in knowing that they are together-
    Now we have a bonded pair, Tony and Lily, who have their own personalities ,and
    are devoted to us and to each other-No one pet can replace another, but they all bring their own wonderful surprises to our lives-

  13. I helped a friend who was a veterinarian. It was on my days off from Ems. We were always sad when we had to euthanize a pet. They did not understand. We always gave the owners time to be with pets before we did it. We were relieved to know the pets were not hurting anymore. There are many pet cemeteries around.

  14. I’ve met Bella (and Bill) on a couple of occasions. Thankyou for the laugh I much needed after a hectic work day: “I’m too lazy to make up everything”

  15. I have heard the Bella story before, but I never tire of hearing it again. I can picture it all in my mind. Do you think all of your former dogs gather in doggie heaven and discuss their lives with you & Bill? Wouldn’t that be quite a conversation to hear? It makes me happy to think of it.

  16. One of top moments of the week is when the Jance Blog is shows up in my email feed. It is the perfect “novelminiscula.”

  17. Its funny how our pets show up. Most of mine have been strays. My two cats came together from a sailor being transferred to Italy. I had finished most of the painting and cleaning in my condo and decided I was ready. I checked out pets listed on Craigslist and made contact, they’d only been listed for an hour! He explained, I said I’d take both, and he brought them over the next day. I sent him pictures every few days until he left. He really missed them. I’ve had them eight years already, time zips right along.

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