Bella the Great Dane: her story, a set on Flickr.Via Flickr:
WARNING: some of these photographs are upsetting.
Photographers: this is a documentary, you may be shocked to see out-of-focus shots, blurred movement, crappy stuff where it shouldn't be, and dizzy-making non-horizontal horizons. Deal with it.
Animal and dog lovers: some of the early photos are very upsetting, as they show how malnourished and scared Bella was. There is a happy story here: she weighed little over 100lbs when she first came to live with me in March, 2009; by a year ago, she had stabilized at around 150lbs. She is strong and healthy, and adorable.
Her previous owners told me that they were giving her up because they had to move to a small apartment. They seemed nice enough... and they did the right thing in giving her to a new home. But... that wasn't the whole picture.
The day I met Bella for the first time, she put her head on my shoulder, and I couldn't abandon her.
Her previous owners did say that Bella was afraid of stairs; they did not say she was so afraid, so fearful, that she would pee inside the house every time you came home, or if there was a sudden movement. (And how had she learned that behaviour? It's not what a pupply learns without some sort of abuse.) I had to find out that she would not pee on grass, but had been "trained" on concrete only. That she did not know how to walk on leash. That she was scared of all men, of the wind in the trees and the grass and the reeds, of someone changing clothes and reappearing in a different shirt. She was afraid of her food bowl and the noise it made when she nudged it, but she was so very, very hungry that she would blow bubbles in her drool when she saw dinner being prepared.
There were several times during the first year when I didn't think I could make it work, days when I was close to giving up. Only through the support and encouragement of people who had been through this with other rescue dogs: my friends Bruce and Lorraine and Patti, and a trainer who taught me to just ignore Bella (which was the key to so much), Jade's weekend visits, and Dylan and Karli's encouragement. We persevered. Add a few gallons of Nature's Miracle helped too!
Bella still has her moments, but she is a confident and shy-but-friendly dog now. She has shouted at a coyote who came too close to the fence. She will sit and stay, on her leash, near busy traffic; still nervous, but obedient. She will quickly make friends, as long as the new people are outside in the yard with her.. And she is the best companion during my long office days, where she snores at my feet, occasionally nudging me outside when it's been too-many hours without a break.
I will never leave her alone with children; her sheer size is intimidating, she can wag you over, and she is still occasionally unpredictable. But then again, I wouldn't leave many dogs alone with children. She does what Muffin the cat tells her, without question, even if it means waiting for me to move the cat before Bella gets to her own food or water.
She is still scared of strange things (anything floating or swimming in the pool, for example), but she is much braver than she was.
In short: Bella is adorable. I hope her life with us has been for the better; she has certainly made a happy place in mine.