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  • michelle m. davis

Bad Ass Bella – Part 3

Bella just spent the last two months in Bend, Oregon, and I think that she liked it.

For those of you who are new to Bella, she is our five and a half year old, ten-pound Shih-Pooh. Originally, we bought Bella for my mother-in-law. But right before my husband’s mom was about to pass, she asked that we take Bella, claiming that, “She’ll be a good Oregon dog.” We promised we would, knowing that Bella was quite different from our carefree labs. Scott’s mom had treated Bella like her little princess, and Bella reveled in the attention. I wondered how Bella would transition from living in a doting older woman’s household to ours, where she would be the low dog on the totem pole.


Well, I’ve always known that my mother-in-law was a wise woman, but at the time, I doubted that Bella would ever acclimate to living with us, especially when we spent time in Oregon. I knew that we couldn’t just walk her to the river off-leash, as we always do with Mac, our lab. Bella’s too little and would be quite the tempting snack for birds of prey and coyotes hiding in the brush. And would her tiny feet handle the rocky terrain? Plus, the weather would either be too cold or too hot for her. I really didn’t see a happy ending for Bella in Bend.


This past summer, after a three-day van trip cross-country, Bella did her best to adapt to life in Oregon, but it wasn’t exactly a natural fit. She didn’t like the dusty trails, and the cheatgrass and other weeds bothered her greatly, easily embedding themselves in her soft fur. Often, she refused to go outside, as the macadam burned her tender paws. And, on more than one occasion, we ended up carrying her during longer walks. Despite our best attempts, Bella wanted nothing to do with the majestically flowing Deschutes River. In fact, it seemed to terrify her. Nope, she made it clear that she preferred the safe sidewalks and fenced in yard that she had in Pennsylvania. Oregon just wasn’t her thing.


If she didn’t like the beautiful summers in Bend, I had great concerns regarding how she’d handle the winter months. We arrived in Oregon this past December, and to my surprise, Bella appeared comfortable, slowly becoming accustomed to the more rustic and outdoor environment. She didn’t seem bothered by the snow, mud, and dusty ground. Instead, Bella was unphased with the snowballs clinging to her matted fur, and she energetically trotted full-speed ahead during our six-mile walks, jumping over rocks, sticking her head into the sage brush, and eagerly greeting dogs of all sizes. And, she didn’t resist going outside in the windy cold. Bella was finally getting her groove on and resuming her Bad Ass attitude!


Deep down I think that Bella knows that she’s a Bad Ass but was sentimentally clinging to her princess identity. I mean, this dog is resilient, as she’s had to be, considering the changes she’s endured the past fifteen months. Plus, she observes everything in her environment and is quick to recognize if anything is out of place. I believe that she’s actually trying to protect us when she barks incessantly, alerting us to something going on outside that needs our attention. Not only is she trying to keep us safe, but she also wants to know that she is, too.


One of the most interesting things about Bella that both Scott and I have observed is how she’s incredibly tuned into me. While Scott is definitely her favorite, there’s something about me that she seems to connect to. (OK, stop laughing.) I wish I could explain it, as I would prefer that she not pick up on when I’m distracted, overly focused, or impatient. But Bella appears to know when my emotions are off. I guess she’s a dog empath of sorts.


Yet, the same thing happens when I’m feeling strong, vibrant, and elevated. Bella seems to confidently soar as well. The takeaway for me is that I must be more aware and in touch with my feelings, because when I’m good, so is Bella. Likewise, when I’m “not myself,” neither is she. We’ve heard the term, “Happy wife, happy life” that is used for men. Guess that it can be true for dogs and their owners as well.


Bella constantly teaches me about life and myself. Slowly, I am learning how to be more patient, understanding, and forgiving when she has accidents during the night. And, I am now conscious that she requires a tremendous amount of attention and praise. Bella needs to feel special and be seen – but don’t we all? The princess within her still requires an audience, yet her Bad Ass side is discovering how to behave like a “big dog” and start having fun on her own, not necessitating humans to be the only supplier of joy.


This is a great lesson to us all. While those we love can enhance our life, we cannot look to them for our own happiness. Happiness comes from within. We need to find it for ourselves, just as Bella is discovering joy on her own.


This winter I watched as Bella played rough with Mac, jumped to incredible heights, and sprinted the final stretch of long walks. Last week she even plunged into the Deschutes all by herself, without any encouragement. Scott and I smiled as we saw the look on her face as she emerged from the river then ran around on the dusty shore chasing dogs ten times her size. While she still loves being elevated to princess status now and then, it’s obvious to us that she’s thriving in her new world, just being herself, a dog. Bad Ass Bella did Bend her own way. And as much as she will most likely welcome the tranquility of Pennsylvania, I believe that she will miss Oregon.


This week consider where you find your joy. Do you look to others to provide it, or do you create it on your own?


How can you elevate yourself?

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