Pet Blogger Gift Exchange – Bringing Up Bella

For those who haven’t been following along, Pamela at Something Wagging This Way Comes organized a beautiful way for bloggers to give a little back this holiday season. Each participant was teamed up with another blogger with the idea of serenading one’s partner with kindness in the form of social media affection. It’s such a unique gift that only other bloggers would understand and appreciate. Based on the impressive number of links on the list, it has been a big hit!

When I found out who I was randomly matched with in Something Wagging’s Pet Blogger Gift Exchange I could not believe my good fortune. I’ve only been following Bringing Up Bella for a short time – less than a year. It feels like I have known the author for so much longer. At first, I thought this would make showing my appreciation for Leslie and her website easy. I created a quick board on Pinterest in her honour and immediately got to work on a blog post. But because there is so much I want to say about her and her beautiful girl, it’s been hard getting the words out. Nothing less than perfect will do.

Such a sweet, happy face, you'd never know what she has been through.

Such a sweet, happy face, you’d never know what she has been through.

Bella’s back story is a complex one. She was rescued as a stray from the streets of Puerto Rico at the age of five months. After being brought back to health by the kind souls who took her in, she was sent to the United States in the hope she would find a permanent home with a family there. According to the about page, Bella arrived with a handwritten note:

“I rescued her in a big parking (lot) of trailers. She was skinny, full of parasites and afraid of people. Hungry. She eats well. Loves to eat dog dry food mixed with dog canned meat. She is a little shy, loves to play with other puppies. Thank you for taking care of her!”

I can understand why Leslie and her husband Jan were taken with her. Though she was not their first dog, unlike Shiva was for us, they did not fully know what to expect after bringing her home. While she was still young enough to recover from her early experiences, there was a lot they just didn’t know about her. Unfortunately, the transition wasn’t easy for anyone. You can read all about their difficult journey here.

What strikes me most about Bella and her family is not how hard things were for them or how upsetting the situation with Bella became, but how they never gave up. Not even when Bella showed signs of serious aggression and threatened Jan with harm. They didn’t take her back to the rescue; they didn’t consider euthanasia. Their deep love for Bella, regardless of her anxieties, caused them to stick by her no matter what. They realized they were out of their element and they sought professional help. You can see for yourself on the blog just how beautifully she has grown under their care. She may never be the “perfect” dog but she is more than good enough for them.

Their experiences are inspiring. And humbling.

It’s a practice in ridiculousness to attempt to select a favourite post. They are all so different. Some make me cry, some make me giggle, some provide very useful information, and some make me laugh out loud. A life with a Bella is a rich one and provides Leslie with a lot of ideas to share.

If I can only say one thing about her, it would be that Bella is a character. She has such an expressive face. If she lived in my house, I think I would have to follow her around with a camera 24/7 just so I didn’t miss one hilarious lift of an eyebrow. I mean, just check out these recent holiday photo outtakes:


Few dogs can pull off that level of teenage-variety disdain, or “bershon”, as I enjoy calling it. You can tell there is a lot going on inside that brain of hers. She is thinking about more than just her next meal.

Of course, it’s this deep intelligence that has contributed to a lot of the challenges Bella, Leslie, and Jan have faced. Smart dogs are not easy dogs to live with. I know this from personal experience. From what I have read, however, it sounds like I got off easy with Shiva. Motivated she may be but philosophy is not her strong suit. If ever a dog fit the description of an academic, it would be Bella.

To round out my entry in this year’s Pet Blogger Gift Exchange and showcase how moved I am by Bringing Up Bella, I would like to present Leslie with a special award. Last February I dedicated the second annual Shivie Awards to dog bloggers who showed the most perseverance. I was not a regular reader of Leslie’s website at the time otherwise I am sure she would have been first in line to receive the award. Since I can’t go back in time to add her to the list of recipients, I thought I would instead create a new Shivie just for Leslie and Bella.

In recognition of Leslie and Jan’s love and steadfast support of their unique dog, Bella, I would like to give Bringing Up Bella the first and only official Shivie Award for Loyalty.


My heartfelt thanks go out to Leslie for sharing her inspiring story on her blog and for endeavoring so hard to understand Bella while helping her conquer her fears. I have no doubt she has helped many others who are going through similar trials with their dogs. I am so glad I have gotten to know her. Thanks as well to Pamela for giving me a chance to share my appreciation in such a meaningful way.

14 thoughts on “Pet Blogger Gift Exchange – Bringing Up Bella

  1. I’m a relative newcomer to Bella’s blog so thank you for filling me in on Bella’s hisotry. Leslie & Bella’s story reminds me of the book “I’m Listening With a Broken Ear” by Vicky Kaseorg. I have a similar reaction to both…great admiration for such loving, compassionate and dedicate people. Thank you.


  2. I don’t quite know what to say, Kristine. Thank you doesn’t seem quite enough.

    Thank you very much for the very special Shivie award. It means a great deal coming from someone who’s been there and ‘gets’ it.

    And thank you for sharing Bella’s story. It has always been her story I wanted to share – not so much ours. Thanks for seeing the ‘character’ in her. I struggle with how to convey why we’ve never given up on her but it’s that – her character, her sweet goofiness, her remarkable intelligence and resilience. She is worth the effort.

    If you were aiming for ‘perfect’, I think you succeeded. You brought tears to my eyes. Thank you. And “Go Team Shiva”! 😉


    • I commend you for making the commitment to Bella and sticking with it even when things got hard. I think when you rescue a dog you have to be willing to find out what they need, do your very best to give it to them but still accept them for who they are. It sounds like you are the perfect Mommy for Bella!


  3. I am also new to Bella’s blog. I do love Bella’s expression as well! I was unaware of some of her back history so I thank you for bringing me up to date! Very nice post, and congrats to them on their lovely award!


  4. Love this post! You did a great job telling Bella’s story. The punk dogs, the Mr. & I were lucky enough to meet Bella, Leslie and Jan in person at Buddy Dog’s Woofstock this fall, and they are amazing. Jan was so good with Bella, and Leslie was always on the lookout to keep Bella safe. It’s nice to know that there are others out there with “project dogs”. 🙂


  5. I agree with you, Bella has one of the most expressive faces in all of dogdom! Those Christmas card outtakes cracked me up! I enjoy Lesley’s blog a lot and I am very impressed by how devoted they have been to helping Bella through her issues.


  6. What a wonderful post, I was unfamiliar with Bella’s story, but now I want to know all about it, working in a shelter I wish so badly there were more people like Leslie and Jan, we get so many dogs returned that are amazing, but just need time. We try and explain in detail to the new owners what to do, and to have patience but many people want a perfect ‘ready to go’ dog and dogs like Bella have to deal with PTSD just like a human-and most of them have no reason to trust us and I don’t blame them, Ugh, sorry, I could go on & on, I think you did a very special thing-everyone involved are incredible persons. Thank you!


  7. What a wonderful post about one of my absolute favorite continuing stories. I too have been so moved by Leslie’s relationship with Bella. And I’m so thankful for her honesty in sharing their story. I know it will help many others.

    Thank you so much for your beautiful tribute and for joining the Pet Blogger Gift Exchange.


  8. I love this post….you have absolutely made me want to go and read all about Bella now. I have already subscribed, and now I will need to go back to the beginning and read it all! These types of stories are so inspiring…’s hard to put into words how much it means to see people who give their all for their pets.


  9. I love Bella and I love reading about her, I too am so impressed with the way Leslie and Jan have tackled her issues. So many would have given up! their commitment to Bella is inspiring.

    Beautiful contribution to the Gift Exchange Kristine.


  10. Omg, I love the Shivie you made for Leslie, Jan, and Bella! Leslie is one of my favorite bloggers–so well deserved. 🙂


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