A man and his dog travel the country after a grave diagnosis.
When Kugler, a photographer and former Marine staff sergeant received the diagnosis, he was shocked: Bella, his beloved chocolate Lab, had advanced osteosarcoma that had spread to her front leg. The cancer was predicted to kill her in 3 to 6 months even if they removed the leg. Still, the author rejected the vet’s suggestion of euthanasia. “There’s no way I’m going to put her down,” he writes. “Bella means the world to me. She’s stuck with me through everything. She models the components of what it means to be alive—happiness, freedom, service, purpose, pleasure, joy. She prizes the very act of being. No, as long as there are viable options, I will not take this dog’s life.” As he recounts, Bella was there for him during the toughest moments of his life—e.g., when he found out his brother had been killed while on duty near Baghdad. Determined to make Bella’s last moments the best he could, Kugler set out on a trip across the U.S., visiting family and friends and staying with strangers who connected with him via social media and invited them into their homes in order to visit with Bella and hear their inspiring story. Throughout the narrative, it’s abundantly clear how much loving attention he gave to Bella—and vice versa—and while much of the book is reflective and poignant, the author also captures the silly moments. Kugler made heroic efforts to make their last days together as memorable as possible, knowing he would never have another dog quite like Bella. His tale is engaging and sometimes heart-rending, and it will be a certain tear-jerker for dog lovers.
Love, devotion, and slobbery kisses abound in this heartwarming story of a man and his treasured chocolate Lab.