Chicken Soup for Bella’s Soul

The thing about love is that you really can’t chose who you want to love. It just happens. It happens more so when you don’t look for it and the best love is most likely that of love stumble upon.  

10 months ago I stumbled upon such love. Not in the form of a handsome prince with no baggage, lots of energy and lust for life. In fact, I fell in love with a hairy monster (some would say I often do) with a heart problem (indeed, I usually pick those ones too) but this time it was different (that is the thing with love stumbled upon)  

I was going out for lunch with a friend and as we came down the stairs a little black, fluffy teddy – looking dog was sniffing aimlessly around the small terrace of our Cape Town complex.

“What a cute puppy” I said to the girl who was sitting at the bottom of the steps. Thinking that this fluffy teddy-looking dog really reminds me of a dog we had as kids.

The girl looked up and replied that “Brittney” (heaven knows why) was an old blind dog with a heart problem and that she was found next to the side of a road by a security guard.  Brittney, who is still registered as “Dark Lady” at the shelter that took her in, was in foster care with the girl.

  As we were about to leave the complex, the girl looked at me and said: I am going to London in two weeks and she really needs a home and no one wants her. At that time I had already fallen in love with this little black hairy thing.

I replied with an automatic response that people who have been on their own for a very long time have developed….. “uhhmmmm I am not sure” This buys you some time while you make the calculation in your head. Freedom VS Responsibility

“uhmmmmm, yeah I am not so sure”  I said again to convince myself, but in my heart I knew that it was over. I was screwed. Responsibility was standing in front of me, still sniffing aimlessly in the air.  

If someone told me a year ago that I would have to look after someone or something I would have given you the automatic uhhmmmm – I – am – not- too- sure response. If you had told me that I would drive 40 min to my mom’s house whenever I go away and my mom needs to look after her, I would have said: No ways. If you had told me that I would have to make sure she gets three kinds of medicine in the morning and then three different ones in the evening, I would have said: No sorry, I won’t be able to do that.

But that is the thing with love stumbled upon. You don’t decide. It just happens.     

My friend who was standing next to me did not make this any easier. In a heartbeat she said: “Take her, just take her. Look at her, she is adorable and you won’t believe how much you will enjoy having her around.”

Once again I made the automatic response sounds, but my heart knew already that she belonged with me. I then used automatic response two: “I will think about it”

Back from lunch, I called backup.

My mom listened to what I was telling her and before I even finished she said: “You don’t think about it – you take her and if you can’t look after her, I will”  One does not question your backup.

It was a Sunday night when the girl from the first floor knocked on my door with “Brittney” under her arm, a blanket, a pillow and some food and her heart medicine …  Apart from being blind “Brittney” also appeared to be death. “You can call her whatever you want, she doesn’t really know her name” the girl said before she left.

I looked at this little black fluff ball that had no idea where she was and what this new environment was that she smelt. “Bella”, I said. You will be called Bella.

Having just moved into my apartment less than two months prior, there were still some unused corners. Bella got a room in one of these corners. I remember going to bed that evening, sceptically looking at the dog sleeping in the corner, thinking … hmm let’s see how this goes. That was the last time I questioned giving up my freedom.     

Bella was running on reserves, rather walking very slowly on reserves. Everyone looked at her, and thought the same thing – she is not going to be taking up that corner for a very long time.

Bella managed to find her way around my apartment and there was nothing wrong with that nose. Food would guide her to her corner. In Bella’s world, you just had to sniff aimlessly in the air when you smell something that you like, and food will drop from the sky.  Late afternoons I would carry her to the promenade where she would walk in the smallest circle for the shortest time. In the mornings I carefully had to wake her up, or else she would get a fright. Being blind and death, and with a heart condition, she would mostly sleep.

One month later Bella stopped eating. I rushed her off to the Vet. The Vet was surprised that Bella was still alive and told me that since she is so old all she need is love, food and a warm place to sleep before she moves on. The Vet said she would give her something to help regain some strength. I took Bella’s medicine out of my handbag and said: Before you give her an injection, this is what is already in her system.    

The Vet looked at the heart medicine, as I used to refer to it later did I learn that these tablets controlled her blood pressure, and said: these are too strong !!!! It turned out that the very first Vet prescribed the correct medicine but the incorrect dosage. This was for a dog that weighed 30 kg Bella weighed 3.5 kg. She was taken for a check up when she first moved in with me, but the second vet also overlooked the dosage. As a result of being on this medicine for months, her blood pressure was so low that she became too weak to eat and too weak to live.  She was never death; she was just too exhausted to care.

I gave her one look and realized that she won’t eat in this condition and that she will soon starve and just stop breathing, purely because she is just too weak. The last thing the Vet told me was: “Give her chicken soup, they love chicken soup”

A dear friend brought some of his homemade chicken soup. Still, Bella didn’t have the energy to eat. There was only one option left. A syringe. For the next 6 days Bella would lie on my lap and for two hours I fed her a cup of chicken soup with the syringe whilst I skype chat with another dear friend in Italy.  

It was on the 7th day and at my mother’s home, as I was busy preparing Bella’s food for the syringe that Bella got up and walked to her bowl and started eating by herself. Since then – she has the appetite of a monster.  

For months now she has been on the correct dosage of medicine, her hearing improved, she is more alert and more alive.  

She now wakes me up. After a while she figured out where my room is and would make her way to my bed and sniff in the air until I wake up and feed her. She knows my routine and makes sure that she is on the blanket underneath the table where I work. Cold winter nights I will put her in her corner with all her teddies and blankets only to be woken up later in the evening with the “I want to be with you” sniff. She now also has a blanket in my room where she comes to sleep in the middle of the night.

 Walks on the promenade are no longer in circles, she walks and sometimes even runs quite a bit. People stop and ask about her, children adore her and big dogs run towards her and as soon as the get close they back off and gentle rub their noses against hers.

She knows her way around my house, and whenever I go away she stays at my mother’s. My mom looks after Bella in the best possible way and gives her nothing but the best care and attention…. and lots of cute fluffy blankets and teddies, and all her love.  Even there she feels at home and she finds the kitchen in an instant.  

Up until today no one knows where Bella comes from, how she got blind and what her real name is. From the moment she was picked up from the streets she was moved from one home to another more than once. She now no longer shivers when I take her out for a walk because she knows she is coming back to her home and her teddies.  She has no idea what we look like, who were are but she has all the trust in the world in us. She has the kindest nature and turned out to be a character in her own right and is very amusing. My house would be very empty without her and my heart very sad.

  That is the thing about love stumbled upon, you end up giving much more than you have bargained for but you gain unconditional love and acceptance, to such an extent that you do not even notice the shift from freedom to responsibility. Counting heart tablets becomes part of your morning routine while you make coffee, and you will make litres of chicken soup for Bella’s soul whenever she needs it because what she does for your soul can not be measured.

Bella subsequently passed away on 26th December 2011 due to kidney failure. A moment in my life, a lifetime in my heart. What a blessing she was, resting in a better place now.    






3 Responses to "Chicken Soup for Bella’s Soul"

  • Wow, jy skryf absoluut pragtig!! En jy skryf die storie met soveel gevoel, ek is behoorlik daar en ook sommer klaar lief vir Bella. En is sy nie gelukkig om jou te he nie!! DAnkie om dit met my te gedeel het, ek het dit regtig geniet. Het altyd na haar foto’s gekyk wat jy geplaas het en het trouens gedink sy is ‘n nuwe puppy!!! Nou weet ek! x

    1 Malinda said this (July 13, 2011 at 6:42 am)

  • Baie dankie Malinda. Dit beteken baie vir my. Ek is al lankal besig om oor my Taiwan ervaring te skryf – maar genade is dit ‘n proses ! Jy sal dit geniet om dit te lees – jy feature immers vroeg in die boek. Sal jou laat weet as dit eendag klaar is.

    2 Ciao Blondie said this (July 13, 2011 at 7:33 am)

  • this way to describe bella is very emotional, so touching::::::dear bella; you are a magnificent example of love, devotion, kindness::::::you will be NEVER forget.

    3 laura said this (May 6, 2014 at 3:36 pm)

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