Best Friends Blog

Farewell Bela

The Best Friends family suffered a very sad and entirely unexpected loss over the weekend.

On Sunday morning, we had to say goodbye to the magnificent German shepherd, Bela, who captured our hearts over the holidays. Bela was the object of international attention and affection in the weeks leading up to Christmas, when it came to light that the will of his recently deceased owner contained a discretionary clause that placed his life at risk.

The will entrusted the late owner’s close friend to make the decision whether Bela should come to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary to live out his days or be killed and his ashes interred with his lifelong human friend. Following international coverage and arrangements with the deceased’s attorney and friend, Bela made a snowy cross-country car trip over Christmas with our trainer John Garcia.

On Sunday morning Bela’s caregiver noticed that his abdomen was distended and he was breathing rapidly, so he was brought to the Best Friends clinic for an emergency checkup.

Tests revealed fluid in his abdomen and also surrounding his heart. Most critically, X-rays revealed nodules in his lungs. Our medical director diagnosed Bela with a very fast-growing cancer and there was very little likelihood he would have lasted more than a very stressful day or so. Reluctantly, Bela’s caregiving team made the decision that euthanasia was the right option. This was a very difficult choice, as it is with any animal in our care, but we approached the decision from the perspective of what was the kindest course of action for Bela.

It is our custom to bury Sanctuary animals who have crossed the Rainbow Bridge at Angels Rest, the permanent resting place located in Angel Canyon. However, in this case we felt the right thing to do was to fulfill Bela’s owner’s last wishes. Therefore, we are cremating Bela and sending his ashes to Indiana so he can be buried with his owner, who passed away in November.

Bela was a great dog who made many friends and was quickly becoming one of the most popular dogs at the Sanctuary. Our staff had grown to love him as the sweet and wonderful dog he was, and every one of us who knew him is devastated by this turn of events.

Bela will be greatly missed.

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Francis Battista
Best Friends Animal Society

  • LeAnn

    Bela is back with her Momma.

  • IndyStacey

    Bela’s legacy will be that many people learned it is important to plan for your pets in the event of your death. This case educated me and many others. Thank you to Best Friends for caring him and loving him.

    • kathy

      I think you hit the nail on the head. I think it was Bela’s mission to educate and bring this to the world’s attention – To plan ahead for your pets. Now that Bela has accomplished this he was free to join his best friend and family in restful peace.. Just as she had wished.

  • Sandy Taylor

    Absolutely BREAKS MY HEART! I wonder if he owner knew and was trying to save him from suffering also. RIP Bela…you are with your Mommy again boy <3

    • Deb Wadkins

      Sandy , I was thinking the same thing. 2 months after his owner dies , Bela goes to the Rainbow Bridge. RIP big & beautiful guy.

    • CLAWZ

      I wondered that, too–if his owner knew or suspected he was ill. But it seems like she would’ve written that in her will. Such a sad ending.

      • disccopy

        I agree, if it had been known by the owner it should have been told to some one explaining why that was the wish of the deceased or the vet should have been aware. That said quite possible no symptoms at that time and just nature.

  • Patty

    Hopefully the stress of all that Bela went through after the owner’s death did not bring this on. Maybe the owner knew of Bela’s health issues and that’s why wanted the dog put down and his ashes buried with his. Poor thing – hope he is happy reunited with his owner.

  • Allison Bieber Carmello

    I feel like my heart was just ripped out. Thank you for giving his last time onearth to be wonderful. Him and his owner are together again.

  • Allie

    Your broken hearts come through loud and clear in this beautiful and touching post. Thank you for all your efforts for Bela, and thank you for doing what was in his best interest (as you always do for animals). If we who never met him are so very saddened, it is inconceivable what you who cared for and loved him are going through, but in our souls we are hugging you.

  • Goatess

    He had loving friends with him right until the end, and he didn’t suffer. I couldn’t ask more for myself, when the time comes.

  • Judy

    It doesn’t get any sadder than this. Thankfully, Bela knew a few wonderful days at Best Friends being loved and cared for. Thank you Best Friends, you guys are the best. RIP, beautiful Bela. Run free at the Rainbow Bridge.

  • Diana Hilsendeger

    Thank you to all that made Bela’s last days filled with love & for giving him relief from the pain of his illness. These decisions are heartbreaking. But Best Friends did the right thing by letting him go over the Rainbow Bridge to find his beloved owner. So glad his ashes were interred with hers. Now they are together for eternity. RIP Bela.

  • Janice Oliver

    so sad an ending to Bela’s journey but grateful he was still beloved to the end in his new home. thank you for making the effort to adopt him and even more to reunite him with his owner and fulfilling their final wishes so they could be together forever.

  • I am so sorry. I know all the staff and caretakers are devastated by this. Thank you Best Friends for caring for him, I know he enjoyed his time with you. Hugs to all. RIP Bela, I know you are in your Moms arms now.

  • againststupidity

    Nature has a way of making our human decisions pointless. I’m glad Bela was given the chance to live, and also glad that his remains are to be returned to his owner’s side. I know he knew nothing but love in his life and pray he’s with his family once more.

    • dazee

      I completely agree! I am very happy they made the difficult decision to euthanize him and send his ashes back to be buried with his owner.

  • Dinah Wonderly

    Oh no, how very tragic..sorry for your loss, glad you sent him to Indiana…

  • Ellen

    RIP beautiful boy, you were loved till the end. So very sad.

    • sheryl

      Thank u. RIP baby boy. U were loved by everybody.

  • Melissa Burden

    Choking back tears. God bless Best Friends. You did what you could for him and now he can go be with his mommy on his own terms. I am so sorry for your loss.

  • Holly

    What a great adventure he got to have in his last days, with so much love and affection! Thank you so much for doing your best by Bela!

  • Kimberly Orsborn

    Oh lord. I’m so sorry for all. Poor Bela. But as a pet lover whose cat also had a fast-growing cancer and suffered, I believe you made the right choice. May Bela be happier than ever now. Thanks BFAS for all the great and loving things you did for him.

    • Sandra

      Kimberly, I also had a cat that developed a rapidly progressive form of cancer. He went from non-symptomatic to gone in under two months. We did everything we could. I’m sorry for your loss.

      • Allison

        Sandra and Kimberly, I also had a cat, who developed carcinoma in her lung. By the time it was discovered and diagnosed, she deteriorated fast. Within 3 weeks, and 5 medical opinions, my poor sweet Tiffany, a senior rescue neglected by her former owners, was gone. We only had her for 1.5 years. Possibly the best time of her life. We loved her so. I feel this pain with you all and the sad, hard to understand death of Bela and all of these fur babies we fight so hard for.

  • ladadog

    a sad ending-shepherds are loyal to their “family” throughout their life-
    you did the best and now Bella rests in peace with “family”-sad that Bella had to be displaced and stressed the last few months, but received genuine love and care-God Bless

  • Kathy Deleon

    Ah so sad, this poor baby had way to much to handle, thanks for being there for Bela.

  • Gail Smith

    agree wholeheartedly with your choices, thanks for taking responsibility to do what you felt was in Bela’s best interest

  • Chris Jametski

    ty so showing Bela so much love and helping her to cross the Rainbow Bridge with her dignity. Your love and support means the world to all of us that followed Bela’s story. Run free Bela no more hurting^**^

  • Angelina Amerson

    After all his mom knew best. Rest in peace baby, go find your mom. May You you both dance with Angels for eternity. Amen

  • Dutch550

    Such a shame but the owner’s wishes were fulfilled, the executor of her will did the right thing by sending him to you and you took good care of him for as long as possible.

  • CM

    Heavy heart reading this.. RIP Bela beautiful boy.

  • JA

    Aw 🙁 Well I’m glad he got to live out his final months somewhere with love