RAD Dad Rescue: Bella Smalls

About three years ago I was going through one of the most difficult transition periods of my life. I had just gotten out of a nearly 6 year relationship that had ended on fairly strong terms and in order to keep it as such, I had to make a decision that would essentially change the rest of my life: I gave her our beloved dog that we had adopted and raised together since she was just a puppy. This was truly the heartbreak of my life, losing this life that I had nurtured and been with since the first day. Soon thereafter, I decided to start researching the possibility of rescuing another dog. 


My mother, having been a very active member of the animal rescue community, from adopting and fostering dogs and cats to wild and abused Macaws, eventually put me in touch with a rescuer with a vast network up and down the east coast and after describing the few characteristics that I was looking for, I went out to a foster in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, to meet Bella. 


I really had no real intention of adopting Bella that October morning, but I was somewhat grieving and figured I'd just go and meet her. 


Upon my arrival, a woman came bursting out of this brownstone looking clearly disheveled and disorganized. Bella came running out and excitedly greeted me. This is when I realized just how badly she had been treated. I had only seen one photo of her, so when i saw a huge open gash on her neck, only covered by her matted fur cooped covering it with vaseline and her skin to her bones I was really thrown off and not sure what to do. Its then that a man on the first floor of the building came out with his two large and aggressive dogs and started arguing intensely with the woman that I was meeting with Bella. They clearly had a history and bad blood, and before I knew it, this man had released his two dogs on myself and Bella. That's when Bella jumped in front of me, weak and clearly not prepared to protect me against two healthy Pitbulls (I'll go on the record here and say that them being Pits had nothing to do with their aggressiveness, as their owner was clearly the aggressive one). I picked up Bella, who is mostly German and I ran across the street. 


It was a wild situation to say the least, but there was no chance that I was going to leave this beautiful, wounded dog in that environment, so I did what I had to do. Got the papers signed, gave my donation and got out of there as quickly as possible. 


Bella refused to go down the subway stairs (she still does), putting all of her weight down if I tried to pick her up. So we walked to the corner of Pacific Avenue in Crown Heights and waited for what seems in retrospect like hours. I remember us sharing our first real look at each other and I said something like, "well... I guess this is it". Finally a black cab stopped for us, Nicholas. I'll never forget this guy. He stopped and asked how long we had been waiting for someone to stop and I told him forever. He agreed that nobody was going to pick us up and I gave him $100 for a $50 trip back to Washington Heights. Bella was finally home with me.



Even though she was home and we averted disaster. I hadn't realized just how emotionally traumatized she was. She wouldn't even look at me for the first month that she was with me. She would straight up sit and stare at the wall in the corner when I would encourage her to come sit with me. I would be sitting there thinking, "Well this is my life now. I got this dog who fuckin hates me". I started to realize that she would get particularly excited when women would come over. Friends, my mother, whoever, she would lose it. Everytime a woman would leave our apartment, Bella would get all hyped up like she was finally getting picked up by her real mom. I had to be like, "no, no, no, you're stuck here with me". Either way, this all left me to think that whoever messed with her in her past life was a man.


It's been three years now and we're still groovin'. Everyday she gets more sociable and shows love to me more and more. She is very emotional and has the most emotive eyes you've ever seen on a dog. Emotive eyes that she constantly rolls at me whenever I scold her for something, like she's a teenage girl. It's kind of a trip. We are the best of roommates, but I've learned a lot about the wide spectrum of rescue and adoption scenarios. Rescuing and living with Bella has been a totally different experience than when I adopted a puppy with a girlfriend earlier in life. Raising a puppy is tough in itself, but emotional tests around things like trust with Bella is not something i had ever experienced, nor could ever have imagined. It wasn't easy, but it was one of the best decisions of my entire life. We don't know exactly how old she is, but her new birthday is in March. She'll be six.