KANAB, Utah (KTVX) — On Jan. 18, Best Friends Animal Society’s Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, welcomed Bella, a young pit bull terrier who came to them all the way from Saginaw, Michigan. 

Bella, a friendly dog with a big smile, was found abandoned in a yard in Saginaw on Aug. 16, 2021. Bella had been left without food, water, or shelter, and was tangled in a mix of two tethers that were gripping her from either direction.

One of the tethers had visibly been wrapped around her left hind leg, but in a desperate attempt to free herself, she chewed off her leg at the thigh. The other tether was wrapped tightly around her right leg, and authorities say that if she had not been rescued, she would have been at high risk of losing that leg as well.

It’s speculated that Bella had been tethered outside for around three weeks. A bag of food was left for her but was out of reach once she became tangled.

She was extremely malnourished when she was found.

A witness first noticed Bella and informed a mail carrier, who called Saginaw County Animal & Care Control. Bella was taken into surgery within an hour. 

January is Unchain a Dog Month. Dogs are social beings that thrive on the love and companionship of their human friends. Unchain a Dog Month is a period when dog lovers of all sorts come together to spread awareness about the inhumane conditions that dogs undergo when left tied up by tethers or chains. These conditions, which can include extreme temperatures and cramped spaces, often affect the dog’s physical and psychological health. Activists have hopes of encouraging dog owners to bring their pets inside their homes this month. 

“Walking into the backyard and seeing Bella in such distress that day was unimaginably gut-wrenching,” said Saginaw County Animal Care & Control officer Desi Sage. “Against all odds, Bella overcame being left for dead. I am honored to be able to be a part of her new life. I’m beyond thankful for Best Friends Animal Sanctuary ensuring that Bella will never endure such pain and agony again. I believe this next chapter in her life will help her move forward and, hopefully, eventually land her in a loving home with people that truly see how special she really is.” 

Bella flourished during her five-month stay at Saginaw County Animal Care & Control, gaining 12-15 pounds.

“Bella is a very loving dog,” said Director Bonnie Kanicki. “She teaches us a lot about overcoming challenges, and being resilient, forgiving and loving. When the officers initially went to help her, she didn’t struggle or posture, and she showed no fear or aggression. She knew they were going to help her and get her out of there.”  

Animal cruelty charges have since been filed against the person responsible for her care.

Because Bella demonstrated resource-guarding behaviors around her food during temperament tests, the shelter sought out a more long-term solution for her that could help her and provide her the support she needs to thrive in a home. Additionally, the shelter where Bella was lodged tends to refrain from adopting out animal cruelty cases to homes in the local community. 

Bella was first noticed by an employee at Best Friends after an article about her ran in People. She was selected for admission to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in November 2021. After filing through Bella’s history, behavior observations, and medical records, the staff at Best Friends felt that they could provide the care and attention she needs. 

Sage, who helped in Bella’s initial rescue, and fellow Saginaw County Animal Control officer Abbe Balderstone took Bella on a three-day, 1,800-mile road trip to assure both her safety and comfort in arriving at Best Friends.

A local Michigan car dealership, Thelen Subaru, loaned Desi and Abbe an Outback Limited and covered the total cost of gas. Additionally, Saginaw residents Bob and Pat Schust, who have been longtime supporters and volunteers of Best Friends, offered $2,000 to cover the cost of Bella’s transport when they heard about her story.  

Currently, Bella is working on settling into her a new environment while healing both emotionally and physically. Until Bella feels comfortable enough in her new surroundings and makes a full recovery, she will remain unadoptable.

Bella plays in her new environment (Courtesy: Best Friends Animal Sanctuary)

“This is really the embodiment of animal welfare, everyone working together,” said Julie Castle, chief executive officer for Best Friends Animal Society. “From the Saginaw County Animal Care & Control shelter staff, to the donors who helped pay for the trip, to Thelen Subaru for providing a loaner car, everyone came together for Bella.” 

Bella arrived at Best Friends in her usual character, wearing a great big smile and with her tail wagging. 

“Ultimately, the best situation for Bella will be to get adopted by a family, but she’s going to love life here at the sanctuary until she gets her forever home,” Castle said. “We are grateful we could help and play a small part in Bella’s life journey. This is why we do what we do. These are the moments that make the tough times all worth it.” 

Anyone who wants to help Bella can do so by sponsoring her care at the sanctuary. You can also help other dogs by adopting from a shelter near you.