Michigan Dog Who Chewed Off Leg to Escape Neglect Gifted with Road Trip to New Shelter Home

Bella the pit bull mix recently completed a 1,800-mile road trip from Michigan's Saginaw County Animal Care & Control to Best Friends Animal Society in Utah with two of her rescuers

Bella the dog
Photo: Courtesy of Best Friends Animal Society

A Michigan canine has traveled cross country for a fresh start.

On Tuesday, Bella the rescue dog arrived at Best Friends Animal Society's sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, after a four-day, 1,800-mile road trip that began at Saginaw County Animal Care & Control, in Saginaw, Michigan.

But Bella's journey truly started last year. On Aug. 16, 2021, a mail carrier found the young pit bull mix entangled in a tether and abandoned in a backyard with no food, water, or shelter. Stuck in this desperate situation, Bella had gnawed off one of her back legs in an attempt to escape.

The mail carrier called 9-1-1 for assistance, and Saginaw City police and animal control officers responded. Bella allowed the animal control officers to approach her and remove her from the painful tether wrapped around her body.

"This poor girl had to chew off her leg, but her personality is still so loving, even though can in here starving, abandoned, and neglected," Bonnie Kanicki, the director of Saginaw County Animal Care and Control, told PEOPLE shortly after Bella's rescue.

Bella the dog
Courtesy of Saginaw Animal Care & Control 

Saginaw County Animal Care and Control took in the neglected pet and helped her through the two operations she needed to treat her injuries. Bella recovered quickly from her procedures and smoothly adapted to life on three legs thanks to her fighting spirit and generous personality.

Unfortunately, the trauma Bella experienced earlier in her life has affected some of her current behaviors. Saginaw County Animal Care and Control recognized that the dog required training with a trauma specialist to have the best chance at a bright future — so the shelter put the call out for a no-kill rescue with experience assisting traumatized dogs to take over Bella's care.

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, the largest no-kill pet sanctuary in the nation, answered the call and agreed to welcome the pet after reviewing Bella's medical and behavior history. Best Friends has a long history of helping neglected and abused pets, including caring for a number of the dogs rescued from Michael Vick's dogfighting ring.

Bella the dog
Courtesy of Best Friends Animal Society

On Saturday, Bella departed from Michigan for Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. She was seen off by the many admirers she gained during her time at Saginaw County Animal Care and Control, including Saginaw residents Bob and Pat Schust, who covered the costs associated with Bella's 1,800-mile road trip, and Zach Webster, of Thelen Subaru of the Thelen Auto Group, in Bay City, according to a release from Saginaw County Animal Care and Control. Thelen Subaru loaned the vehicle Bella and her travel companions used for the road trip and covered the cost of gas.

"She landed in this situation through no fault of her own," Kanicki said of Bella. "She has gone from the horrors to the joy of people. There are so many now that have a heart for her."

Saginaw animal control officers Desi Sage, who responded to the original animal cruelty call about Bella, and Abbe Balderstone, who helped with her rescue, drove Bella to Utah over four days, making many stops along the way to play, rest and explore.

"Walking into the backyard and seeing Bella in such distress that day was unimaginably gut-wrenching," Sage said in a statement obtained by Best Friends. "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."

Best Friends is optimistic that they will help Bella heal physically and emotionally from the cruelty she endured before her rescue and are looking forward to hosting the smiley dog for as long as she needs.

"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," Julie Castle, the chief executive officer for Best Friends Animal Society, said in a statement. "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."

Bella the dog
Courtesy of Best Friends Animal Society

Best Friends staffers expressed this gratitude by warmly welcoming Bella to the sanctuary. Two of Best Friends founders, and several other employees, greeted the pooch with toys and open arms.

Over Bella's first days at the sanctuary, the staff will monitor the pet's normal, day-to-day interactions and use this information, along with the dog's behavior history, to create a training plan for the one-year-old canine and figure out her long term goals.

For now, Bella is focused on settling in, getting comfortable, and playing with her new toys.

Visit Best Friends and Saginaw County Animal Care and Control online to learn more about how you can support their lifesaving work.

Related Articles