Meet Bella, a beautiful 9-year-old chocolate lab who has been living each day as if it were her last. In May 2015, she was diagnosed with advanced osteosarcoma that had already begun spreading to her legs and her lungs. Bella's human, Robert Kugler, was forced to make a crucial decision: to either amputate Bella's front leg or to put her out of her pain fully. Even though amputation would only increase Bella's expected lifespan by 3-6 months, Kugler knew that he couldn't part from his best friend yet. From that day, Kugler decided he was going to make the time he had left with Bella the best months of her life.
Kugler, a Marine vet, had just finished school, but instead of heading straight into the labor force, he had a different kind of job in mind. He and Bella loaded up his 4Runner and embarked on an epic road trip, visiting Chicago, the Northeastern US, and down the coast to the Florida Keys. This was to be her “farewell tour” of sorts—Bella and Robert's last hurrah together. On returning to their home in Nebraska a few months later, something didn't feel right. Bella was still alive and full of spirit. “It didn't feel complete,” Kugler told Mashable. There was still so much life left in his dog to stay at home. He didn't want it to feel as if they had never left at all.
So, in November, off they went again—this time with no end date in mind. Kugler cancelled his apartment lease, boxed up his belongings, and focused all his efforts on trekking across the nation with Bella by his side. He says, “I feel like right now this is my purpose…just exploring with my dog.” The two celebrated the 4th of July in Savannah, Georgia and are back in Florida to ride out the last dog days of summer. Kugler speaks of the inspiration he hopes Bella's story brings to the world: “We're not trying to get her to every state. We're living every day as if it was not only our last, but our first opportunity to get out and see all that this beautiful world has to offer us.” He encourages everyone to explore the world, to love life despite obstacles, to enjoy the moment and each other's company, and to never lose your sense of adventure. It might even add a year to your life.
You can find more inspiration and follow Bella and Robert's journey on Instagram and RK-Life Illustrated.
Robert Kugler: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter