Man Takes His Dog, Dying Of Cancer, On One Last Road Trip
( CNN ) It was the worst possible news you could get about your best buddy.
Bone cancer, so a leg is amputated. But it gets worse. The cancer’s spread to the lungs. Now it’s a terminal condition .
So what do you do ?
Robert Kugler decide to take his best friend — a three-legged chocolate laboratory named Bella — on one last, legendary ride .
“This is one of the biggest connects I’ve ever had to another living being. I don’t care that it’s a dog, ” said Kugler, who’s from Broken Bow, Nebraska .
A devastating diagnosis
Kugler found out last year that Bella was dying of cancer. He had adopted her as a puppy nine years ago and wasn’t anyway ready to let her go .
“I merely didn’t want her to be gone one day when I came home, ” he said .
So Kugler began with Bella a trip of a lifetime. Kugler’s a Marine vet, so they headed off to Chicago back in November to the Marine Corps Ball .
His social media feeds — Twitter, Facebook and Instagram — documented their travelings as they headed from there to points east and south: Bella posing in front of a mural in Detroit, getting petted by some Salvation Army bell ringer in Bowling green, Kentucky; checking out the sundown over Lake Erie ;
Bella and Kugler have either camped out in his Toyota 4Runner or couch-surfed with his friends along the way. Kugler’s doing this trip , not just for Bella, but for others too .
“I want to inspire people to get outside and live, ” he said. “Love each other for who we are and make friends.”
They’re now in Florida, on the Gulf coast side, enjoying St. Petersburg and the white sand beach in Siesta Key. Well , not wholly enjoying them, since the Sunshine State’s intense heat is pretty rough on Bella .
“The cold is easier to combat with a dog than the heat, ” Kugler joked. He says the water are so warm in Florida right now that they’re not exactly “refreshing” to her .
So now Kugler’s thinking of heading west, stopping for a little bit back home in Nebraska before introducing Bella to the nation’s majestic national parks, like Yellowstone and Yosemite. He hasn’t really schemed it out with too much detail. And that’s part of the charm of this long goodbye .
“Continuing to move and ensure the country is a good excuse to spend time with my dog, ” he said. Being spontaneous can sometimes be a headache, since it entails spending a huge amount of hour “figuring out where we’re going to sleep, ” but it also entails enjoying unplanned little escapades .
“You come across a little gravel road and wonder,’ where does this go ?’ ” So you construct the turning and find out, Kugler said .
The greatest gift
Doctors gave Bella merely six three to six months left to live last year; she’s survived much longer than that, but Kugler knows Bella’s time is drawing short. He said a few weeks ago, he watched her, playing in the water on a beach and envisaged a peaceful objective for her .
“Some days I’m completely prepared. I pictured her merely swimming out to ocean, ” he said. “But there’s other days when I’m like, oh my God, I can’t bear the thought of it.”
But whenever and wherever it happens, he’ll be with her. It’s part of the job of being best bud with a dog .
“We take on these animals, which means we’re gonna take on their life and their pas, ” Kugler said. “To be there with them when they pass is the greatest gift you can give anybody.”
When Bella’s gone Kugler said he’ll volunteer more, like he has in the past of organizations or other entities that assist veterans, like Team Rubicon and Team Red, White& Blue. And yes, he’ll continue to reached the open road .
“I want the freedom of the media to traveling. I don’t want a home that’ll maintain me in one spot.”
Until then, Kugler thinks we should all be a little more like Bella: “Wag more; bark less.”
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