Joy Unleashed: Rescue Pet Turns Therapy Dog

Rescue Pet Turns Therapy Dog in Mystic

(Published Friday, Aug. 18, 2017)

From tough beginnings to better lives, rescue pets often inspire people with their perseverance. In fact, one Connecticut dog is changing lives with her story.

These days you will find Bella spending her time at work as a therapy dog. She visits schools, hospitals and retirement homes, such as Academy Point at Mystic.

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Bella is 10 1/2 years old, and her life is full of meaning and love. However, like a true underdog tale, Bella’s story didn’t start out this way.

“Like a dog unleashed running full out, like the white streak that was Bella,” read Bella’s owner, Jean Baur.

Baur lives in Stonington and wrote a book based on Bella's life called “Joy Unleashed: The Story of Bella, the Unlikely Therapy Dog.” Bella’s story started far from Connecticut on a beach in Puerto Rico.

“Dead Dog Beach is particularly sad because dogs are not only dumped there, they are tortured, they are killed, so she was a very lucky survivor,” said Baur.

Kevin, a teen with autism and cerebral palsy, knew he found a forever friend when he met Yukon, an eight month old great dane, at a kennel. Kevin's mother, Tabatha Branch, said the feeling was mutual.

"It was really amazing when we got there to the rescue shelter when they brought Yukon back out he immediately just walked up to Kevin and wrapped his arms around and laid his little head on him, it was so precious. It was just like instant," Branch told NBC affiliate WBBH.

Branch said she believes Yukon would know if her son was going to have a seizure and alert them, adding that the family is happy Kevin has found such a loyal best friend.

(Published Monday, July 24, 2017)

Baur adopted Bella and notes that, at first, the transition was tough.

“She was a wild puppy. She was so wild in fact we had to have her on a leash in the house,” said Baur.

The vet suggested something to keep Bella busy: to work as a therapy dog.

“I think Bella communicates with residents in a way people can't,” said Nancy Chaput, the director of community relations at Academy Point, an assisted living center for seniors.

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Chaput said Bella has brought so much joy to the residents, that most of them have read her book. The book helps speak for Bella, but really it’s her wagging tail and constant companionship that is her real communication.

“I wish my Bichon was here, but my Bichon is gone. And to see another dog here it's a wonderful feeling. It's a feeling of home again,” said Marge Ciminera, a resident of Academy Point.

It’s a welcome home, only a rescue can understand.

“Bella didn't mind not having the words, she spoke fluently with her whole body, a gift to all she serves and was simply joy unleashed,” the book closed.