Bella’s Story

Having been saved from drowning in the River Trent in January 2020 Bella spent over 12 months rehabilitating at Radcliffe Animal Centre

The bravery of Jane and Joanne, Bella’s rescuers, in pulling Bella from the water and getting her the urgent help she needed undoubtedly saved her life.

Bella is now living her best life thanks to Maggie and Charlie.



Bella’s story touched the nation when she was rescued from the River Trent on that cold January morning. Tied to a boulder in a deliberate attempt to drown her, Bella was dumped in the middle of the night and left to perish.

Bella is the kind of character you cannot help but fall in love with the more time you spend with her. The more she frustrates you, the more she gets under your skin. She is nothing short of exasperating at times, but oh how we love her!

At the beginning, no one knew what Bella’s progress would be like, even if she would make any at all. She is an elderly dog and we cannot reverse her signs of ageing. Without any previous veterinary history or information it was really hard to know how her rehabilitation would progress.

We spent a tough six months in the beginning getting to know her funny ways, watching her improve then deteriorate and wondering whether she would make it much further and even if we were right to continue. At times she would refuse to eat at all, refuse her medication and we would go through this same frustrating cycle. She would look away in disgust, her nose in the air and on some days she was depressed and distant.

Bella suffers osteoarthritis, pancreatic inflammation, kidney and liver disease and a degree of dementia.

These conditions are commonly associated with old age and pancreatitis is often seen in GSD’s as a breed. She flatly refused to eat the diets designed for the maintenance of these conditions and she was soon fondly referred to as Madam Bella.

So it became our daily ritual of shopping and cooking up Bella’s favourite meals of chicken, sausage and a little bit of cake to help her gain weight, restoring some of her energy and strength. The most important thing was to get her to consume the calories she needed. Slowly we mixed in dog food but Madam Bella wasn’t daft and she would soon give you that look of disdain if you upset the balance of palatability! She then wouldn’t touch her food and days of suspicion would follow.

After June 2020, Bella had gained weight and started to show us who she really was. Cheeky and loving, playful and sometimes downright naughty. We now knew her well enough to know her good days and bad days, when she needed medication and when she seemed better without some of it. We were constantly having to adjust everything we did with her hence it wasn’t possible to place her in foster care due to the level of support she relied upon.

Over the latter part of 2020 her health improved and her personality now shines. She gets so excited to go for her walks, barking and whining in anticipation. She is impatient having her harness put on and mouths at you as though to say ‘just hurry up!’ She bounces up and down on her wobbly legs, sometimes tripping over her own feet in her hurry to get going. We radio call other staff to check no other dogs are on route as Bella dislikes them so much. She doesn’t even like the scent of another dog in the office. Bella may be old but she is still strong on her lead and would try and take on any passing dog if she could. She is very protective of her patch and she’s not one for sharing.

Watching her and getting to know her over the year has been an emotional journey. Caring for sick animals can be tough, both physically and emotionally. The worry goes home with you and you carry it daily.

As an eleven year old GSD with underlying health problems we know that she won’t have years left to live. But what time she does have left should be honoured with the greatest of love and care. We have been blessed in getting to know her, privileged in caring for her and she has taught us so much through the pandemic. Her fight to survive, her struggle to recover and the pleasure she finds in the simplest of things will never be forgotten.

Thank you to all who have supported and continue to support animals like Bella throughout their rehabilitation at Radcliffe Animal Centre.

Adopt an animal today

More success stories


Thistle was found by a dog walker entangled in thistles and brambles. Covered in small bites and scratches, we presume from wild rabbit’s, distressed and deteriorating.
This is Thistle's story...

Read more


Sam was in a bit of a state when he arrived at the centre, and through previous neglect he had lost his coat, and an old surgery in his leg was causing him pain and discomfort. This is Sam’s story...

Read more

mode: undefined