Man takes his dog diagnosed with cancer on one last epic road trip
There is no bond greater than a person and his or her loyal canine companion.
After his faithful chocolate lab, Bella, was diagnosed with cancer and given only three to six months to live, Robert Kugler from Nebraska decided to give her the time of her life with one last farewell adventure.
Back when Bella was diagnosed with cancer in May of 2015, Kugler was forced to amputate one of her front legs.
"They said this is the worst news I could give you; she had advanced osteosarcoma and it's already in her lungs so you need to either take her leg today or put her down," Kugler told WOWT.
Bella, only 9 years old, was given just a few months to live, so Kugler, who had just finished school, decided to travel the country with her instead of heading straight into the job market.
Kugler, a marine vet, headed to the Marine Corps Ball in Chicago first, then continued going east, hitting up the Northeastern United States. From there, the two headed south toward Florida, until Kugler was called to help a veteran's organization in Kansas City.
"We lingered at home for nearly three months, working a little, trying to put the story together to share it. But it didn't feel complete. She was still here, with so much life left," Kugler told Mashable. "So, when the chance came to give a bud a ride to North Carolina, I decided to finish the southern route and make it to the Keys, which we did!"
"I feel like right now this is my purpose. The chapter in my life right now is just exploring with my dog," Kugler said.
Although the journey is a somewhat of a farewell tour for Bella, it's also helped him with some of the losses that he has dealt with in the past.
"I lost my brother in Iraq in 2007 and my oldest sister in a car accident two Easters ago. When you see lives end shortly before people get to do many of things they dream of doing, it changes your perspective on life," Kugler told Mashable.
Of course road trips are always about making great memories.
"[We were] hiking in the Adirondacks when Bella insisted on coming up to the waterfall with me and a friend I had made in town. Once she got up there she couldn't make it down. I tried showing her a few options that I thought would be a good route and she looked at me like 'Dad, I need help.' Something about being scooping her up and carrying her off of the rocks and across the water really strengthened the bond at that very moment. As if I were telling her 'I got you, and I always will.'"
Although Bella and Kugler have been traveling on and off since November, the two aren't showing signs of quitting just yet. Kugler says he terminated his lease, stuffed his belongings into a barn and is ready to keep tackling the United States.
"I'd like to get my 4Runner geared up as a more organized camping rig, then go out towards the [National] Parks," Kugler told Mashable. "Taking Bella to each state really isn't the priority, it's more having her along to experience my own 'hero's journey' and appreciate each other's spirit and life on the planet."
As for the pup, Kugler says that "Bella is doing pretty darn awesome."
You can follow the rest of Bella and Kugler's journey on Instagram.
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