It was an honor to memorialize such a special Fuzzy Angel. Belinda was a severely abused dog who was adopted by a family that specifically takes in very difficult cases of animals that have been put through hell and back. A lot of these abused pets come with very serious illnesses. I had been following Belinda's story online through posts on Facebook. It was amazing to see her improvement and loving spirit transform in each post over the past few months.
As I started her portrait I received a beautiful message from her through a song, I will post the link below. Please listen to it as you look at her image. It is very moving and will forever be Belinda's song to me.
Loving Wings by Dave Matthews
Please read Belinda's Story as told by her Family
2013 (?) - Feb 11, 2022
"You see, a good dog is something only given to a few people. They are a gift from the universe and, though they're with us only a short time, they never really leave us. They are loyalty and love perfected, and once we are graced with that sort of love we can never lose it. We merely lose sight of it for a time, and that is our fault; for how can love like that ever go away?" - Leigh Curtis
Belinda came to us from North Carolina about a year ago, where she had lived most of her life chained up in a yard. Local Animal Control Officers and her advocate tried for years to get her people to surrender her so that she could have a better life. Finally, after many years, they did.
She was found to have lumps on her belly that were going to need treatment, and she was sent north to Pets Alive in Middletown, NY for evaluation. Once the lumps were biopsied bad news came back: Belinda had four different types of cancerous tumors, most likely the result of her extensive solar exposure.
I will always be grateful for what happened next. Knowing that she was my kind of dog, they contacted me and asked me to come meet her, and after her first removal surgery she came home with us.
She was remarkable from the beginning. She did not seem to have much, if any, experience living in a home, and at Pets Alive they’d taught her how to walk on a leash. She did not know how to climb stairs, or how to get onto a couch, and she was not house trained. For the first few days she was with us she did not even realize that the beds scattered around the house were for her and would lie down on the floor at my feet. Eventually she tried out a cat bed in the kitchen, then a dog bed in the living room, and eventually she took her rightful place as the Queen of the couch once she had learned how to hop onto it. Everything she needed to know, she learned with lightning speed. She was happy and open and very eager to please. We did use treats to help train her but it wasn't really necessary - she wanted to do whatever was asked of her.
She was very calm and very affectionate. Dropped into a busy, sometimes chaotic household of random schedules, kids, cats and dogs, she adapted to it all with grace and ease. From the very beginning she adored cats, loved children, and was perfect with the smaller dogs she lived with. Even though she had come in very underweight (we eventually got her up to a robust 60lbs) she had not a bit of food aggression and always, always tolerated the shenanigans of the smaller dogs with good grace. She had a very special friend in Mirabelle the cat, who loves big dogs and is always the first to greet them. They would play and groom each other. The other cats also learned to appreciate her, mostly for her size and warmth - she was always up for a couch cuddle on a chilly day.
She was so wonderfully open and loving. For those first few days she seemed to be worried about being hit; when you touched her and she was not expecting it she would flinch, and if you touched her too quickly she would flatten herself to the ground. Then she would quickly recover and lean into the affection offered. Fortunately the flinching reaction tapered off over time. She would regularly "check in" around the house with a nose bump to the hand. She started and ended every day with a smile and happy tail wags and usually a belly rub. She loved affection, she loved beds, and she loved to cuddle. She was one of my favorite dog companions for a couch nap, tangled up with her like a soft warm teddy bear.
We treated her cancer as aggressively as we could with eastern and western medications, supplements, and surgery. As tumors grew she had two more removal surgeries, which she tolerated very well and recovered from quickly. When surgery was no longer feasible we moved to chemotherapy, which worked remarkably well for quite a long time. We'd grown accustomed to seeing tumors pop up quickly on her underside, and that growth slowed to an absolute crawl.
Eventually one of her cancers, most likely the hemangiosarcoma, metastasized to her lungs. Very unfortunately, metastatic lung cancer in dogs has a miserable average survival time whether treated or untreated, but we continued to treat and to do everything we could and I am happy to say that her quality of life was truly excellent right up to the very end of her life.
She was a remarkable dog, and I will never cease to be amazed that a dog this perfect could be abandoned to a yard. Were it not for her medical needs she could have gone into just about any loving home and adapted and thrived, but we were very lucky to have her come to ours. She was simply one of my favorite dogs ever, and it was an honor to be her home.
Fuzzy Angel Portraits by Meredith Reynells