Humane Heroes aren’t always defined by momentous events of bravery or showers of compassion. Sometimes that heroism takes another form, that of quiet, everyday, constant love and kindness toward every living being on our planet.
11-year-old Bella isn’t the talker of the group. She’s not the class clown. She isn’t first in line, elbowing campers out of the way to see the puppies. In fact, on your first visit to Camp Whiskers & Wags, you might not notice her at all amid all the laughter and tie-dye.
But the puppies see her. The rabbits, the guinea pigs, the kittens, tired from the excited squeals and attention – you’ll see them seek her out. Because they sense the same thing her fellow campers do. Bella simply radiates peace and love no matter where she goes or what she does.
Guess that’s just what happens when your life-long best friend is a dog. Bella was 18 months old when her family brought home a 18-month-old puppy named Boss. Bella and Boss were inseparable from the start, and they grew up as brother and sister in this new world.
Bella’s mom said she has always instilled a sense of respect for people and animals in Bella. When Bella was only a year old, she was bitten by a dog she was trying to play with, and Rebecca, Bella’s mom, made sure Bella took the experience to heart and learned from it. Bella says from that moment on, she has learned to respect dogs and the signals they are giving, and she always asks permission before petting someone else’s dog.
Bella now shares her home and life with Gracie, a peekapoo (Pekinese and poodle mix); Punkin, a Pomeranian; Sunny, a pit bull mix; and two cats, Sarah and Ginger. And Boss, her childhood friend and confidant, is still around too. Oh, and we can’t forget Goldie the goldfish, of course. (In case you were wondering, Bella refuses to be labeled a “cat person” or a “dog person.” She loves both equally because “they both snuggle and make great companions!”) Bella’s family also helps save lives by fostering dogs through a local rescue.
Bella’s first Camp Whiskers & Wags was in 2012, the summer before she turned 6 years old. It was a serendipitous occasion; Bella’s mom was researching summer camps to keep her 5-year-old entertained, and she came across Camp Whiskers & Wags. “I have memories of her looking at the animals with excitement,” said Kaitlin, a staff counselor at Camp Whiskers & Wags who has overseen many a camp with Bella in attendance. She only came once that summer, as we only had one 5-year-old camp option. But by 2013, we would see her smiling face multiple times a year. By summer of 2017, Bella was on her 8th camp!
“I love coming to camp,” Bella said. “Every time, you learn something new.” Bella’s mom Rebecca says Bella usually participates in multiple camps over the course of the summer, but the one camp Bella refuses to miss is Camp Whiskers & Wags. “Every Camp Whiskers & Wags in her age range, she’s signed up for,” Rebecca said. “She might do a few other camps, but she makes it clear that Camp Whiskers & Wags is her can’t-miss camp.
At 11 years old, Bella still has a few years of camp ahead of her. But she doesn’t plan to stop there. Bella fully intends to become a junior counselor once she ages out of being a Camp Whiskers & Wags camper.
“Bella always has a smile on her face for animals and people,” said Lynda Grove, education manager at HSPPR. “She is a Humane Hero in my eyes, not for one amazing incident, but for her overall, every day compassion and outlook. She lives her life with empathy toward individuals, kindness for all animals, respect in her deeds, and enthusiasm in everything she does. Bella is who we would all want our children to become: a kind, caring, loving person. Her heart guides her actions.”
And future plans for this little animal lover? Bella wants to follow in the footsteps of veterinarian greats like HSPPR’s own Dr. Sue and Dr. Ana – Bella wants to train to be a veterinarian at an animal shelter to directly help save lives and help get animals adopted. Oh, and her other life goal? “I want to be that crazy old lady with lots of pets,” Bella said. “I want to move to the country so I can have lots of them. Because they should all get a good home.” We have a feeling Bella won’t have a hard time achieving either of these dreams!