Losing Bella

I sit beside the fire and think of all that I have seen,

of meadow-flowers and butterflies in summers that have been;

Of yellow leaves and gossamer in autumns that there were,

with morning mist and silver sun and wind upon my hair.

I sit beside the fire and think of how the world will be

when winter comes without a spring that I shall ever see. 


For still there are so many things that I have never seen:

in every wood in every spring there is a different green.

I sit beside the fire and think of people long ago,

and people who will see a world that I shall never know.

But all the while I sit and think of times there were before,

I listen for returning feet and voices at the door.
J.R.R. Tolkien

Well, I’m back, and I guess I owe an explanation for my absence the last couple of months. The photo above is of my daughter, Johnna, with my nine-year old chocolate lab, Bella. It was taken on the last day of Bella’s life. Born on February 14, 2004, she died on June 28, 2013. She had a really aggressive mammary cancer (breast cancer).  From the time I first noticed it until the time she died was perhaps a month.  It grew like wildfire and spread to her lungs.  The hardest part was watching her suffer, not even really knowing the depth of it. Finally, though, she became unable to breathe. She negotiated the length of the living room and my daughter and I helped her up onto the couch, and she was panicking because she couldn’t catch her breath. She pointed her nose up towards the window, which was closed because it was an oppressively hot day. Johnna and I took turns fanning in front of her face so she would feel the air, because that seemed to help her. We piled up blankets for her to lean against, because she was exhausted but couldn’t lie down, whether because it was painful or because it made it more difficult to breathe.

I’d spoken previously about Bella to a dear and wonderful person whose name and praises I’d like to shout to the sky. I am not going to do that because I have to respect her privacy and I don’t want her to be receiving requests from others to do this. She is licensed to perform euthanasia, and she had said that when the time came she would come to our house to put Bella to sleep. I am so grateful for that. On that day when Bella was no longer able to breathe, I told her it was time. All of Bella’s family gathered in my living room that evening. Bella was sitting upright. Johnna was on one side of her and I was on the other, and we each held her. I’d been told by several people how fast euthanasia is, but I don’t think anything could have prepared me for it. I will forever remember the feeling of Bella literally collapsing in my arms. Just that fast, her suffering was ended. But just that fast, she was gone. Gone from our lives, but gone from her own life as well.

One of my all-time favorite books is “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein. This is the story of a family told by its dog on the last day of his life. He keeps saying that when a dog dies he gets to come back as a person. In the last week or so of Bella’s life, I kept telling her this. She’d had a number of struggles in life. She was a shy dog, which is a term for fearful and untrusting. It’s my suspicion that she had some abusive experiences before she came to live with us at eight weeks of age. She remained shy for her entire life, but at home, with our family, with people she knew, she was the sweetest, most loving dog you could ever meet. I told her that she had the best, strongest, sweetest heart in the world, and that in her next life she would be rewarded for overcoming her fears and learning to love. (Funny, I’d never thought about it before, but as I write this, I am realizing that this is a direct reflection of one of the key themes of my own life.)

But I don’t know, and that’s the sad thing. To make the decision to end the life of a living being is a terrible, terrible thing. Anybody who knows me that I really really hate ever killing anything. I try to catch and release whenever possible. Mind you, I’m a germophobe also, so the presence of some of these things in my house is really disturbing. But when I close my window on a day that is growing hot and I see a fly caught in between the window and the screen, I always shoo it out so it won’t fry in the heat of the sun, even though I know that it will crawl on my food later in the day if it gets a chance. I catch spiders and take them outside. If I see an ant on the counter, I actually put it in the garbage. If a line of ants wants to come to my garbage can, I don’t care. Only if they start parading on my counters do I take lethal action. Most people would say I anthropomorphize, but I attribute all sorts of feelings to these little creatures. I envision their expectation of life, and I cannot take it upon myself to end it.

I couldn’t watch Bella suffer anymore. Being unable to breathe is a terrible thing. But ending life is a terrible, terrible thing. I have always said that I am not afraid of dying itself. I don’t believe in heaven and hell. I figure either I will go on or I will not, and if I don’t then I won’t care. It’s really for the people left behind that I fear my own death, because I don’t want them to suffer. But to have a hand in taking life from another, especially another that I love so much, breaks my own heart regardless of the good reasons for doing it.

And of course, every experience of loss contains within it every other experience of loss. I don’t think it is possible to experience a new grief without every grief you have ever felt rising up to join in. We suppress grief eventually, so that we can go on with life, but it isn’t something that really heals. You know, for Michaela I know this is true as well, if she is alive. However long it has been, however much has changed, however deeply entrenched she may have become in the new life she has been subject to, I know that underneath it all lies a vein of loss. Only this loss can be healed.

With the loss of Bella, there is another little heart that is broken. Bella was a 90-pound Lab, and I have an 8-pound Miniature Pinscher who loved her. I had him in his crate during the actual euthanasia, but afterwards I let him out. He came and sniffed Bella’s mouth, perhaps wondering why she wasn’t breathing. She had a blanket around her, and he crawled inside the blanket. Since then, he has been okay when someone is with him, but when he is alone, he howls with grief. Because of the difference in size, it didn’t seem that Spike and Bella spent a lot of time together, but I am recalling now that whenever I left for work, if I came back in the house to get something, Bella would be on the couch, where Spike’s blanket is (he has to have something to burrow in). It had never before occurred to me that what she was doing was keeping him company. Perhaps he has always been sad, or scared, when left alone, and Bella knew that. At any rate, when Bella was here, he didn’t howl like he does now. Often there is someone else here, my daughter asleep in her room, my husband downstairs in the garage. (This is how I know about the howling.) It had been my plan to keep Spike as an only dog, but now I think I will have to get a friend for him.

Bella and Spike, on Bella’s last day.
Who knows what they were saying to each other in this moment.

Well, one day I hope to be able to write a happy blog. In the meantime, thank you for bearing with me and sharing my heart.

Bella, I hope that you are running free in a meadow somewhere, with that beautiful smile on your face, your tail high in the air, no fear of anything anywhere, only happiness, and the knowledge that were and always will be loved.

And Michaela, I love you forever.
mom

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99 thoughts on “Losing Bella

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  1. I just wanted to say Your courage and strength are simply amazing. I am from N.S. Canada and saw this story and had to tell you, you are one of the strongest people to have gone through what you've gone through and be where you are. My prayers are with you and in the hope you get Michaela back.

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  2. I had another dream. In it a Sketch Artist slowly drew a pic reflecting SUSPECT AGE PROGRESSION. The sketch was released to the public…some time went by….then the composite sketch had a bold lettered word stamped across it “RESOLVED”!

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  3. One special Sketch Artist experience’s : “Over the years, Enslow has sketched more than a thousand composites and testified hundreds of times. Her efforts have contributed to the convictions of hundreds of felons, including individuals in high profile homicides, rapes, juvenile investigations and robberies.”“Enslow is a forensic artist. She is responsible for interviewing witnesses and victims to create sketches of criminal suspects, composing age progressions (the aging of a suspect), constructing crime scene diagrams..”Article from: “Cal State LA” titled ‘ Alumnus’ artistry puts face on crime” http://www.calstatela.edu/univ/ppa/publicat/today/?season=spring&year=2010&page=2

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  4. A composite sketch is done with an eyewitness right after a crime. We have an excellent composite sketch and it would be impossible to get a new one because too much time has passed and memories blurred.. Nor can they do age progressions of composites. I don't think age progressions of missing kids are accurate, and for those they use photos of family members to try to see what the child would look like when older. Can't do that with a composite. We also don't have the resources to properly investigate the solid leads we have, and definitely can't handle a slough of calls from people about suspects for no reason other than that they look like an age progression which is probably not accurate, and for which we already have dozens of lookalikes. If your dream is going to come true, it will have to be in the realm of th symbolic.

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  5. Re :Your most important point: ” We also don't have the resources to properly investigate the solid leads we have”I have just learned the “Department of Justice” offers GRANTS “The Community Oriented Policing Services Office (COPS) offers grants to help law enforcement agencies to hire more community policing officers, to acquire new technologies and equipment, to hire civilians for administrative tasks, and to promote innovative approaches to solving crime. The COPS Office Response Center provides information on programs, grants, and application assistance for the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. The COPS Office Response Center also assists COPS grantees with financial questions and grant-related inquiries about COPS.”http://www.justice.gov/business/

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  6. Your special October 2009 Blog request continues to be done “And pray. Pray that if Michaela is alive that she may be released not just from the human beings who have held her captive, but from the spiritual bondage which has been placed on her heart and her spirit. And pray that those people who hold in their hands the key to solving this case, to finding Michaela, will be motivated to give it up, that they may be released from this burden they have been carrying, from the spiritual bondage they have been living under. Pray for freedom!And again, whoever you are, I just thank you for coming here to this website, to this blog, for reading my words about my daughter, for keeping her alive in your heart, for caring, for loving her.God bless.Posted by Sharon Murch” “The Search for Michaela in 2009”

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  7. One day technology will advance to a point that these animals who take children wont be able to hide. I just read in the NY Daily news of a cold case being solved from 1995 using new DNA technology where a vacuum extracted DNA from a rock that was used to kill a 17 year old girl. I still pray Michaela is found and saved from her captor. One day the missing puzzle piece will be located.

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  8. CURTIS ANDERSON! I looked up articles after he was mentioned here. I deeply wish they had not closed the “1988 disappearance of 7-year-old Amber Swartz, of Pinole” case without locating her .Two, of many articles I read, (links below) indicate 2 KIDNAP SURVIVORS OF CURTIS (1 adult 1 child-years apart) were connected by him to HIS MOTHERS HOUSE in Vallejo. The rescued child’s scent was picked up there and the kidnapped adult testified to the fact of being taken there. I wonder if Amber Swartz family (& others) would find the healing or closure needed if this house & property were more comprehensively searched. Like the Speed Freak duo some do crimes with other male partners. Evidence of hidden places in houses has been proven in missing cases 😥 including RESCUED Abby D. and Natascha K:“Abby Drover was 12 years old in March 1976 when she was kidnapped…by a neighbour, Donald Alexander Hay. She was held for 181 days in ** a hidden cement bunker under Hay's garage** in the Vancouver suburb of Port Moody before being rescued…. “Natascha Kampusch was snatched on her way to school and held for eight years in * a small cellar under the garage* of her abductor, Wolfgang Priklopil, in Austria”. http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/high-profile-cases-of-children-who-survived-abductions-1.9874091) “ In April 1992, Anderson was found guilty of assaulting and falsely imprisoning an acquaintance's wife, Dina Rae Stansbury. He then forced her to accompany him to **his mother's house**, where he held her at gunpoint and demanded her credit cards. Then he forced the woman to drive him to Oregon. “ ( 8/15/2000) http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Xiana-Link-Probed-in-Kidnap-Suspect-in-Midsi-3238619.php#page-22) Aug 18-2000)“ authorities** searched the Vallejo home of Anderson's mother**… looking for clues yesterday. Police dogs picked up the scent of Midsi, and investigators carried out about 10 brown paper bags holding potential evidence. “ http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Xiana-Link-Probed-in-Kidnap-Suspect-in-Midsi-3238619.php

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  9. Sharon, I have a question concering the mail you got about Michaela being in the UAE, because English is not my first language. If the person says, “changed too much to remember” does that mean that people wouldnt recognize Michaela because she has changed so much or that Michaela herself would not remember anything about her childhood?Love, Tanja

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  10. I don't know for sure Tanja, and English was not his first language either. I assumed he meant she had changed too much to remember herself, because as you said,the right word if we wouldn't know her would be recognize.

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  11. ok :*( thanks >>NBC BAY AREA Wednesday, Sep 9, 2009 Bone Found Near Garrido's Home is Human: Police:Fragment turned over to the state for further tests” “Authorities say a bone fragment found at a home once cared for by kidnapping and rape suspect Phillip Garrido** came from a human**.”.. The bone fragment was analyzed by an outside expert. The sheriff's office is requesting the state to examine the bone to see if it can develop a DNA profile of it, according to Lee.” http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Bone-Found-Near-Garridos-Home-is-Human-Police-57870512.html

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  12. NATIVE YouTube Song posted by “flutiegurl”- Vocals in Cherokee: Charles Littleleaf“Trail of Tears / Amazing Grace by Native American Flutist, Charles Littleleaf”( remembering your long years of trails of tears :*( (and others) and the Amazing Grace that helps keep everyone gently pushing forward)http://youtu.be/Pud0LJx3PlM

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  13. I’m wondering if the items found in the Speed Freakers well(s) have each been matched with their original owners yet? :*/ ` A msnbc 2012 article said ..” coats, shoes, a purse and jewelry” (were found in) “ a well on land in rural northern California, said Deputy Les Garcia”. If not EVERY family deserves to know!)\ http://www.nbcnews.com/id/46364526/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/t/map-one-speed-freak-killers-steers-cops-human-bones/

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  14. New update about Amber Swartz! “ Friday, September 27, 2013” It includes beautiful progressed photo-Mother’s request 4 case 2b reopened—FBI and PD response–reference to”an On-line petition” &“Swartz also hopes to lobby for state legislation that would mandate keeping missing person cases open as long as someone is missing”Amber Swartz: 7-year-old missing since 1988—http://www.missingpersonsofamerica.com/2013/09/amber-swartz-7-year-old-missing-since.html

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  15. You mothers are amazing!! I Just learned from 9/26/2013 “Contra Costa Times article “Swartz said she wants to revive her dormant Amber Foundation for missing children”! —ALSO “Deuel's petition to reopen the case, directed to the Pinole Police Department, is on the Website Change.org and can be accessed at http://chn.ge/160acPy. As of Thursday, the petition had gathered more than 1,100 supporters.”  http://www.contracostatimes.com/west-county-times/ci_24183682/amber-swartz-petition-asks-authorities-reopen-investigation-into-missing-pinole

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  16. This NBC article titled “Video shows Nancy Garrido luring girl into *van*” stated “-In a separate interrogation video,Nancy Garrido told a detective she made 10 to 20 of these videos for her husband.” ? I’m Wondering if Garrido’s VAN, if sold b4 their arrest, was tracked down and tested for DNA? & if both GARRIDO’S have had their PALM PRINTS compared to the one from Scooter? http://www.nbcnews.com/id/43993012/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/t/video-shows-nancy-garrido-luring-girl-van/

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  17. I heard the Garrido’s both passed a polygraph test re Michaela’s kidnapping however In 1979 the x-cop/polygraph expert Doug Williams wrote a book on how to *always pass* a lie detector test. The book has been revised/updated 50 times since. Mr Williams extensive t.v (Fox,CNN, Nightly news, NBC dateline etc. and radio interviews were known by many. http://www.polygraph.com/the-crusader

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  18. I read today the authorities are reopening the Amber Swartz case. I hope you'll be able to post an update on your family and Michaela again soon.

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  19. Garrido is said to be 6’4” in height ! http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=PHILLIP+GARRIDO&qpvt=PHILLIP+GARRIDO&FORM=IGRE#view=detail&id=3BEA2B5E0DCA4E4699BC14CBC9366E03A89872CD&selectedIndex=147YET in this news article Garrido’s brother said “It was at the federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan., that Phillip Garrido met his wife, the visiting niece of another prisoner.The couple communicated through letters and then married in a ceremony held behind prison walls, Ron Garrido said.”http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Kidnap-suspect-had-criminal-past-brother-says-3288260.php#photo-2363217In 1988 Garrido was released from serving 11 years in prison. Could other close prison friendships have been forged with Garrido, in the segregated offenders unit, that spilled over to doing outside crimes together ?

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  20. I actually have been recently “hanging onto Garrido” because of a visual impression I had when Michaela first went missing. I have been trying to find where I posted about it here over a year ago with no success. It had to do with a cement pipe and park like setting. Only recently did I find the below picture that completely resonated with the haunting impression. Prior to seeing this I had completely disregarded the Garrido’s as potential suspects. I ‘m relieved to hear there are better leads! I will not mention them again. Best to you.http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=nancy+garrido&qpvt=nancy+garrido&FORM=IGRE#view=detail&id=AA66ADE315CB77C9C9220BF2E38AACBFC76F05DB&selectedIndex=434

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  21. Well, I'm not sure I'd say that looked like a park like setting. Those cement pipes are actually used as play equipment in playgrounds. But the garridos have been investigated fully and extensively. I'll keep an eye out foe cement pipes in other locations I know are under suspicion though. Thanks.

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  22. In reference to the Garridos passing polygraph tests or those likes of murderers, rapists, and kidnappers passing polygraph tests, sociopaths can pass polygraph tests – with not help. Not from a book, or advice, or anything. They simply do not feel. And the large majority of people who commit crimes like these, are sociopaths. How do they do this? Sociopaths do not feel, they do not have empathy, and they can lie without blinking an eye. When those are not sociopaths lie, there are actual physical changes that occur in our body. Our heart rate can speed up, palms sweat, eyes can get twitchy – and a polygraph test picks up on this – no matter how hard you try to control it. We know we're lying. The central nervous system provides the polygraph tests with the responses necessary to determine lies from the truth. Sociopaths, however, do not have these responses because they do not have the ability to care that they are lying. Therefore, they don't show the same physical alerts that a polygraph test would pick up on. The Garridos are quite obviously sociopaths. Otherwise, they would not have been able to keep girls hidden away for years, and kill others. Lastly, all criminals are sociopaths, but not all sociopaths are criminals.

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  23. Your argument fails logically. If all criminals are sociopaths and lie detector tests don't work on sociopaths they would have given them up long ago. I do not, by the way, believe Nancy was a sociopath. I think she was a victim of Garrido who was brainwashed by him. But let's put it this way, extensive interviews were conducted, in which by the way there were many tears shed as they read my blogs to them. In addition, our police department literally tore down and demolished the little prison area at the garridos and thoroughly searched the house. You can safely let this one rest and just pray for the resources so that investigators can investigate the other leads as fully.

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  24. Sharon, have you read “Tear Soup”? It's a grief book that is laid out like a children's story, but it is really for adults. The imagery is fantastic and I felt really validated after reading it. http://www.amazon.com/Tear-Soup-Recipe-Healing-After/dp/0961519762I think that when you have such a significant loss in your life, other losses can bring you back to that place. I am so sorry for the loss of your dog. When our dog died, our other dog hid for days in a corner of the garage and was clearly depressed. It is amazing that dogs can feel and express grief, too.

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  25. I watched this informative video “How It's Made Concrete pipes” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6jlTxhL8bg & wondered if some of the park/pipe” visual impression” might indicate: THE JOB/ Line of work the terrible kidnapper worked in that might have even left the visible mud/cement residual on his car?If I remember correctly Ilene M went missing passing through a park—Amber S lived near a park-and a park was not too far from your house (?). Did his work play a key role in viewing victims ahead of time without being noticed? Such as a job with: Parks and Rec—School District— a utility district– EBMUD storm and sewer water processing systems –National Park Service- or Independent Contractor companies- drinking water/irrigation/ pipe repair –Deliverer-Installer or repairer of metal, hard plastic, or cement “play ground equipment.” etc?

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  26. Sharon I also hope that you're well. I check this page ever so often, wondering how you're doing and to see if there's been any news about Michaela. You once said that despite everything, you still manage to keep laughing. I hope you're having some laughs. Cindy

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  27. Just in> KTVU2 news -Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013 “State contractor sting leads to 75 arrests”!“The board announced Friday that its annual operation netted two registered sex offenders, two people with multiple felony records and three with open warrants for their arrest.”http://www.ktvu.com/news/news/crime-law/state-contractor-sting-leads-75-arrests/nbMhj

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  28. the same composite appears on the johnnygoesh website, I think that's the case…the exact same man, but I believe the crime was six years prior…sorry to bring up horrible memories…

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