NEBRASKA- A Nebraska man and his dying best friend are taking a nation-wide farewell tour.
Robert Kugler’s furry four-legged, turned three-legged, best friend Bella is a 9-year-old chocolate lab.
In May 2015, Bella was diagnosed with cancer and given only three to six months to live.
Following her diagnosis Bella’s leg was amputated. Kugler, who had just finished school decided not to jump immediately into the job market and instead opted to take his best friend on one last adventure.
Kugler, a U.S. Marine Corps Veteran had a Marine Corps Ball to attend in Chicago, and decided to use the trip to the “Windy City” as a way to jump start their tour. From Chicago the duo continued East hitting the Northeastern U.S.
In the Adirondacks, Kugler says Bella followed him up a waterfall and was had trouble getting 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,” Kugler told Mashable.
Next, the two headed South towards Florida, but their journey was cut short when Kugler was called to assist a veterans 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 a friend needed a ride to North Carolina, Kugler seized the opportunity to complete their southern adventure. The two made it all the way to the Florida keys.
Kugler told Mashable “I feel like right now this is my purpose. The chapter in my life right now is just exploring with my dog.”
Kugler says that although the journey is a final farewell for Bella, it’s also helping him cope with losses he’s 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 the things they dream of doing, it changes your perspective on life” Kugler told Mashable.
The two have been traveling on and off since November. To keep the tour going, Kugler has terminated his lease and packed his belongings away in a barn.
Kugler told Mashable he plans to get his 4Runner suited up and organized as a camping rig before heading towards the National Parks.
“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 Bella’s health, Kugler told Mashable “[She’s] …doing pretty darn awesome.”