Dog with cancer makes her way to Tampa today on cross-country journey

Photo: Robert Kugler Instagram

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — When Nebraska-based Marine veteran Robert Kugler found out his beloved chocolate lab, Bella, had cancer, the duo did not take that terminal diagnosis lying down.

Rather, they decided to embark on an epic road trip for the ages.

Over the course of the past year, Bella the chocolate lab has logged more miles on her three paws then most people have on their own two feet.

“She’s inspired me to live life and just be happy. That’s why we share so much because we want to inspire other people to do the same,” said Robert Kugler, who has had Bella for the past 9 years.

Last year, Kugler was faced with a decision no dog owner wants to make.

“The vet said, ‘This is the worst news that we could give you. She has advanced (cancer) and it has already spread to her lungs. So, you need to take her leg today or put her down,’” said Kugler.

Deciding to amputate Bella’s leg, the two set off on a cross-country trip in November, making dozens of stops and friends, all the while focusing on living life to the fullest.

“That was 14 months ago. They gave her 3-6 months and that was 14 months ago,” said Kugler.

The journey has been therapeutic for Kugler. The Marine veteran lost his brother in an IED blast while serving overseas in 2007.

Finding strength in the small things, Kugler knows Bella’s message of happiness is simple.

“We are over complicating things. We are trying to put everything in its place and argue about who is right about what. We are missing something very simple and that is life,” said Kugler.

As for where the two will head next, Kugler tells News Channel 8 he plans on taking off from Florida in the next few days, with the final destination of Glacier National Park in Montana.


Kugler said he didn’t set out to plan a ‘bucket list trip,’ but rather a hero’s journey. He wants to explore the country with his best friend while he still can, and hopefully inspire some people along the way.

Bella is laying next to me in bed right now, during our last night at a host’s house here in Florida. I’m watching her chest move up and down as she breathes and her paws twitch as she dreams. She has absolutely no idea the countless lives that we have touched, if only for a moment, through sharing our story. Perhaps that’s what makes her so damned perfect.

The story is out there…people are inspired…people are smiling…people are happy to see something other than violence, unrest and murder in the news. Nonetheless, only a few good interviews have reached past the surface.

Kugler and Bella’s story has been told countless times, as Kugler recounts in a Facebook post. News outlets from as far away as Taiwan recently made their own video based on his adventures with Bella.

You can follow Bella’s journey on her human Robert’s Instagram page at

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