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Journey comes to end for Kugler, Bella
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Journey comes to end for Kugler, Bella


Months after taking his beloved terminally ill Labrador, on a journey of a lifetime, Robert Kugler’s Bella peacefully died Friday.

Kugler, a Lincoln native, photographer, blogger and military veteran, left Lincoln last November to travel the country with Bella, 9.

The two hiked national forests, splashed in the ocean and watched sunrises and sunsets from the peaks of majestic mountains.

Kugler knew Bella’s time was short. Bone cancer had claimed her left front leg in 2015. It had spread to her lungs, she was given three to six months at most.

Kugler decided to take her on an “epic road trip.”

And so it began.

The affable former Marine and his irresistible three-legged pooch, hiking mountains, cruising the back roads, splashing on sandy beaches, visiting coffee shops, veterans centers and hospitals along the way.

A reporter caught up with them in Florida.

Kugler and Bella went viral. And Bella thrived.

In August, the two embarked on a new mission: to visit every national park.

By fall, the cancer continued its nasty march. Bella had difficulty eating. Surgery was not an option.

And as long as she was up for it, Kugler would make sure every day was the best day.

On Thursday, Rob nestled Bella in her Burley attached to his bike and they rode through Colorado’s trails. He filmed the journey -- Bella smiling from her cart.

That night, Kugler warned his 114,000 followers on Instagram that this was probably their “last full day in the beautiful outdoors.”

He wrote: “Bella started shivering today and her breathing became labored. There was actually a time after our bike ride that I looked into her eyes as I held her head in my lap and saw what they were telling me. I told her that I would be okay ... that I'm ready if she is ... and that I'll be holding her every step of the way. For a moment, I thought she may fall asleep right there in my arms. Yet, she held on ... and we got up and chased some geese, and she went for another swim. Nonetheless, her breathing and shivering became worse and we zoomed up from the park in Denver to the FourSeasons Vet Hospital in Loveland. She's on oxygen right now and has been given a sedative to help. The X-rays showed that her lungs simply cannot produce enough oxygen ... the time is near.”

Thursday night, Kugler posted a second photo of them settled in for the night at the veterinary hospital. Kugler on a sleeping bag on the floor, Bella at his side.

Friday morning he posted his last picture with Bella, his hand holding her soft graying ear and wrote:

“Goodbye my Love. Thank you for never abandoning me .. .never judging me ... never giving up on me ... Thank you ... for Loving me with every beat of that beautiful heart. Now go, become one with all ... dance in the wind, flow in the ocean, and give warmth to the hearts of all you've touched ... for your Love is now eternal and immeasurable.

"To my brother Mike, sister Charity and all my grandparents ... give this girl some tummy rubs, would you? For all the spirits young and old who were brought to the other side far too soon due to some type of ailment or disease that took you before your time ... welcome this girl as I'm sure she's greeting you with a wagging tail.”

To follow Kugler’s journey, go to his website, Facebook (Robert Kugler) or Instagram (RobKugler).

Reach the writer at 402-473-7217 or

On Twitter @LJSerinandersen.


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