Rescue Story: The Quiet Presence of Bela Lugosi, Part I

This article is the first part of a Tooth & Honey Original Perspective Series.  Part 2 will be released next week.

I got married when I was 18, when my boyfriend was home on Christmas leave from military training, and we decided our future together was going to be all or nothing.  We had a small wedding, and I was eager to leave home and start our life together, but I was more excited to finally do something we had always talked about: rescue a dog to give it the perfect life.

Our first duty station was Fort Bliss, Texas, where we found an off-post apartment that would allow dogs.  Not wasting any time, we promptly visited one of the animal shelters in the dry heat of El Paso, just “to look.”  The shelter was packed and chaotic, but through all the barking, dust, and glaring sun, there was one frumpy-looking brown pit bull that connected with me the moment I saw her.

Meeting Bela—or…Zandra

Instead of barking and jumping, she silently stood in her pen, as if knowing the destiny that would unfold; just waiting for what is already determined to happen.  I felt mesmerized by her honey-colored eyes that captivated me as I gravitated toward her. In a haze of highly energetic dogs swirling around her, she remained composed despite the new humans approaching her.  It was like she had a ticket, and she was patiently aware that her number was about to be called, thinking, “it’s my turn now…my person is here. No need to get all excited.”

The tops of her paws were bloody, which the volunteers said was from trying to dig under the fence, a stigmatic indicator that she was active at least sometimes.  I remember calling her “Honey,” a lot, as she sweetly allowed me to place the rope leash around her neck. Suddenly, it became evident that she had never been on a leash before, as she body slammed the ground and flailed around like a fish out of water, not negotiating the sensation of this thing around her neck.  Although concerned, I knew that she would trust me and calm down per the unspoken agreement we had to be patient. She quickly re-gained her composure and walked gingerly on a leash like the episode never occurred.

Bela’s Unknown History

Her given name was Zandra.  The volunteers told us that someone left her behind when they moved away and didn’t want to take her with them.  They said she must have been teased with food because she barks at her bowl when she eats and that turns a lot of people off from adopting her.   They said she doesn’t engage with potential adopters when they come to the shelter because she doesn’t get wound up with excitement. No one is sure how old she was either.  Well, although we only went to the shelter to look, I knew this dog was ours, even if my husband didn’t know it yet. She was cut from a different cloth and marginalized for not fitting into people’s ideas of what normal is.  She was everything that I suspected when I saw her, and we needed each other.

Bringing Bela Home

Because my husband insisted that we were only looking, we didn’t take her home that day. I couldn’t sleep that night because I stayed up crying, thinking about this sweet girl on a concrete slab with no escape from the heat and noise.  I thought about her instead cuddling with me in my bed, exerting her therapeutic serenity. I thought about how I would give her a life that she would never need to worry about being left behind, and never need to be convinced that she’s worth a home.  She would never be able to forget that she is loved and needed. I knew I had to adopt her and give her everything she deserved, and my heart would feel empty until it happened.

The next day, I heard the door open to our apartment with this panting, heaving, excited sausage roll of energy.  My husband—saying he got called into work— actually went to the shelter and adopted our girl, and brought her home to our first place together (the first of six so far). We named her Bela, because she has a widow’s peak marking that looks like Count Dracula played by Bela Lugosi.  Bela has taught me what it means to accept yourself, and to be patient with those who don’t understand you. She taught me that you don’t always need to justify other people’s judgment with a reply, and that our perceptions of ourselves are more important than anyone else.

This is the first part of a multi-part series.  Click Here for Part 2


Comments (32)

  1. Beautiful. I cannot wait to read more.

    1. tah says:

      Thank you so much for reading!!

  2. Lauren Leone says:

    I love this so much! I chose Curly because he was the only dog at the rescue who wasn’t barking with excitement. I knew he needed a home ASAP. Cheers to the ones everyone else failed to see the magic in!

    1. tah says:

      SO MUCH MAGIC!!! <3

  3. Aydan swanson says:

    I love happy endings all of these babies deserve happy and loving homes I adopted my little girl from my local shelter it was love of first sight

    1. tah says:

      Thank you!! So happy you adopted your little girl!!

  4. Tanya says:

    Such a sweet story. I cant wait to hear more!

    1. tah says:

      Thank you Tanya!

  5. Patty says:

    I cried all all the way through your beautiful story. We rescued our pit mix 5 years ago. He was diagnosed with Addison’s disease 3 years ago and undergoes an injection every 25 days. No matter what needle or pill he is made to endure, our rescue wakes every day happy and smiling. I can describe him in one word, GRATEFUL. He thanks me every day. Truth is, he rescued us. Thanks for making me smile today!!!

    1. tah says:

      Thank you for reading! What a lucky guy to live the good life with you! Enjoy your baby!! <3

  6. Sitting on the edge of my seat to hear the rest of Bela’s story while my rescue Hospice “pibble” is curled up next to me.

    1. tah says:

      So sweet! Thank you for reading!!!

  7. donna marie says:

    Love these type of stories. We have 3 of our very own stories with our pack. Can’t wait to hear more.

    1. tah says:

      Thank you!! Rescue stories are the best!

  8. Mel says:

    Thank you for sharing this story. I’ve often wondered what was behind your shop.

    1. tah says:

      You are so welcome! Thank you for reading!

  9. Shauna Berdecio says:


  10. Lisa Bockoski says:

    Thanks for sharing stories like this. Hopefully it will impact others to do the same or better yet, keep a dog forever.

    1. tah says:

      Thank you for reading!! I agree, keep a dog FOREVER!!!

  11. Lara says:

    What a sweet story. I LOVE reading doggie rescue stories, my heart just melts. We have our own rescue pittie who is the love of our lives. Can’t wait for part 2!
    P.S. Bela is a beauty…. love the sweater?

  12. Camille Hasler says:

    Heart-touching story, and that name suits her so perfectly.
    Thank you for rescuing.

  13. Tammy Queen says:

    Awww; thank you for sharing your story! Perfect day for a good story when so many are suffering losses!

  14. Cheryl says:

    Such a beautiful story and so well told. We adopted our “Spencer” because he was the calm dog in the sea of pound barkers and he was my best bud for 13 years. I love following Bela’s life and look forward to reading more.

  15. Nilnett Shama says:

    I’m so warmed and fuzzy on the inside and can’t wait to read the rest of this amazing rescue story.

  16. Carol says:

    Wow I’m reading this cuddled up with my girl who was also the quiet one sitting amongst the chaos in the shelter. We are awaiting our next dog who is in South Carolina. Thinking of him on the shelter too. I love your story and great job with your blog and business!

  17. Pamela says:

    Bella is Beautiful as her name says. I’m so happy that you decided to adopt, I did too. My fur baby’s name is Petey and he’s a Dogo/ Pitty mix. He had been found wandering the streets in Manhattan. I’m looking forward to Part 2 ❤️

  18. Sue Petrini says:

    LOVE this! It’s amazing how they pick us and you just know when you meet. They come into our lives and teach us so much and how to be better people. Can’t wait to read more! Our pit mix came to us during a time that my world was collapsing around me. My husband was coming towards the end of his battle with cancer. Charlie Brown only had his dad for 10 months but you would have thought we had had him forever, the bond between him and my husband was amazing. He was always snuggled up in his lap giving him kisses. It definitely made things better for both of us and now he is taking care of me. I don’t think I would have made it through this past year without him!

  19. Can’t wait to read the rest, loving this story already you sound so much like our beginnings too!

  20. Stephanie Evans says:

    Reminds me of how I rescued my Bruno! Thank you for sharing! My Bully loves his tooth and honey wardrobe

  21. Kate says:

    Awww, I love this so much. Brb, crying <3

  22. Heather Eastwood says:

    Such a fricken sweet story!!

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