Bella’s Success Story – an update

Bella’s Success Story – an update

Rescued by Golden Retriever Rescue of Mid Florida, Inc., Madison, previously Bella,  joined our family at the age of three. She showed signs of having been abused and was definitely skittish when unfamiliar people tried to touch her. She would cower or run if you lifted any stick-type object, which saddened us to realize that this precious girl was poorly treated in her earlier life.

Lavished with gentle guidance and love she overcame her fears and gained confidence. Madison and I began training classes together and narrowly squeaked by passing the Canine Good Citizen test when it came to “accepting a stranger’s touch.” As her confidence grew, her natural ability to calm others around her also began to shine. We soon found our lives changing with the added laughter at Madison’s silly antics. Madison has become our family’s personal comfort companion. She instinctively knows when someone is having a bad day and will give extra kisses and snuggle time.

Our grandson is autistic and Madison has become his “in-house therapist”, always knowing when his sensory overload is about to surface and will go to his side and calm him. It’s truly amazing how she can sense each person’s mood and be right there to offer compassion and unconditional love despite her rough beginning to life. Her empathy also extends to her fur sibling, Rocky, who is sight impaired. Madison has appointed herself as guide dog, helping him maneuver unfamiliar areas and obstacles in his way.

Madison is paying it forward as a certified therapy dog with Golden Retriever Rescue of Mid Florida Hearts of Gold and Moffitt Cancer Center and an ambassador for the organization that rescued her. She has a special ability to sense when someone we’re visiting is having a difficult day and will place her head on their knee or linger for a longer period of time until she feels that they’re relaxed. Without moving her body, she’ll give me a glance as if to say “we may be here a bit, please be patient.”

One memorable therapy moment was when Madison was visiting with a non-verbal gentleman and he began speaking to her. The facility said he had been there two weeks and never spoke previously until his connection with Madison that day. Our special girl thrives on doing therapy work and looks forward to putting a smile on someone’s face. “She gets very excited when I put on her therapy collar and vest because that means we’re going on a therapy visit,” Ginger says. She has brought joy to our family and to the hundreds of other people she encounters on her visits.

Our lives would never be the same without her. Madison has blessed our family in so many powerful ways – as our personal comfort companion, inhouse therapist for our special needs grandson, and eyes for her fur sibling.


“Being a youngster, Bella now known as Madison has brought new energy into our household,” reports Ginger and George, “and greets us jumping with all four paws off the ground and cries of joy when you return after just five minutes or five hours.”  She loves going on long hikes with Mom, rides to the car wash with Dad, or just hanging out in the screen room watching the wildlife. Madison won her Dad’s heart and broke one of Mom’s golden rules by claiming a spot on the bed while Mom was on a business trip, which she still takes full advantage of every night with a kiss before settling in.  “She always makes us laugh when she entertains herself by throwing a toy in the air and catching it, but you have to be careful when playing fetch with her as she returns quickly and forgets to put on the brakes when she reaches you.”

Meet and Greet was a family day trip from the east coast over to the west coast.  Our daughter, her two young children and their rescue dog Max were living with us at the time and EVERYONE had to attend.  We divided ourselves (three adults, two children and three dogs) into two cars and caravanned over to meet Madison at her foster home.  The introduction went better than we anticipated, no one fell into the pool, and I believe we won the prize for the most attended adoption family photo!

Although an active youngster who loves to wrestle with her fur siblings, Madison also has a calm demeanor and a special ability to sense when someone is having a difficult day.  Our GRRMF alum Bailey and her fur sibling Rocky helped Madison learn our household routines and showed her the ropes of doing therapy work.  Certified as a therapy dog through Project PUP, she is an active member of GRRMF Hearts of Gold and Moffitt Cancer Center therapy teams, working alongside her fur sibling Rocky.  Because of COVID, both are temporarily unemployed therapy dogs but we still maintain our pre-visit routine of coats groomed and teeth brushed twice a week.  They get excited and off we go strolling the neighborhood hoping to meet someone needing a paw shake and happy tail wags.



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