Dog Thrown in River with Rock Tied Around Her Neck Finds a Loving Home After 15-Month Recovery

A dog rescued from drowning after being hurled into a freezing river with a rock tied around her neck has found her "forever home" with a new family.

In January 2020, Jane Harper found Belgian shepherd Bella up to her neck in water in England's River Trent, weighed down by a large, heavy rock attached to her leash.

After spotting Bella, Harper acted quickly, leapt into the frigid water, and pulled the drowning pooch onto dry land.

The authorities arrived on the scene following the rescue and took the dog to a local veterinarian, where she received emergency treatment. Bella was later transferred to an RSPCA facility to recover from the near-death experience.

After 15 months of rehabilitation, the 11-year-old dog has now found a new home in South Derbyshire with Maggie Mellish and Charlie Douglas.

The retired couple is described as a "perfect match" for Bella as they have owned shepherd-type dogs before and have the time and skills to give her the attention she needs.

"We as a family have three shepherd-type dogs over the last 30 years and really love them. We lost our rescue dog two years ago, and my daughter's dog Flame this year. We did really miss them," Mellish, 79, told SWNS. "Then we saw Bella's story in the press a few weeks ago and the fact she needed a home, so my daughter, Clare Lusher, encouraged us to apply for her."

"We know she will need regular vet appointments and are willing to finance those," she added. "We know she is in her older years, but we just want to offer her the loving home she so deserves after all she has been through. We are both retired, so she will have our company constantly, which is what she really needs, and it will be great for us too."

Douglas, 70, added: "We were horrified by what happened to Bella, and when we came to see her, we realized what a great personality she has, and she really is perfect for us."

On March 31, the couple went to enjoy some time with their new pet at the RSPCA's Radcliffe Animal Centre in Nottingham. Bella's rescuers, Harper and her friend Joanne Bellamy, joined the playdate to witness the happy ending they made possible with their brave actions. Bella will officially move in with her forever family on Thursday.

"It is quite emotional seeing Bella as it brings back memories of that terrible day, but we are thrilled to see how she has been transformed by the staff here at the RSPCA," Harper said. "She looks like a different dog — her coat is beautiful, and she looks so happy and full of life."

"It was so nice to meet Bella's new owners and we have said we will keep in touch," she added.

The RSPCA is equally amazed by Bella's recovery. Not only did she survive nearly drowning in a freezing river, but the dog also overcame a range of complex health issues.

"This is the perfect happy ending to a story which started so sad, and there were real doubts if Bella could pull through after her terrible ordeal," Ella Carpenter, a manager at Radcliffe Animal Centre, said. "At times, we thought she wouldn't make it, with her age and underlying health conditions all against her. But Bella has fought every day, showing enviable strength and courage, not wanting to give up her fight to recover."

"Maggie and Charlie really are perfect with their experience with this breed, and they are aware of the challenges of her care as an elderly dog but are happy to take her in for however long she has left," Carpenter added. "They have a large secure garden which Bella needs as she does not like to be around other dogs, and they have plenty of time and love to give her."

Bella's former owner Charlene Latham, 32, was sentenced to a 12 months community order last month after she pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to her pet.

The Nottingham Magistrates Court fined her £80 and ordered her to pay £200 in medical costs and a £32 victim surcharge. Additionally, she is prohibited from keeping dogs for the next three years.

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