Melodie McClain

For The Record

Bella, a beloved family pet, saved the day when her non-stop barking sounded the alert that something was wrong. 

Owner, Kevin Hanks, lives in an apartment above the boathouse in back of his Grandmother’s house.  Late Saturday afternoon, he heard his longtime friend barking continuously for about five minutes. He came outside to see what the commotion was about and saw Bella at the corner of his Grandmother’s home, barking and looking very anxious. He hurried downstairs and around to the front, with Bella leading the way.  

Hanks saw his Grandmother, Mary Jo McClain, lying in the driveway. She had fallen on her way back from the mailbox and could not get up. He ran over, helped her to her feet and called for help once they were inside her house. Fortunately, nothing was broken and she was treated at home for abrasions and bruises. 

 Mrs. McClain says, “You have to be tough to be old.”

Bella is an eleven year old, unusual mix of Rottweiler, Australian Sheppard, Chow and Lhasa Apso. She is a beautiful, usually quiet, serene kind of dog. When she comes up to you, she sits and puts up her paw to shake hands.

”In her younger years, she could walk on her hind legs for a good 20 feet. She doesn’t demand a lot of attention and loves to chase rabbits and be outside,” Hanks said. 

No one ever taught Bella to be a great watch dog or to bark when danger is present, so just how did she know something was wrong? I learned through a small amount of research that animals use a variety of highly tuned senses to determine when danger is imminent.  

Pheromones are airborne chemical messengers released from the body of an animal or human through sweat, urine and other body fluids. They can have a physical or emotional effect on other animals or humans close by.

Many animals, including dogs and cats, detect pheromones by using their vomero-nasal organs. Pheromones provide them with detailed information about their surroundings.  They offer almost a blueprint of every animal, or human, around them. Pheromones provide many animal species the ability to detect what mood other animals or humans are in, or if they are ill, hurt or even pregnant. This ability, along with a heightened sense of hearing, explains why a dog is usually the first to sense danger.  Mrs. McClain said, “I’m so thankful Bella was there. I was bleeding and getting cold.”

Whether Bella responded to pheromones are just knew something was not right because a member of her family that normally walks on two feet was horizontal and couldn’t get up, I’ll never know. But I do know if she had not kept barking the way she did, there’s no telling how long my Mother would have had to lay there.

My family has always had dogs and cats around. Many cherished companions, playmates and protectors have been a part of our lives and will continue to be. Hopefully, I will never take any of them for granted.

I wish I could tell Bella how grateful I am for what she did for my Mother. In my book, she rates right up there with Lassie, Rin Tin Tin and Benji, who were always in the right place at the right time, helping someone out. 

Great job, Bella Girl.

Bella Girl, a mix-breed American dog, barked until help arrived for a member of her family that had fallen.