Woman Takes Her Dog On An Epic Adventure After A Heartbreaking Turn Of Events

Our pets. They’re our playmates, our best friends; they stick with us through thick and thin and make our darkest days brighter. So with all the love and devotion our animals give us, it’s only right we give them the same — right to the very end.

While most pet owners are paralyzed with grief when faced with the inevitable, one New York City woman took a different approach with her precious pup. With only a map and the call of the open road to guide them, the pair set off on an unforgettable journey.

Whether adopting for the first time or adding another set of paws to a large furry family, caring for a pet is a life-changing experience. The bond that pet owners forge with their animals is unbreakable, and no one knows this more than Lauren Fern Watt.

Lauren Fern Watt

A Dallas, Texas, native raised in Nashville, Tennessee, Lauren was lucky enough to find a best friend and roommate in a 160-pound English mastiff named Gizelle. Through boyfriends, jobs, and personal struggles, Gizelle was always there to curl up beside Lauren at the end of each and every day.

Lauren Fern Watt / Facebook

When it was time for Lauren to pack up her things and head for the bright lights and opportunities of New York City, it was only natural for Gizelle to tag along. But after only just settling into their new home, Lauren received a devastating diagnosis: Gizelle had cancer.

The thought of facing life without her beloved companion took a heavy toll on Lauren; after going through so much with Gizelle, how could she possibly cope with the loss of her best friend? Then it dawned on her: a bucket list. Lauren would take Gizelle on one last wild ride to celebrate their life together… and she knew exactly where to start.

My Modern Met

First on Gizelle’s bucket list was a The Little Mermaid-inspired canoe trip far from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. Though Lauren and her human-sized dog weren’t quite as graceful as Ariel and Prince Eric as they glided along the water, the quiet simplicity of the lake made it the perfect place to enjoy each other’s company.

Lauren Fern Watt / Facebook

Next on the list was Times Square, though no one in their right mind would set foot anywhere near 42nd and 7th during peak hours. That’s why on a cool morning just before 7 A.M., Lauren and Gizelle made their way to the heart of the city to see the magic of the iconic NYC landmark free of distractions.

Yahoo

When it came to stopping for meals along their journey, Lauren didn’t settle for anything but the best for her precious pup. So, as their bucket list adventure brought them north to the coast of Maine, Gizelle was treated to a dinner of buttered Maine lobsters — the best money could buy.

Yahoo

Of course, dinner is never complete without dessert, and so Lauren bought Gizelle a satisfyingly simple treat that she could enjoy all to herself. Settling in on a quiet dock, Gizelle dug into a pint of vanilla ice cream as the pair sat and watched the sailboats drift by.

Inspired

For the second leg of their journey, Lauren brought her friend Rebecca along for a technology-free girl’s trip through New England. Gizelle loved the car, so the four-day adventure of navigating the scenic dirt roads of the northeast provided her with plenty of opportunities to happily hang her head out the back window.

Yahoo

Lauren and Gizelle’s soon found themselves back in Manhattan at Washington Square Park, just a stone’s throw from their East Village apartment. There, the pair spent the day people watching and chatting with strangers, who eagerly approached in the hope of petting Gizelle…

Yahoo

Gizelle had always been the perfect wing woman, but now it was Lauren’s turn to help her land a man of her own. After bringing her to a mixer with 19 other single dogs, Gizelle immediately took to a handsome blonde named Auggie and the pair hit it off!

Yahoo

Despite all the fun she and Lauren were having, it wasn’t long before Gizelle’s health began to deteriorate, taking her appetite – as well as Lauren’s – with it. However, after hearing about a bake shop that made some of the best doughnuts around, Lauren and Gizelle made another trip back up to Maine to see what all the fuss was about.

Yahoo

As Christmas rolled around, Lauren came to terms with the fact that this would probably be Gizelle’s last holiday. Still, Gizelle had plenty of goodies on her Christmas list, so when Santa couldn’t make an appearance himself, he sent three little helpers to make sure she got everything she wanted.

lfernwatt / Instagram

Even with a seemingly never-ending list of places to see and things to do, Lauren always made sure to make time for cuddles. Sure, Gizelle was almost twice her size and slobbered like crazy, but a few pins and needles and a little saliva were a small price to pay for Lauren to hold her best friend just a little bit longer.

Yahoo

The doctors said that Gizelle wouldn’t live to see Christmas, but on a cold January morning, Lauren was still able to take her down to the beach for one last chance to roll around in the sand. Gizelle’s time on Earth was nearly through, but Lauren knew that her dog’s memory would live on forever.

The Sun

On January 7th, 2015, Gizelle embarked on her final adventure and crossed the rainbow bridge. Though Lauren knew this moment would come, no amount of bucket list fun could’ve prepared her for the loss of her best friend.

Cosmopolitan

“Gizelle was the most sensitive and loving creature I’d ever known and words can’t explain how much I will miss her,” Lauren wrote. “We had many adventures together and I’ll carry her with me on more. Heaven has gained a beautiful doggy angel.”

lfernwatt / Instagram

Shortly after Gizelle’s passing, Lauren moved to California and found herself a new roommate in a thirty-pound Basenji mix named Bette. But even with a new pet to call her own and her days filled with new adventures, Gizelle was never far from Lauren’s mind.

Lauren Fern Watt / Facebook

Inspired by Gizelle’s life and the journey they’d shared, Lauren penned a novel about the bucket list that made their final days together so special. The book became an instant sensation, allowing Gizelle’s memory to live on not only in Lauren’s mind, but in those of people all over the world as well.

The Sun

Lauren’s book, Gizelle’s Bucket List: My Life With a Very Large Dog, published by Simon & Schuster, is available in print, e-book, and audiobook and was also recently optioned for film adaptation, proving that Gizelle’s story will continue to impact generations.

Anyone who owns a dog can tell you there are few greater feelings in the world than earning a few of their sloppy kisses or gentle nuzzles. Yet dogs can offer so much more than comfort and love. They truly are man’s best friend, after all!

And if you ask 11-year-old Bella Burton of Woburn, Massachusetts, she would say ‘best friend’ is a major understatement. Diagnosed with Morquio syndrome as a young child, Bella was forced to walk on crutches or use a wheelchair to get around.

The syndrome made it impossible for Bella to process certain sugar molecules that acted as lubricants or shock absorbers in her body. As a result, she had decreased mobility and a slew of other nasty symptoms. It affected her mood, too…

Boston Children’s Hospital

“I’m just like, ‘I don’t want this anymore,'” Bella told BarkPost. She couldn’t ride a bike; she couldn’t run. She couldn’t play the way that other kids her age did. Unfortunately, that was only the beginning of Bella’s heartbreaking situation.

Since Morquio syndrome was a progressive disease, it would only get worse as time went by; it was safe to say that Bella wasn’t getting better anytime soon. But then, mercifully, her fortune started to change…

“We had volunteered up at Service Dog Project for a little over a year,” Bella’s mother, Rachel, said. And that was where Bella first met an unlikely pal: a 130-pound Great Dane named George.

Steve and KAte’s Camp / YouTube

“One day Bella climbed up with George,” added Megan Korkaras, a trainer at Service Dog Project. “And the next thing you know, his head was in her lap, and he was just looking up at her like she was the best thing in the whole world.”

BARK / YouTube

Evidently, Bella noticed George’s affection, too. “I could tell he needed me,” Bella said. “And I needed him.” Delighted, the Burton family brought George home for the weekend to test the waters. Soon enough, he became Bella’s full-time service dog—with unbelievable results.

BARK / YouTube

With George, Bella only needed one crutch because the Great Dane himself served as the other! “I lean on him,” Bella explained. “He helps me walk. If I fall, I tell him ‘Brace!’ which means he will stand and won’t even budge, and I can pull myself up.”

BARK / YouTube

This feat wasn’t just visually impressive; it also strengthened Bella’s legs. The service dog even accompanied her to weekly enzyme replacement therapy. Rachel, of course, was delighted at the effect George’s presence was having on her daughter.

“We never thought she would be off crutches,” Rachel said. “And now she will go in the yard and play, even without George. To see how much stronger she’s gotten is awesome.” For Bella, there were no words to describe her feelings to George—but she tried.

People

“He’s always there for me,” she said. “And whenever I’m feeling sad or something, he’s always there. He knows, he just kind of comes over and leans over me… I pretty much love everything about him.”

TODAY

The unlikely duo never left each others’ sides. Even at school, George knew where all of Bella’s classes were and took naps in the back of the room while she sat at her desk! It was easy to see how this fundamentally changed the little girl…

“Bella was never really shy, but [George has] given her more confidence,” Rachel told People magazine. “She feels she fits in better with her peers than when she was on crutches or a wheelchair. She feels more confident about herself.” Naturally, Bella wanted to show her appreciation for her beloved pal.

So, her heart bursting with appreciation for her 130-pound savior, Bella entered George into BarkPost’s “Dog’s Best Day” contest. “George deserves this day,” Bella said, “because he works extremely hard.” But did this big lug stand a chance to win?

You betcha! After dubbing him the winner, the online publication rewarded George for his life-changing dedication to Bella. Their celebration of the Great Dane started at an unusual place, too: a burger joint!

BARK / YouTube

“George does not get to have people food because he is a service dog,” Bella said. But on his best day ever, all rules were waived—he got a tray of burgers all to himself! The best part? George’s best day ever was only just beginning!

BARK / YouTube

Next, organizers for George’s best day shut down an entire mountain for him and Bella. Being a playful pup, George went completely nuts, sprinting around in the snow like a madman and skipping beside Bella’s sled. It was hard to believe his day could get better…

BARK / YouTube

Bella and George then visited the canine equivalent of a candy store where George munched on treats and chewed on a bone so large there was no chance it ever belonged to an actual animal. The Great Dane was living a well-earned dream.

BARK / YouTube

“George is joyful,” Bella said of her dog. “And he’s always happy, and he’s always there to cheer you up.” Then, with all the confidence in the world, she added, “George is my best friend.”

BARK / YouTube

This Great Dane gave hope to a little girl who was struggling to enjoy the world around her because of her condition. He even helped make her stronger—both inside and out! Just watch Bella and George’s incredible friendship for yourself…

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