Hurt to Healing: The Inspirational Story of Bellin, A Rescued Siberian Husky Who Became A K9 Therapist
“A butterfly always reminds that there is always beauty
While National Therapy Animal Day is held on the last day of the month of April, every day is a day to honor Therapy Animals for all that they do to help others.
Over the years, I, along with my beloved FiveSibes, have met and become friends with so many wonderful Siberian Husky, northern breed dog, Therapy dog, and Epi-dog families. Some we met in person, some virtually. Regardless of how we met, the relationships we build are so important and ones I have always cherished. Now that the "we" here has now become "me " representing the "we," who are my #ForeverFiveSibes, I am carrying on our original mission of highlighting the amazing Siberian Husky in all of its glory, both as a working dog and as a family dog, whether rescued or raised, and ones with special challenges as well as healthy Sibes. As my motto on my show "The Sibe Vibe" states, "If it is about a Siberian Husky, we'll chat about it!"
"Bellin had been recently beaten badly, weak and lethargic, battered and bruised: he seemed to have no spirit, no spunk; almost catatonic. He was emaciated, about 30% underweight. His coat was missing huge sections of hair and what hair he did have was about as bad as you might expect. He appeared to be about 3.5 years old and appeared to have lived this way his whole life," explains the Fontenots. "Bellin’s bellows were described as 'haunting.' Whether it was cries of terror and fear when being beat, or hollow howls of pain and hunger when abandoned, it was more than anybody could take."
Bellin helped heal others and brought thousands of smiles over the years to the faces of
children, veterans, the elderly, and everyone else he met along the way of his very special journey.
In April 2020, Marcella Hayes,
Assistant Program Director at the Children's Bereavement Center of South Texas (CBCST) reflected upon the years of service Bellin gave. “Bellin
is fully retired now and he will be missed, but because of his
tenderness with children, he will never be forgotten.”
The Benefits of a Therapy Animal
According to the Mayo Clinic in Pet Therapy: Animals as Healers, "Animal-assisted therapy can significantly reduce pain, anxiety, depression and fatigue in people with a range of health problems."
The benefits of a Therapy Animal are many, and not just for people who have the health problems. "Family members and friends who sit in on animal visits say they feel better, too. Pet therapy is also being used in non-medical settings, such as universities and community programs, to help people deal with anxiety and stress."
I had the pleasure of speaking with Bellin's loving family, Steven and Kassia, on a past episode of my show "The Sibe Vibe" that aired back in 2014 on Dog Works Radio, when Bellin was rising to the top of his career. To listen to Bellin's amazing story from abused Husky to a Therapy Dog, tune in here. It's a great story and tribute to an amazing Siberian Husky and his family.
Over his years of working, Bellin has compiled "over 575 official visits; 1,200 logged therapy hours; and close to that in rescue volunteer hours, bringing love and comfort with children in crisis all over San Antonio, Texas. Specializing in the fields of abuse and grief recovery, Bellin gave back what he, himself, received.”
~Steven & Kassia Fontenot of Team Bellin
Bellin’s Hu-Parents and Handlers
From Cruelty to Coronation, And In Between
Bellin's story and work has been covered by the media from TV to podcasts to magazines. He has visited and participated in so many events over his career. According to Team Bellin, he was even honored "for his dedication and commitment to the children of San Antonio" as the 2018 King Anbarkio.
If you are not familiar with these events, this is all quite the big howl! According to Team Bellin, there are two royal canine positions for each Fiesta San Antonio season. "King Anbarkio," sponsored by the Therapy Animals of San Antonio and "The Court of El Rey Fido" sponsored by the San Antonio Humane Society. A little background: according to the Fiesta San Antonio, "Fiesta® San Antonio started in 1891 as a one-parade event to honor the memory of the heroes of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto. Fiesta® has grown into a celebration of San Antonio’s rich and diverse cultures." Fiesta has grown so much, that the Fontenots explain how it has become "a massive 10-day, 100+ citywide event! Each event is to benefit a local charity or cause. There is nothing quite like it anywhere." And the Fiesta events draw hundreds of thousands visitors!
"Royal" Bellin Raises Funds for Other Pets in Need...
"What people don't know is that Bellin Bellin (made) Fiesta history as the only dog to have held both royal canine positions," notes the Fontenots. And, in 2015, "Bellin was inaugurated into the Court of El Rey Fido for raising over $20K so other dogs and cats could get a second chance at happiness just like he did."
Letter to U.S. Veterans From Bellin Bellin:
"A very special THANK YOU to all our wonderful Veterans,
Your service, your honor, your sacrifices are the reasons we all get to
live a life of freedom. We
have cherished every moment and memory of our therapy work with you and
your families. Whether visiting with a wounded serviceman (or woman),
supporting your children after a loss, or spending the holidays with your
families while you are away at station ... it is an honor to give a
little bit of that support back. We can all find some way to give a
little back." ~Team Bellin
Being a Pet Therapist is Such an Important Role.
“Bellin’s journey said everything about the bond between
humans and dogs," says Annie Peters, President and CEO of Pet Partners. "First neglected and hurt by the worst of humanity, his
rescue was a story of hurt to healing. As he came to trust Steve and
Kassia, his true self emerged. The pictures of his transformation are
breathtaking. Going on to pay that healing forward, Bellin brought hope
to so many people, never looking back and showing what unconditional
love and a connection can do for people in need.”
While it is with great sadness that Bellin earned his furangel wings on the last day of this past March, he will be loved forever and missed by so many for the help and joy he brought to those in their time of need. Bellin's legacy will live on through the many lives he has touched.
In a message to supporters and friends of Bellin, his loving furparents, Steven and Kassia, shared these words, "It ended as it began...with a kiss. Bellin Bellin passed gently away in our arms, sharing his love until the very end. With wings made of your love, Bellin's spirit has ascended into the heavens. May his loving light forever shine down upon us all."
Adds Annie Peters, "As the leading therapy animal organization, Pet Partners was proud to have Bellin as a volunteer and such an impactful ambassador."
Bellin's story is a truly remarkable one of how a severely abused, beaten, lethargic, and an almost death row dog, was not only rescued, but channeled his own abuse into helping others, becoming a loving registered Pet Partners Therapy Dog, and a true K9 hero to so many.
So the next time you see a dog in a shelter who may at first glance not look "beautiful" ~ think of Bellin and all the beauty that was within him and through the Texas Husky Rescue that stepped in to help him, and his loving family, the Fontenots, that beauty emerged as he was given such a wonderful life full of love that led to his becoming a happy, healthy, gorgeous Therapy Dog.
Bellin left behind a wonderful legacy of "pawing it forward" to help others through their grief and anxiety by sharing his love, and often with a lot of Husky kisses! Bellin was a special boy--a dog who through his own experiences with abuse, grief, and finally love, was able to lead the way for people in need to a brighter day, one filled with moments of joy, as only a loving dog can do.
Bellin pictured in front of the beautiful butterfly bench at the Children's Bereavement Center of South Texas. The bench holds special meaning and was gifted by Zak Williams, the son of Robin Williams who was the guest speaker at the Center's 20th anniversary luncheon in 2017. According to their site, "He was so touched by our mission and facility that shortly after returning home, he gifted the center with this beautiful butterfly bench that our children get to enjoy in the outdoor space."