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27 heartwarming pics of a man taking his dog on a farewell trip.

Robert is making sure Bella lives out the rest of her days as a happy dog.

When Robert Kugler found out his beloved chocolate lab, Bella, had cancer — he knew what he had to do.

Image by Robert Kugler/Instagram.


Robert adopted Bella as a puppy. She's now 9 years old, or about 63 if you're counting in human years.

In May, a veterinarian told Robert that what he initially thought was a shoulder injury was actually cancer and that it had spread to Bella's lungs. The doctor had to amputate one of Bella's legs and told Robert she had three to six months to live.

That was 14 months ago.

Determined to show Bella the same kind of unconditional love she had shown him throughout her life, Robert hit the road to give her the farewell tour of her doggie dreams.

He tells Upworthy it's not everyday you get to just pack up, get behind the wheel, and go, but after losing two siblings in nine years, he began to look at time as being much more valuable than money.

As for Bella, he says, "She teaches me lessons every day, and I am so blessed to spend my time with her."

Here are 27 of the most heartwarming photos from Bella's farewell tour:

1. Bella running on a beach in Florida.

Image by Robert Kugler/Instagram.

2. Taking in a sunrise in the Sunshine State.

Image by Robert Kugler/Instagram.

3. Trying to stay cool in Tybee Island, Georgia.

Image by Robert Kugler/Instagram.

4. Bella getting her "country on" in Nashville, Tennessee.

Image by Robert Kugler/Instagram.

5. At Land Between the Lakes in Kentucky and Tennessee.

Image by Robert Kugler/Instagram.

6. At the Mark Twain National Forest in southern Missouri.

Image by Robert Kugler/Instagram.

7. At the Parthenon in Nashville.

Image by Robert Kugler/Instagram.

8. At Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina.

Image by Robert Kugler/Instagram.

9. Bella making friends with a dog named Timber on a beach in Florida.

Image by Robert Kugler/Instagram.

10. At Central Park in New York City

Image by Robert Kugler/Life Illustrated, used with permission.

11. Visiting a fallen firefighter memorial outside the Arkansas State Capitol.

Image by Robert Kugler/Instagram.

12. Making friends at summer camp in Missouri.

Image by Robert Kugler/Instagram.

13. Posing outside an abandoned barn in Nebraska.

Image by Robert Kugler/Instagram.

14. And letting her tongue hang out in Tybee Island.

Image by Robert Kugler/Instagram.

15. Here, Bella cools off in a river.

Image by Robert Kugler/Instagram.

16. And going swimming in South Beach.

Image by Robert Kugler/Life Illustrated, used with permission.

17. Visiting Savannah, Georgia.

Image by Robert Kugler/Instagram.

18. And Neptune Beach in Florida.

Image by Robert Kugler/Instagram.

19. And the Southernmost Point Buoy.

Image by Robert Kugler/Instagram.

20. Here's Bella being a champion at the Rocky Steps in Philadelphia.

Image by Robert Kugler/Instagram.

21. Bella and Robert at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Image by Robert Kugler/Instagram.

22. Outside the original "Cheers" bar in Boston. Do they make beer for dogs?

Image by Robert Kugler/Instagram.

23. At Acadia National Park in Maine.

Image by Robert Kugler/Instagram.

24. Taking in Niagara Falls.

Image by Robert Kugler/Life Illustrated, used with permission.

25. Posing in front of "Jaws"-inspired street art in Detroit.

Image by Robert Kugler/Instagram.

26. Posing with her best friend, Robert, of course.

Image by Robert Kugler/Life Illustrated, used with permission.

27. And, most importantly, here's Bella enjoying every second of the wind in her face on this amazing road trip with her favorite human.

Image by Robert Kugler/Instagram.

You can't put a price tag on the type of love, loyalty, and companionship a pet provides, and these incredibly moving photographs prove it.

The bond between Robert and his "Bella girl" is truly special. In spite of Bella having cancer and only three legs, Robert says, she begs to be in the car nearly every time she's awake.

You can follow this dynamic duo's road trip adventures on Robert's Instagram, and he says they've got no plans of slowing down anytime soon because "right now ... sharing the love of this dog with the world has become my new purpose."

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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