Faced with a grim diagnosis for his beloved pooch, a Nebraska man decided that it was time for one last epic road trip.
Robert Kugler and his dog, chocolate Lab Bella, have traveled up and down the entire country on the bucket list of a lifetime.
The two began their journey this past spring after vets diagnosed Bella with cancer. It was then that Kugler began devising a plan to enjoy the most amount of quality time with his much loved canine.
The cancer forced Bella to have her leg amputated, but even on three limbs, she's unstoppable.
“Bella definitely has a lot of eagerness to explore," Kugler told InsideEdition.com. "She wants to be with me pretty much wherever I’m going.
Robert adopted Bella when she was a puppy nearly nine years ago, and their connection was instant.
“She came right over and put her paws up and then came back and put her paws up again, she basically chose me,” Kugler said.
He added: "She also communicates very well, always tells me when she wants to eat and says 'ruff ruff' on a time schedule."
After Bella started limping in the spring of 2015, Kugler took her to a vet, who revealed the dog had bone cancer and had just months to live. It was then that he felt he needed to take action.
“I realized I wanted to explore the country. Bella’s happy to go wherever and she could do a lot of what we’re doing in one place, but I hadn’t been on the east coast that much or traveled out west and I wanted to take Bella with me. I couldn’t imagine the trip without her,” Kugler said.
Robert and Bella’s bucket list included trips to Zion and Bryce Canyon in Utah and cities throughout the Midwest. They also headed up and down the northeast, visiting Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts.
The trip also led them to Buffalo and Niagara in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Savannah.
Kugler admits there can be obstacles for a dog with three legs when hitting the road.
He said: "Sometimes city travel can be a little difficult, just because it’s harder to find somewhere to stay. For the most part mine and Bella’s interests align, except if I want to go to a museum or indoors to a restaurant, but we work around it. We do a lot of research online before we go."
But all things considered, he says: "Bella makes for a great travel companion... She loves to hang her head out the window and to explore and sniff."
So far reactions to their trip have been extremely positive. Around the country, Bella and Kugler have made lasting connections to others who are now following their journey on social media.
“Everyone’s been supportive and asked how to follow our story and how they can help,” said Robert.
With so many trips already under their belt (and collar), the pair have their sights set on seeing Yellowstone National Park.
As Bella's condition worsens, Kugler knows their journey will inevitably come to a close when she's no longer able to keep up.
“I’m just going to keep going until Bella gets too sick," he said. "When I pet her belly I can feel little tumors on her chest and the cancer in her lungs is spreading outward.”
For now, Bella and Robert are enjoying as much time as they can.
“We all come from the same place and we’re all headed to the same place, so I just want to enjoy the moments we have here together,” said Kugler.
He added: "When I’m with her, I feel like we’re the same. Bella’s a stranger to no one and a friend to everyone. I think we can all be more like Bella”
To view photos from their journey, click here.