Man takes dog with cancer on cross-country road trip

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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Studies will try to explain the bond between a dog and its owner, but all you have to do is see a man and Bella together to know that bond is unbreakable.

Imagine a drive down a lonely highway, nothing but blue waters surrounding you. Now who do you imagine taking the drive with? For Robert Kugler, that drive was with his chocolate lab Bella. Their journey has turned into a cross country trip of a lifetime.

The pair was in Florida when WOWT 6 News caught up with them on Skype.

"I just didn't want her to be gone one day when I came home,” said Kugler.

Rob adopted Bella as a puppy 9 years ago, so he was devastated to learn last May that a shoulder injury was actually cancer.

“They said this is the worst news I could give you; she had advanced osteosarcoma and it's already in her lungs so you need to either take her leg today or put her down,” said Kugler.

Bella was given just three to six months to live. Her leg was amputated. Fresh out of school, Kugler decided not to go to work, but to make the last months of Bella’s life her very best.

"I feel like right now this is my purpose. It's the chapter in my life right now is just exploring with my dog,” he said.

Kugler, who is a Marine vet, began with a simple trip to the Marine Corps Ball in Chicago but they kept going east.

They’ve gone from one state after another; to Cleveland then Niagara Falls in Upstate New York then south to the City of Love and a stop in D.C. to soak up some history. They went south to soak up sun and stopped for a little game of baseball at Turner Field.

Kugler said with every city, there has been a new adventure. Kugler and Bella took turns camping out in his 4Runner and staying with friends.

Along the way, they’ve inspired strangers.

“’Please don't stop, keep going’. ‘In any way that we can help let us know.’ And the biggest way is just to have a place to crash when we hit their area,” Kugler explained.

He's dealt with a lot of deaths of close loved ones this decade, so this journey is helping him too. He hopes it might inspire others to dare to live.

"I just saw firsthand what happens when you don't do what you want to do in your life and that's that you don't get to do it,” said Kugler.

Bella was given at most 6 months, but she’s now at 14 months. Kugler says he's not sure when the tour will end. Follow their journey at rklifeillustrated.com and instagram.com/robkugler.