Bella, a Shih Tzu, has become an online sensation with regular updates about her life on the Fylde coast – including her latest heartwarming mission to support her owners, Barbara and Peter Naylor, through a difficult time in their lives.
Barbara, 64, has been going through gruelling chemotherapy treatment since February after being diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer.
The shock diagnosis prompted Peter to set himself a cycling challenge to raise funds for a cancer charity – and sweet rescue dog Bella soon became his number one cheerleader on her Twitter account @Bellashihtzuace.
Peter, 65, signed up to cycle 250 miles in May for Maggie’s Centres, a charity that provides free cancer support in centres across the UK, but he smashed the target and ended up covering 303 miles and raising £2,315.
The couple, from St Annes, say they are overwhelmed by the support from local people as well as Bella’s Twitter fans.
Peter said: “Barbara was admitted to Royal Preston Hospital for surgery to remove an ovarian cyst.
“Unfortunately, the diagnosis after the surgery was that she needed to undergo a course of chemotherapy to treat her ovarian cancer that had reached stage 3.
“When I found out that Maggie's Centres were doing a charity cycle month during May, I asked Bella to be my coach
"I knew that without her training, I would never cycle 250 miles during May.”
“So she made sure that she got my legs moving every day and by May 18 I had actually completed 250 miles.
“I didn't stop there, and went on to cover 303 miles.”
When Peter started the cycling challenge, he set a sponsorship target of £150. This was met in just a few days along the coastal route between Lytham and Fleetwood so Bella spread the word to her 14,000 followers on Twitter.
Peter added: “Bella is part of the #dogsoftwitter gang as @Bellashihtzuace.
“Donations came in from UK, USA, Canada and, of course, from family, friends and neighbours.
“As the month came to a close my total raised was £2,315.”
Barbara has been responding well to her treatment and it is hoped she won’t need further surgery at this point.
She will need to complete her course of chemotherapy and will then be closely monitored for five years.
She said: “I haven't yet visited a Maggie’s Centre as I haven't been able to travel. However, I fully intend to visit one when I'm able to, and hopefully benefit from their support.
“Peter has achieved amazing results with his cycling. I'm so very proud of him. As well as his superb caring skills, which have really come to the fore during my illness, he has proved to be a very successful fund-raiser.
“We have been overwhelmed by the amount of people who have sponsored Peter.
"Some have donated to Maggie’s Centres because of Bella's tweets, even though we do not know them. We've also had great practical support from our lovely neighbours.”
For more information, visit https://www.maggies.org/