The nine-year-old German Shepherd whose plight shook social media circuits over the holidays is now in the care of a Utah-based shelter.
The uproar began earlier this month when word spread that Bela's late owner had stipulated in her will that he be taken to Best Friends Animal Society or euthanized.
After driving almost 1,800 miles across six states in 58 hours, Bela was welcomed Saturday at the shelter.
“It's wonderful to be able to welcome Bela here,” said Gregory Castle, chief executive officer of Best Friends Animal Society. “It speaks to our principle of valuing all animal life. In this case, there was potential for something terrible to happen, but we are set up to give him a great life and all indications are that he is a beautiful and wonderful dog.”
But it almost didn't end happily. Owner Connie Ley instructed the executor of her will to seek help from Best Friends or euthanize Bela (pronounced Bey-LAH) and have his ashes scattered with hers.
Animal lovers in cyberspace reacted with concern and anger.
The executor was not familiar with Best Friends so the story almost didn't end happily.
Bela had apparently exhibited some aggression - though it was not clear if this was toward people or other animals - and the owner, who was suffering from cancer, was worried that he might not find a permanent home.
Now Bela will work with the trainers and animal behavior specialists at Best Friends - many of the same individuals who patiently brought Michael Vick's dogs back from fighters to family pets.
But if Bela's behavior on the car ride is any indication, he appears not to have issues with people.
Best Friends spokesman Eric Rayvid described him as a "cupcake."
John Garcia, rapid response manager, Best Friends Animal Society, with Meghann Burke a Dogtown caregiver at Best Friends, drove Bela from Indiana to Utah.
“Bela is such an amazing dog,” said Garcia. “My hope for his future, that he's just happy and healthy. I'm honored to be a part of this. I've been following his story from day one, and to see him come clear across he country has been such an amazing event.”
For now Bela is settling in at Dogtown, the canine community at Best Friends. But Rayvid said the goal is to place Bela with a loving family.
Best Friends say the lesson learned from Bela's case is that people should plan for pets who survive them - the same way they plan for other members of their families.
A healthy dog was almost destroyed because an owner had not communicated her wishes to her executor, nor discussed the plan with Best Friends.
Pet owners should designate a guardian, preferably a family member in the event of their death.