Triumph of a Survivor: A Year of Remarkable Recovery Leads a Drowning German Shepherd to a Loving Home

A German Shepherd who nearly drowned after her owners tied her to a rock and threw her in the river has found a new home after months of recovering at an animal centre.

Bella, 11, was rescued from the River Trent in January last year by passer-by Jane Harper who saw her flailing in the water, where she had been struggling for hours after being left to die.

After 15 months of rehabilitation with the RSPCA, the 11-year-old dog has now found a new home in South Derbyshire with Maggie Mellish, 79, and Charlie Douglas, 70, following a TV appeal.

The retired couple are described as a ‘perfect match’ for Bella, with Charlie revealing:  ‘We were horrified by what happened to Bella and when we came to see her we realised what a great personality she has and she really is perfect for us.’

German Shepherd Bella, pictured, has found a new forever home after a 14 months-long appeal after her former owner tried to drown her by leaving her in the River Trent with a rock tied to her neck

Heroic passerby Jane Harper, pictured, managed to pull Bella out of the water at the time of the incident 

Bella was said to be fortunate to survive her ordeal in the freezing cold water and it was later discovered that she had a range of complex health needs.

Bella’s former owner Charlene Latham, 32, was sentenced to a 12 months community order last month after she pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to her pet.

She was also fined £80, ordered to pay £200 costs and a £32 victim surcharge and disqualified from keeping dogs for three years at Nottingham Magistrates Court.

The court heard how Bella’s owner Latham, now living in Ilfracombe, Devon, had begged her ex-partner Leigh Johnson, 33, not to drown the dog. But Latham did not go and get help.

The RSPCA said it did not have enough evidence to prosecute Johnson who denied the charge.

Bella was found up to her neck in water in the River Trent in Farndon, Nottinghamshire, in January last year 

At the time of the incident, locals jumped in to help Bella, with one man placing several towels on top of her to warm her up 

Ella Carpenter, manager at Radcliffe Animal Centre, described the incident during an appearance on This Morning last month.

‘There was a deliberate attempt to drown her’, said Ella, ‘Thrown into the river Trent in the middle of the night.

‘She spent hours there until thankfully two dog walkers spotted her moving and her eyes flicker in the water around eight o’clock in the morning. They acted quickly they got into the water very bravely.

‘They pulled her out and upon doing that discovered that she was tied to a rock and the enormity of what was a deliberate attempt to drown her hit home and they called the police and they got her to a local veterinary surgeon and then here to start her recovery.’

A police officer pictured showing the rock which Bella’s cruel former owner had attached to her leash to drown her

After seeing the appeal in the press, Maggie and Charlie got in touch with the animal centre.

Maggie said: ‘We as a family, have three Shepherd-type dogs over the last 30 years and really love them.

‘We lost our rescue dog Tia/Luna two years ago and my daughter’s dog Flame, this year. We did really miss them.

‘Then we saw Bella’s story in the press a few weeks ago and the fact she needed a home so my daughter, Clare Lusher, encouraged us to apply for her.

Bella was taken under the care of the RSPCA after the incident, who nursed her back to health (pictured in an ambulance after her near drawning)


Bella resting after her ordeal in 2020. The pup has now fully recovered and lives happier days with her new owners 

Yesterday, the couple went to enjoy some time with their new pet – at the centre which has cared for her – ahead of her moving in with them today.

Bella’s rescuers, Jane and her friend Joanne Bellamy, were also invited along to Radcliffe Animal Centre in Nottingham to witness the happy occasion.

Jane said: ‘It is quite emotional seeing Bella as it brings back memories of that terrible day but we are thrilled to see how she has been transformed by staff here at the RSPCA.

‘She looks like a different dog – her coat is beautiful and she looks so happy and full of life.

‘It is great to see how she has been rehabilitated and that she is now going to spend the rest of her days at a loving home.

Bella was later transferred into the care of the RSPCA Radcliffe Animal Centre in Nottingham where she fought back to good health 

Jane Harper, left and Joanne Bellamy, who helped rescue Bella were reunited with her as she was adopted by a loving new family 

‘It was so nice to meet Bella’s new owners and we have said we will keep in touch.’

Meanwhile Ella added: ‘This is the perfect happy ending to a story which started off so sad and there were real doubts if Bella could pull through after her terrible ordeal.

‘At times we thought she just wouldn’t make it, with her age and underlying health conditions all against her.

‘But Bella has fought every day, showing enviable strength and courage, not wanting to give up her fight to recover.

Sophie Major, an animal care assistant at the Radcliffe Animal Centre in Nottingham, pictured  with Bella now

Bella with Ella Carpenter, the manager of the Radcliffe Animal Centre ,who pleaded for new owners to take notice of the pup on This Morning in March

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