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Photo: Alonso Nichols

Dog Star

An award-winning career. A triumphant return from retirement. A battle with a life-threatening illness. A starring role in a film that’s getting Oscar buzz. A nomination at Cannes. In her ten years, Bella, a wirehair fox terrier, has seen enough drama to warrant a tell-all on the E! television network.

“I fell in love with Bella at first sight,” Lucia Hackett, a senior human resources representative at Tufts’ Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, says of the retired show dog she bought from a breeder. Hackett soon put the pooch back on the dog show circuit, this time in the veterans’ ring. Their life together seemed unfailingly sunny until last April, when veterinarians at Tufts’ Foster Hospital for Small Animals found cancer in Bella’s abdomen. Rob McCarthy, V83, a Tufts veterinary surgeon, removed the tumor and two lymph glands, one of which was malignant.

Resolutely optimistic about Bella’s recovery, Hackett submitted photos of her to an online casting call for a new film. Bella nabbed the role, and four weeks after her surgery, she was on set in Newport, Rhode Island, with Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, and Tilda Swinton to make Moonrise Kingdom, this summer’s quirky hit—directed by Wes Anderson—about two runaway teenagers. She played “Snoopy,” the mascot of the Boy Scout troop intent on tracking down the pair.

According to Indiewire, a daily film news site, Moonrise Kingdom has a shot at Academy Awards for best picture, best director, and best original screenplay. And in May, Bella scored a coveted nomination all her own—for the Cannes Film Festival’s Palm Dog Award, which recognizes excellence in canine actors. Cornered by paparazzi from the Worcester Telegram, Hackett observed that in the end, her pet did not win the prize, but noted: “It’s an honor just to be nominated.”

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