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Grafton Pet Becomes Hollywood Top Dog

Bella gets four paws-up for her latest movie role.

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.

In her 10 years, Bella, a wirehair fox terrier, already has seen enough drama to warrant her own sensational tell-all on the E! television network, according to a recent article in the Fall 2011 Tufts Veterinary Medicine magazine.

“I fell in love with Bella at first sight,” says North Grafton resident Lucia Hackett of the retired show dog she purchased from a breeder. Bella (or Ch Hiwire Act at Hexham CD RE SE CGC, as the title-winning terrier is officially known) and Hackett began obedience work and soon started showing, this time in the veterans’ ring.

Life seemed unfailingly sunny. Then last April, Hackett brought Bella to with gastrointestinal issues. Veterinarians found a lump in her abdomen: a mast cell tumor, a common type of skin cancer in dogs.

“I couldn’t believe Bella was so sick,” said Hackett. “I love this dog, and I never want to see her suffer.”

Rob McCarthy, a veterinary surgeon at Tufts, removed the tumor and two lymph glands, one of which was malignant. Five days later, Bella was back home.

“I didn’t want her climbing stairs, so I decided to sleep with her on the kitchen floor,” said Hackett. “Later that night, she came to lick my ear. Her tail was wagging, and I think she was saying, ‘I’m home.’ ”

Determined to be optimistic about Bella’s recovery, Hackett submitted some photos of her pet to a casting call posted online for a new Wes Anderson film.

Anderson, who received Academy Award nominations for "The Royal Tenenbaums" and "The Fantastic Mr. Fox," cast Bella in his seventh movie, "Moonrise Kingdom.''

Four weeks after her surgery, Bella was on set in Newport, R.I., with actors Bill Murray, Bruce Willis and Tilda Swinton. The film, about two runaways, is already garnering Oscar chatter.

Far from the glare of Tinseltown, Hackett is content to simply enjoy more time with Bella: “I hug her especially tight each day.”

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