When going on her regular trip to the animal shelter to get her “fix” since she’d been missing her pets from home, biomedical sciences senior Bella Boone wasn’t expecting to become a pet parent until she met a pitbull named Baloo that changed her life.
Boone and Baloo’s relationship has grabbed the attention of many major publications such as The Dodo and Vogue as Boone’s posts of her life with Baloo earned the pair almost 800,000 followers combined on Instagram and TikTok (@bully.baloo).
Before Baloo, Boone never owned a large dog and said she wasn’t in a good enough mental state to own a dog, but the connection and love she felt for Baloo was greater than any reservations.
“Usually when I played with a dog, I could walk away feeling much better,” Boone said. “This time when I walked away, I felt like I was leaving a piece of me behind. I didn’t know why this dog felt so different from the others and I couldn’t explain it. This scrawny, overlooked, flea-bitten pitbull mix was tugging at my heartstrings so hard, I didn’t want to leave him.”
Boone said Baloo came into her life when she was her lowest, and she will spend the rest of his life trying to repay him for the light he has brought her.
“When I first adopted Baloo, I was grappling with one of the toughest times, mental health-wise, that I’d ever experienced in my life,” Boone said. “Adopting Baloo gave me a reason to get up in the morning, a reason to be a better person and a reason to keep active, healthy and happy.”
Having no intention of making Baloo an “influencer,” Boone said she created his Instagram so she could document their life together, but he soon gained a popularity she didn’t expect.
“Baloo’s account has officially become one of the biggest names in bully breed and rescue dog Instagram accounts,” Boone said. “It [is] absolutely surreal.”
Boone said brands like Swiffer, Barkbox, Sony and Petco began to reach out to her and Baloo for partnerships and campaigns. Baloo’s Instagram quickly became a part-time job for Boone, who loves highlighting the positive aspects of pitbulls.
“Gaining a following wasn’t my main goal, but it did help me accomplish some of my other ones,” Boone said. “I wanted bully breeds to be included in more pet-related campaigns. I wanted to challenge breed specific laws and, more than anything, I wanted people to see them as a pet, not a monster. Baloo has since become one of the most popular faces in bully breed advocacy, and my goals to challenge the stereotypes of his breed have grown even bigger.”
Boone said she encourages everyone to rescue an animal from the shelter because it can be a rewarding and life-changing experience.
“Rescue dogs cannot be replaced, because each one of them has been through something that makes each of them completely unique to the dog in the stall next to them,” Boone said. “Each of them has a story and a background, just like each of us, that sets them apart and makes them, them. Rescue, because you will never love anything more than you will love that dog.”