The English translation of Paula’s article in the newspaper (

A year and a half ago, I stopped working as a veterinarian. Most of you will know me by name or perhaps personally: Paula Hendriks. For 25 years, I have cared for animals and their people with all my heart and soul. I thought it was a great profession and I still think it is.

In September 2019 I sold my clinic, Dierenkliniek Zuiderkaag. I could continue to work in ‘my’ clinic until I retired, without having to spend time and energy on peripheral matters. That seemed great to me. Just being busy with my passion, making animals better, and supporting their people.

It turned out differently. I was soon unable to work the way I wanted to and at the end of February 2020 I even came to a point where it was no longer possible at all, I had to drop out and ended up sitting at home. A few weeks later, the whole world was confronted with the first corona lockdown. In a short time, I went from 200% full speed to 0% and silence.

In the years that I spent 60 to 70 hours working weeks with great pleasure in my work, I met so many beautiful animals and their people. The countless memories will stay in my heart forever.

In February 2011, Irene van Raadshooven and Little Belle, a tiny 3 kg dog, came into my life. Irene takes care of dogs that are scarred by life. She brings them back in touch with the zest for life they have hidden somewhere and teaches them to feel the love for life again. Irene has many wonderful stories about all of her dogs. We immediately had a bond with each other and that has only been strengthened over the years.

Little Belle has lived in a puppy mill in Portugal for almost 12 years. She sat there in a concrete pen with only one goal: to give birth to puppies. She never saw daylight, food and drink were sporadically present, every day on a cold surface in a tiny cage. It was hell. At the age of 12, she was freed. Shortly afterward she came to live with Irene in the Netherlands and she finally came home.

She hadn’t been with Irene that long when she had to have surgery on her teeth; it was so bad it was even life-threatening. We had our doubts because she was still recovering. However, the inflammations and abscesses in her mouth were so dangerous that we actually had our backs against the wall and we decided to go for it. That almost didn’t end well. Shortly after the surgery, her breathing and heart stopped. What followed was a strenuous and emotional resuscitation. It couldn’t be that this little, brave dog would die now, the moment she finally found love, light, warmth, and friendship. Luckily we were able to get her back to life. I still feel moved when I think about that moment. A few hours later she was able to go home.

Shortly after, I had to remove one of her eyes because of untreatable glaucoma. Years later, the second eye followed because of the same problem.

In all the years I’ve seen Little Belle and Irene together, I’ve felt how much they meant to each other, how much they loved each other. Irene gave Belle a life full of light, helped her overcome fears, and let her walk around full of life, and conversely, Belle gave the same to Irene.

Without eyes, Belle still saw so much. Her big heart was beating for Irene and her canine family. I was able to fully enjoy it and developed a close bond with this special little dog.

Pretty soon Little Belle had her own Facebook page with many tens of thousands of followers all over the world and her own website. She gave people hope, support, love and shared a beautiful zest for life. Just by being who she was and by sharing her daily experiences. When she lost her eyes, she still saw so much and gave just as much inspiration as before.

Irene has described their life, experiences, and the powerful message within, in a book. When I sat at home for a few months, Irene asked me if I wanted to proofread the book before it was published. She wanted to know how I felt about it and also asked me to look at the veterinary parts. It was written in English, and I’ve enjoyed it so much. The setup is so special. In one chapter Irene tells her story, the next Belle, and so on. I have shed many tears.

I asked Irene if the book would also be published in Dutch. No, that was not her intention as it would entail too many costs. I didn’t hesitate for a moment, I wanted to pick this up. I am neither a writer nor a translator, but at least I could try. I didn’t want anything for it, I just thought it was wonderful to give it a chance. The circumstances made me sit at home, the world was in lockdown, so no better time to do something so beautiful.

I think it is very important that this story is widely read, that the message of Little Belle, Irene, and the puppy mills is told. After the translation, the Dutch people will also be able to read the magical story about hope, healing and love.

Irene would like to publish the book in the Netherlands around Christmas this year, 2021; a wonderful message to find under the Christmas tree. The English version has recently been released.

Paula Hendriks

Little Belle: Where love is magic happens.

An inspiring journey of hope, healing and magic.                 The inspiring story of Little Belle will touch your heart.                 Book trailer.               Website about Little Belle and the Sanctuary in memory of her.