Amazing dog’s pet project: a Wes Anderson film

Wire fox terrier Bella rebounded from surgery to appear in “Moonrise Kingdom’’ with Bruce Willis and Bill Murray. Wire fox terrier Bella rebounded from surgery to appear in “Moonrise Kingdom’’ with Bruce Willis and Bill Murray. (Jennifer Rychlik)
By Mark Shanahan & Meredith Goldstein
Globe Staff / July 20, 2011

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One of the stars of the new Wes Anderson movie, which has been filming around Rhode Island for the past few months, is Bella, a wire fox terrier from Grafton. Bella’s owner, Lucia Hackett, who works in the human resources department at Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine, explains that her dog’s story is a pretty amazing one. We have to agree.

In March, Bella was diagnosed with an advanced mast cell tumor that had already moved to a lymph node. It did not look good. Hackett didn’t know how much she should fight the illness; she didn’t want to put her dog through unnecessary pain. It was Tufts vet Mary Labato who wound up recommending surgery. The veterinary internist knew the pup (her own dog had trained with Bella) and said that based on her own experiences with Bella, it was worth giving the dog the benefit of the doubt for recovery.

Around the same time, Hackett noticed on one of her pet listservs that Anderson was looking for a local, trained dog like Bella for “Moonrise Kingdom,’’ his movie with Bruce Willis, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, and Edward Norton. Feeling optimistic, Hackett submitted Bella’s name for the part. Bella had long been a show dog. She competed under the name Ch Hiwire Act at Hexham CD RE SE CGC (those letters stand for titles and wins), so Hackett figured Bella was just what the “Rushmore’’ director would be looking for.

Bella won the casting call. And even though the crew wound up filming just weeks after Bella’s surgery, the dog rallied for the role and happily filmed with the all-star cast for nine days in May and June. Hackett doesn’t know who Bella will play in the film; New England animal trainer Gleanna Doyle took Bella to work each day and watched her on set. (We hope she has some good scenes with Murray. We actually think she looks a little bit like him.)

Labato told us she’s not shocked that Bella not only recovered but went on to become a movie star. “Bella’s a great dog and she has a great will to live.’’