Apparently This Matters: This one dog in Charleston

Story highlights

  • Carlos Morales posted a popular picture of a dog on Reddit
  • Bellini set out to find this dog in Charleston, South Carolina
  • Frank Barnwell and his daughter Sally tell CNN about their dog, Belle

A dog's life is fairly easy. It usually involves waking up late, eating some food and then passing out for eight hours in the backyard.

I've tried it a few times, myself. Wasn't disappointed.

The rest of a dog's day is generally spent whizzing on various plants and mindlessly staring at things that pass by the house.

Again, I've dabbled in the lifestyle. And I approve.

But there's this one dog in Charleston, South Carolina, who just seems to have it better than most. And I recently got to meet her.

I first learned of Belle when I saw a popular picture of her on the website Reddit. It was posted in a section called "aww" that is dedicated to all things cute and adorable -- puppies, bunnies, Canadians doing Canadian things in Canada.

"Apparently This Matters" Is Jarrett Bellini's weekly (and somewhat random) look at social-media trends.

The photo showed Belle staring out from under a gate, and the title read: Waiting for his family to return in Charleston, SC [OC]. It got dozens of comments.

In Reddit parlance, [OC] means Original Content, which is to say the individual who posted the image actually created it. This was helpful when it came to tracking down the whereabouts of this dog (who we now know is actually a female).

You see, I was going to Charleston over Thanksgiving and was looking for a pointless adventure -- something that would take me to a particular part of town I may not have otherwise seen. And I figured trying to find this dog from Reddit was as good enough an adventure as any.

So, I messaged the guy who took the photograph and learned that his name is Carlos Morales, 31, of Gainesville, Florida.

Carlos and his girlfriend, Nia Haynes, were driving home from vacation and decided to stop and spend the night in Charleston. While wandering around the historic neighborhoods near The Battery, Carlos stumbled upon Belle.

"He seemed like the kind of dog quite used to this routine," Carlos wrote me. "But not anxious about his family returning. Just slightly forlorn."

Carlos didn't know the exact location of the house, but he sent me a link to an approximate street view on Google Maps. Eventually, I sorted out the actual address on my own, thus exhausting my brain's entire lifetime supply of deductive reasoning.

I treated myself to a nap.

Finally, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I walked up to Belle's house and knocked on the old door leading into the courtyard.

Mind you, this kind of bold, unsolicited introduction is the kind of thing you can do when you're a serious journalist hoping to write a fluff piece on somebody's dog. Otherwise, it's sort of creepy.

Though, to be fair, even with my CNN business card in hand, it was still probably kind of creepy. I'm a mouth breather.

Nevertheless, Frank Barnwell politely greeted me at the door along with Belle, who was carrying a boot in her mouth. It was Frank's boot. Which is to say, it was now Belle's.

Her official name is Belle de la Lumière. In French that translates to Belle of the Light. I learned she was actually born on New Year's Eve 2002, just around the corner from Frank's home. This year she turns 11.

And speaking of 11, that was the exact number of yellow lab puppies in her litter. Belle was the runt.

Frank's daughter, Sally, was friends with one of the children who lived around the corner from where Belle was born. The mother of the friend called up Frank's wife and said, "I hate to tell you this, but Sally's fallen in love with one of our puppies."

Frank says, "We knew our goose was cooked."

And right as he told me this, just like clockwork, Sally suddenly emerged through the courtyard door, returning from a jog.

Sally, a history student at the University of Virginia, remembers first meeting Belle, and that most of the puppies were named after characters from the hit TV show, "Friends." Which, sadly, means somebody out there has a dog named Ross.

But when the breeders ran out of "Friends" characters, they started using Disney names. Belle, being the runt, was originally called Tinker Bell.

And names are important. If you've ever adopted a dog you know how influential they can be.

My dog is Mikey, and when I first found him online and saw his name, I figured it was a sign. I'm a big fan of the band Widespread Panic, and their late guitarist also went by Mikey. Clearly, it was meant to be.

Of course, Mikey (my dog) was also really cute. So, at the time, I pretty much could've justified any name.

"This is Polio."

"I'll take him."

But Belle seems to fit this particular dog quite nicely, and these days she spends most of her time in the courtyard of the historic 200-year-old house, looking out at tourists walking down the street. It's pretty much her job.

And, though she only recently earned a bit of Internet fame on Reddit, it's certainly not the first time Belle has come under the lens.

Frank says, "Literally almost every day I see somebody taking a picture of her with her nose under the gate."

In the South of Broad neighborhood of Charleston, Belle is sort of a big deal. Everybody knows her, and she's an important member of the community. In fact, Belle recently escaped from the yard during the annual Turkey Day Run 5K, and, just like a local, simply joined all the joggers running down King Street.

Another time, she got out of the yard and spent the entire day riding around in a pedicab.

"The guy had her in the back and was trying to figure out where she belonged," Sally remembers. "I don't think she wanted to come back. She made a friend."

Frank chimes in, "Belle likes all dogs and most people."

Just don't take her boot.

Follow @JarrettBellini on Twitter.

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