At 3:30 a.m. Wednesday, Shell-B took her final breath. Badgero held her in his arms as she died.
“It’s a big shock,” Badgero said later that morning. “She was the icon of Grand Haven.”
The pair have long been considered local celebrities. Shell-B sparked a nationwide news frenzy in 2007 when surfers rescued her after she fell off the Grand Haven pier. Even before that, those walking along the Grand Haven channel often stopped to chat with Badgero and Shell-B as they made almost daily walks along the pier.
“It’s just something in the community you always expected to see – Jack and Shell-B under a shade tree along the boardwalk,” said Tonya Christiansen, owner of Must Love Dogs in downtown Grand Haven. “They were constant companions.”
Badgero, 62, plans to spread Shell-B’s ashes off the boardwalk and pier after the Coast Guard Festival. He also has a memorial service planned for Shell-B at noon Aug. 11 under the oak tree in Bicentennial Park. He asks folks to bring their pets to the service.
“She was a part of the family,” Badgero said, expressing his sadness at his companion’s departure.
Word spread quickly of Shell-B’s death.
Carol Cooper said she saw Badgero walking in downtown Grand Haven on Wednesday morning without Shell-B, and she instantly knew something had happened.
“Everywhere he was, the dog was right there,” she said, tears flowing down her cheeks. “She was always right by his side.”
Cooper, who frequently walks along the boardwalk, often stopped to talk with the pair and take pictures. During the last year or so, she noticed Shell-B walked a little slower and rested more often.
Christiansen said it’s obvious the two were best friends.
“It’s really heartbreaking to know she’s no longer with him,” she said. “It makes you want to hug your dogs extra tight.”
Read about Shell-B’s last days on the Living Local page inside Saturday’s Tribune. Saturday’s tribute story on the pair was completed last week and printed in advance, prior to Shell-B’s death.