Bella Lost in the Woods by Chris Green

Bella

Photo by Brad McClenny / Gainesville Sun

This week’s TRUE animal story features a 3-legged yellow Labrador named Bella who went missing for almost 8 months. Bella lost her front right leg on 6th April last year, through an amputation she had at Alachua County Animal Services in Florida due to an infection. It is thought she was abused by her previous owner.

Lost in the Woods

After recovering from her operation Bella was fostered with a new family in Haile Plantation. However, she managed to escape from them within the first 8 hours of arriving and vanished completely. Using social media the foster family formed a group to help them search the local area. The group searched repeatedly, combing through the area and calling for Bella.

One of the group setup a trap in some woods near where Bella was last seen. She had used it previously to catch a stray who dog who was now one of her pack, so knew what she was doing. Unbeknownst to her, however, was that this would be the start of several months of frustration.

Bella at first eagerly headed into the trap, but backed away when she realised the door was closing. From there onwards she refused to go into the trap, so the group made sure to leave food outside to ensure she didn’t starve. The group tried a different version of a trap involving large panels and hanging bait, and though Bella nosed around it she never fell for it.

Evading Capture

Six weeks of heavy wind and rain from Storm Alberto passed, and with no sign of the dog the group wondered if she had survived. Thankfully they received a breakthrough on social media. One of the group noticed on social media a small comment on a post about spotting a 3-legged Labrador nearby.

Sure enough Bella was there, but still she managed to avoid capture, even managing to dodge tranquilizer darts fired at her. The group carried on with the traps – moving around, switching bait and time of day, but Bella refused to enter still. The group could see that she was getting thinner and thinner, and so one decided to try a harder approach: no more food would be left for her except inside the trap.

Rescued at last, after 8 months!

The plan almost worked straight away, with Bella leaning into the trap but not setting off the trigger plate. They tried again, and this time were successful! Upon finding Bella in the trap, rescuers reported that her body language showed her relief. Upon letting her out of the cage (after getting a leash over her), Bella licked their faces.

She was taken to a centre and given good and water and allowed to rest. She was brought into the centre in mid-December very underweight at 34.8 pounds, and has already re-gained 4 pounds in weight. Her recovery is on track, and equally importantly, she is happy.

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