A dog that saved her family’s life and went missing after alerting them to a deadly tornado in Cookeville, Tennessee, has been found after 54 days.
It was about 1:15 a.m. on March 3, when Eric Johnson’s Australian Shepherd, Bella, started whimpering under his bed. That is when Johnson could tell something was not right.
“I actually laid back down to go back to sleep, and [Bella] wouldn’t let me,” said Johnson, who got up and turned on the TV to hear the news of the tornado. “[The TV] said take cover immediately, and debris was beginning to [fly outside].”
Johnson credited Bella for being able to round up his wife and three kids into a bathtub as the EF-4 tornado touched down in their neighborhood.
Unfortunately, Bella and the family’s other dog, Scooter, did not make it into the bathtub in time.
“Our whole house exploded and sounded like a bomb, and then it was over in seconds,” Johnson said, adding that he was separated from his family upon impact. “I found my wife 50 yards from our house, and the tub was snapped in half.”
Johnson’s wife broke her sternum, and Johnson himself suffered a head injury, but their kids were able to weather the storm without injury.
Johnson said he went back out to help his neighbors, especially since nine people died on his block. Bella could not be found, and Scooter did not survive the tornado.
The Tennessean reported that a total of 18 people in Cookeville died from the tornado.
Weeks later, Johnson received a call from a church friend, Sarah Lang Romeyn, who said she knew where Bella was. Romeyn, a dog tracker, said the dog had cornered herself in an alley behind a pet store in the area four miles from their home, CNN reported.
“I got a call from [her], and she said, ‘Eric, I know where your dog is, can you be here in 15 minutes?’ I said, ‘Absolutely,'” explained Johnson. “[When I got there], I called for her, and amazingly, she knew exactly who I was.”
Bella and the Johnsons were reunited after 54 days, and she is now enjoying the quality time she is able to spend with her family.
“[The reunion] was emotional as can be. She saved our lives. We owe her everything,” said Johnson. “Especially with what the world’s going through now, you do not lose hope and faith because there are good things that happen.”