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I want to start this story by telling you Bella is home, safe and sound!

Thank you to all the unknown people who helped me catch my German shepherd puppy Bella, who got loose from me in May at Lowe’s in DeLand.

We adopted this 8-month-old puppy from a rescue facility that told us the dog had been caught in an animal trap in Georgia. She had been traumatized, and we knew it would take some work to let her know she has a safe and loving home, with a full-grown shepherd to teach her the tricks.

She is not very trusting of men, and has bonded to my fiancee.

For the past three months, I have tried to win her confidence, with little success, except when she is on the leash and is the perfect dog.

One of the important things we wanted to do is to socialize Bella so she would be comfortable around a lot of people.

This went all wrong on a Saturday afternoon at Lowe’s.

I opened the back of our SUV, and Bella jumped in as she usually does. But when I was loading fence posts, she got spooked and jumped out with her leash attached. She was scared and would not come to me.

I was running around the parking lot almost in a panic, knowing I could not catch her. 

The good people of DeLand — and wherever else they may have been from — stopped what they were doing to help. Not just one or two, but at least 10 or more. Some were employees from Lowe’s.

One nice couple even got dog treats, and the man even dove to the ground trying to catch her!

But Bella was too frightened.

Then the worst of my fears happened: She headed straight for International Speedway Boulevard.

I was running, trying to keep up with her. As she went through the bushes, a Lowe’s employee who had been trying to get her said, “Oh my God, she is going to cross the road.” 

We looked on in terror.

I kept running, not sure if I could look, all the while asking myself if I should run back to get my car and follow her. I continued to run right across four lanes of traffic, about 50 feet behind her.

As she went past Dunkin’ Donuts, a pickup came out of nowhere to help. Bella went down a side street, and the men in the truck stopped and jumped out and caught her as she went between two cars.

At this point, I could barely breathe, and the men offered to bring me back to Lowe’s.

I was so happy, so tired, and relieved, I could not thank them enough. As I rode in the back with the pup, I was thinking about my car left open in the parking lot. I was not sure if the keys were in it, or if it would be there when we got back.

As we drove up, there was a crowd around the car with the couple who almost got her and the man who dove to the ground for her. They were watching the car until I returned.

It is sure nice to live in a town where strangers will go out of their way to help you. If everyone would help people like all of you did for me, the world would be a much better place.

To all who helped me — a huge thank you for saving Bella!

— Dirk Eskew lives in DeLand. He reports that Bella is happy and well