Beloved LAFD Search Dog 'Bella' Dies at 14

Sunday, March 18, 2007 |

Deresa Teller and Bella
It is with a heavy heart that we share word that Bella, the 14-year-old Border Collie nicknamed "the wonder dog' - who proudly responded with her LAFD handler Deresa Teller on scores of high profile search and rescue assignments, has died from natural causes in Los Angeles.

Possibly the most renowned search canine in our nation's history, Bella was deployed with Deresa to the Oklahoma City bombing, World Trade Center attacks and countless other official assignments.

Bella remains one of the few canines to have attained formal certification in wilderness search, disaster rescue and cadaver recovery. She was in every sense of the word, a 'wonder dog'.

In our country's darkest hours, Bella shouldered the hopes of a nation. Our profound sense of loss is lessened only in knowing that her grandson Ranger and other descendents are today exhibiting the same prowess that made Bella a preeminent search and rescue canine.

Deresa Teller and Bella
Bella is credited with helping rescuers locate the remains of four victims after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

In early 2001, Bella was diagnosed with a troubling form of cancer in her right foreleg. Once word spread that costly radiation treatments could not be municipally funded - or afforded by heartbroken Teller, a stunning groundswell of community support allowed Bella's necessary treatment, cure and return to readiness.

In August 2001, she helped Ventura County, California authorities locate the body of missing murder victim Megan Barroso in a rugged ravine near Simi Valley.

Bella was medically cleared for her full return to 'disaster response' duty on a bright and cheerful Monday morning, September 10, 2001.

Firefighter/Paramedic Teller could not have known that little more than 24 hours later, she and Bella would be aboard a military cargo jet headed for New York, where they helped find approximately 20 victims of the terrorist attacks.

Less than six months following the cowardly attacks in Manhattan, Bella and Deresa were again deployed with the LAFD-FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Task Force (CA-TF1); in this case to maintain a vigilant regional presence during the sixteen-day Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

In these and other deployments, as well as countless public outreach events during her long and eventful life, Bella was not merely a member of our LAFD family, but also a well-respected and readily embraced ambassador for our nation's first responders and specialized rescue teams.

Bella formally entered retirement in 2003, at nearly eleven years old. When not herding chickens for enjoyment at home, the playful yet gentle Bella could be found comfortably cuddled with a stuffed toy lamb she had since she was a puppy.

In closing, I am honored to share a photo of Bella and I taken upon her safe return from the Oklahoma City bombing:

Brian Humphrey with Bella
Those who wish to support on-going search canine efforts in Bella's honor are encouraged to contact the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation at: 888-4-K9-HERO.

Farewell sweet Bella, from one of many who will dearly miss you.

Submitted by Brian Humphrey, Spokesman
Los Angeles Fire Department


david barrett said...

Brian -

As someone who owns two dogs and has always had dogs around me, your story moved me beyond words. These four-legged canine wonders are not just pets - they have emotions, can reason, learn, and are in some respects our truest companions.

Our lives are often filled with difficulties - but no matter what happens in a dog's life, the next morning is happy time. I only wish we could all awake with such a fresh start to our days...

Bella and her bravery and commitment should not be forgotten - and her story should be told. It is as much a part of our city's fire department history as any other. Thank you for such a personal story. We're all grateful for the service Bella has provided, and we will remember her for the joy she brought to those who cared for her and worked with her.


Ashley said...

I am sorry to hear about the loss of Bella.


Anonymous said...

I am so sorry to hear about the very sad loss of sweet Bella. Rest in peace sweet girl.

Pfc. Michael Davis, Brunswick, Ga. Police Dept. K-9 Handler said...

I would like to say thank you to Bella for all of her hard work. May you run in the green pasture that God has for you. To Bella's handler, may God bless your hurting heart. I know that losing a K-9 is like losing a family member. Our prayers and thoughts go out to you.

Heather, Crystal Fire Dept. said...

Our profound sympathy goes out to you all. Bella blessed so many lives and gave closure to the families of the lost. What a brave and noble dog, who I am sure would humbly sniff, "I was just doing my job."

Desera, if you read this, know that our prayers are with you. You blessed her life so immensely with such exemplary training and handling, and just plain love. You BOTH are heroes.

Wendy, Prince Georges County Sheriffs Office said...

Bella has crossed the rainbow bridge into doggie heaven! It is so sad to loose a part of your family. My respect and sympothy goes out to Bella's family. She was a remarkable K9! Bella touched so many lives for the work she did while here on earth. I know her spirit will always stay in our hearts. She left a pawprint on many hearts! Rest in peace Bella!! You did a great job! You are a true hero!

DFC Wendy Stommel- K9 Handler
Prince Georges County Sheriff's Office - K9 Unit

Phred, an old Firefighter from Ohio said...

Rest In Peace, Dear Bella ~
Your Job was Well Done!

My Deepest Sympathies to her Firefighter/Partner/Mom Deresa - you, too, Did Good - Thank You for sharing Bella with all the hundreds of folks you've assisted over the years.

I hope God has a Fire Brigade up at the Rainbow Bridge with an old Engine - where I can ride the back step again ... and Bella can team up with a handsome Dalmatian.
We'll save you a seat on the rig, Deresa.

{{{Hugs}}} from an old Ohio Firefighter

Anonymous said...

God bless you Bella. You are in good hands now.

Huntington, WV

csv-clt said...

I have taken the nice story of Bella for an illustrated article on animals in the LA fires crisis, and the need to take care of them, too, while in such situations. FYI, my own sister lives in the San Diego area and had to evacuate her workplace

may the good Lord protect all the FD people all around, and all in the country

greetings from Belgium

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