Finding Bella: After wreck on I-25, hunt for couple’s small dog goes viral
By Kristy Bleizeffer Dec 18, 2014
After the Bowmans’ beloved dog died at about 12 years old, Emily Bowman vowed she’d never again let herself get so attached. Then she met Bella, wrapped in a Christmas bow, a present from her daughter. Emily fell in love.
“You know what I had to say about it?” said her husband, David Bowman, in the lobby of the Wyoming Medical Center. “That is the ugliest dog I have ever seen. But I’ve changed my mind since.”
Two days ago, the Bowmans, of Baton Rouge, La., thought they’d lost Bella forever. She disappeared after a two-car crash that sent David to the hospital for two days.
David works in the oil field and has been flying back and forth between Casper and Baton Rouge since March. For this trip, the Bowmans decided to drive up together. They were just about 40 miles from their destination, in between Douglas and Glenrock, when David noticed a truck crashing through the median of Interstate 25 and barreling toward them over the ice and snow. He tried to pull out of the way when he felt his own tires slip. It was about 2 p.m. Tuesday.
Watch: A Wyoming Medical Center nurse filmed this reunion between Emily Bowman and her dog, Bella, who spent the night in a Wyoming pasture after a car crash.
In the silence immediately after the crash, Emily tried to piece together what had happened. She looked first to David, shaken up but alive. She cried for Bella, but in that moment, she couldn’t remember where the dog had been sitting in the truck before the wreck. She noticed that all the driver’s side and rear windows were shattered.
“Where’s Bella?” David cried. “I felt her hit me.”
The couple got out and tried looking for her, but it was like she had vanished in thin air. David, who suffered bruised ribs and other injuries, was loaded into the ambulance for a trip to Wyoming Medical Center. Emily climbed in with him.
“When I first got to the hospital, I felt so alone. David was hurt, my dog was out there somewhere in the snow, I could hardly talk,” Emily said. “My heart was racing.”
The search started almost immediately.
Wyoming Medical Center nurses told the Bowmans about a Facebook page, Wyoming Missing Canines, which allows people to post about missing pets from around the state. The Bowmans’ daughter, Melissa, posted to the page from Los Angeles, where she lives.
Throughout the day and night, WMC staffers came to ask for updates on lost Bella. Strangers shared the post 837 times. They called local animal shelters, veterinarians and pet shops. They drove to the crash site to alert area ranchers and several went to look themselves. A nurse who got off her shift at 6 p.m. took her kids and went looking too.
“To me, in this cold weather, I couldn’t believe people would go out there and look for a dog for someone they didn’t even know,” Emily said. When it was clear David would be alright, an oilfield friend took Emily to the pasture to look herself. No luck.
For perspective, consider Bella’s predicament: She is a lap dog, about 4 years old, raised in the South. She’d never before been in the snow. She’d never spent a night outside alone, much less a winter night in a Wyoming pasture with who knows what lurking about. At 7 or 8 pounds, she’d have made a healthy snack for a mountain lion, or a respectable meal for an eagle or hawk.
The Bowmans were beside themselves. With five kids grown and out of the house, they loved Bella like a child. Emily tracked the progress on Facebook, and answered as many questions as she could. Then, at about noon Wednesday, the call came: Bella had been found on a hill in the pasture, curled up in a circle of snow. It had melted around her.
The woman who found Bella brought her to the hospital. A nurse filmed the reunion on her cell phone and snapped pictures of the happy family. While the woman was at first reluctant to take the reward, the Bowmans insisted.
Emily says David’s demeanor changed as soon as Bella arrived. Before, he was resigned to his hospital stay, claiming he was still banged up. With Bella on his lap, licking his face, he wanted to go as soon as doctors would let him. Bella and Emily loaded him up at about 9 a.m. Thursday, and he planned on reporting to work later in the day.
“The people here are wonderful. From the time we got to the emergency room, to everyone right now. We’re from Louisiana, the most hospitable place there is. But I’ve never been at the other end of it like this,” Emily said.
“Those little nurses here, and the people in this community are just amazing. This is all a God thing, I don’t care what anyone says.”