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Posted 5/11/2018

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By Michael DeRusha & Lauren Bennett


Terry Surratt from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Portland District, departed his home district in the Pacific Northwest to be a quality assurance inspector for the Corps’ Operation Blue Roof program on the island of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. The Virgin Islands had been struck by two category 5 hurricanes in less than two weeks. Terry never suspected that his work would touch more than just the families under the plastic blue tarps he was inspecting.

At 8 weeks of age, little Bella’s future didn’t look promising. The stray brown and white puppy had an uncertain future ahead of her on the streets of St. Thomas. Luckily for Bella, a waitress on the island, Jessica, took her in when she found Bella wandering the streets. Jessica was left with the difficult decision of what to do with the pup, as she couldn’t keep it but didn’t want to take it to the animal shelter.

One night after a 12-hour work shift, Surratt was eating dinner at the hotel restaurant. Surratt and his server, Jessica, struck up a conversation about how her friends had found a lonesome puppy wandering the streets, and how she couldn’t keep her.

“Once she showed me a picture of the little puppy, the rest was history,” Terry stated.

Surratt began to explore the logistics behind rescuing Bella and traveling back to his farm in Oregon City, Ore. with the puppy. After a trip to the veterinary clinic for an initial examination and her required vaccinations, Terry discovered that Bella was an 8-week old boxer-terrier mix.

Much to Surratt’s surprise, he found out that the veterinary technician was also from Oregon and had been looking for someone to help her with an adoption program back home for the now-homeless hurricane animals on the Virgin Islands. Surratt agreed to work with her to pick animals up from the PDX airport and deliver them to their new Oregon residences.

Surratt’s next stop was at the Transportation Security Administration at the St. Thomas airport to complete the paperwork and receive permission to fly home with Bella. As his luck would have it, the TSA agent’s wife provided Surratt with a crate for Bella’s journey.

Bella was known to have a special effect on anyone lucky enough to come in contact with her during her brief stint working with the Operation Blue Roof team in St. Thomas.

“She has a special talent to make a tough day better with her calm, relaxed presence,” stated Melissa Head, roofing mission manager, Omaha District. “Bella turned a long day into a better one by just being there.”

Bella and Surratt flew back to his 70-acre farm, home to llamas, cows and chickens on December 6, 2017. While the first part of Bella’s life began on the streets of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, she will spend the rest of it roaming Surratt’s farm, carefree as can be.