Bella, before she spent 10 days in the desert on her own.
Courtesy photo

Meet Bella. Maybe she should be called ‘Amazing Bella’ – she once was lost but now is found.

On May 21, after a fatal crash on I-25 between Lemitar and Polvadera, Bella, a miniature silver poodle, was also riding in the car, but fled from the scene, probably in fear and shock, with possible injuries.

By the time the scene was cleared and traffic was flowing, there was no sign of the pooch. Several firefighters looked for her that night, and again in the following days, but no Bella.

Bob Despain, transported to an Albuquerque hospital,  lost his wife, Patricia, in the crash, and did not want to lose his dog too. So, friends Mike and Mary Eubank came from Arizona to find Bella. They put the word out that Bella was skittish and wouldn’t come to just anyone.

The search was on.

One of the firefighters also works for Socorro County Animal Control, so he set a humane trap, hoping to attract her. But still no Bella. People were starting to think that the worst had happened. The Eubanks returned to Arizona, heartbroken.

On May 24, there was a Facebook post that she had been spotted in a wash near mile marker 161. The news brought new hope and more people out to search. Someone even busted out a drone to search.

No luck. Days went by with no signs of any kind.

Then on May 31, 10 days after the crash, John Cates was driving to work on I-25 north and decided to take a quick side trip to check the trap, not really expecting her to be there. But lo and behold, she was. Very thirsty, but Cates’ wife, Kelly McLain, said that Bella didn’t seem too hungry. Cates and McLain took her in for the night.

The Eubanks were notified, thrilled to drive back and retrieve Bella.

More good news: Bob’s condition had improved enough that he was soon going to rehab closer to home in Arizona where Bella would be waiting for him after surviving both the car accident and 10 days and nights in the desert.

It turns out that Bella is one tough (dog) cookie.


There are steps to take to improve the odds that lost pets will be recovered.

McLain feels like she has learned a lesson about car safety for her dogs. Because of Bella’s ordeal, she plans to get a specially designed safety harness to strap her dog into the car securely.

McLain then said, “… but I’ve heard of this problem enough that I’m (also) getting a GPS tag.”

Relatively new, these “smart” dog tags have trackers in them. Perfect for lost dogs, the chip in the tag links up with an app and pinpoints the location of the animal on a map.

A third safety measure for pets is the microchip. If Bella had been recovered by someone who didn’t know about the situation, they could scan her for a microchip to discover owner information.

Socorro Animal Shelter and Adoption Center’s Guadalupe Tarango warns dog owners about the biggest problem with microchips.

“The owner often doesn’t do their part. It is very important to register the chip and keep that information current in the database, so we can make the connection.”

The adoption center will implant a microchip for $15.

Jay Ann Cox, El Defensor Chieftain Editor