top of page
  • Writer's picturePhyllis Brust, PhD

Desperate Search for the 3-Legged Dog

Updated: Jun 6, 2022

Photo by Brandi Ormerod. (description below)

A three-legged dog named Bella chewed through a screen door last April and ran away from her foster home. She had been there less than eight hours. Earlier that month, Alachua County Animal Services (ACAS, Gainesville, FL) took Bella in after reported mistreatment. The yellow lab mix had an infection in her right front leg that wouldn’t heal, a result of the cruelty she experienced. Veterinarians had to amputate.

Bella escaped when the weather was mild. The trash from local schools provided food and the scent for Bella to find it. She was spotted – often in the evening -- but no one could catch her. Notices went up on the social sites and Gainesville Pet Finder (Facebook page) for people to be on the lookout. Neighbors searched, others sent encouraging notes and still others feared that the three-legged dog would never survive. Cameras and humane traps were later added to the search. Neighbors Tara Montiegel and Brandi Ormerod headed a dedicated group of volunteers that included their spouses and in the fall, Ed Williams, the director of ACAS.

On May 31, Brandi wrote on, "Sadly, we haven't seen her for several nights on camera and haven't seen any signs of her lately where we were seeing her. We keep putting food out where we were seeing her and have moved cameras around to other areas nearby to see if we can pick her up…”

School let out, the summer heat was unbearable to a Yankee like me, the lightning storms were plentiful (and subtropical storm Alberto) and Bella was still missing. People kept looking—some daily, some when they could. I went out three times at dusk, armed with binoculars, smelly treats and a leash, positive I’d find her, but I never did.

Winter came. North Florida does freeze. Most people gave up but still hoped for a miracle. Social media chatter quieted. People did not want to face the obvious conclusion. The odds were stacked against a newly-amputated dog surviving on three legs while competing for food with coyotes, raccoons and a bobcat. Temperatures dipped into the 20s (F).

In November, the camera captured how skinny Bella had become. The searchers knew she might soon die. They had been placing the food outside the trap to ensure she always had sustenance. After seeing her deteriorated state, they moved it inside to increase the odds of her being caught. It worked.

Brandi wrote an update on Dec 12, eight months after Bella’s escape. “We finally trapped this sweet baby last night at about 9:30 (we busted her out of the trap…at about midnight)."

Bella licked the face of her first rescuer, Brandi’s husband, Mike Siblik.

Brandi, Tara, and crew never stopped looking, but Bella had outwitted them. We later learned of gut-wrenching near misses. Once, they cornered her in a sinkhole, but she ran up the other side. Bella also nimbly grabbed the bait (food) without setting off the trap. She never had a reason to trust anyone, so she kept running.

“She was so shrewd or scared that we didn't ever think that we were going to get her, but were so happy when we did!,” wrote Brandi.

Soon after Brandi reported, “She is the sweetest thing ever. She’s pretty much skin and bones (and wobbly because of that) and so freakin’ grateful. Her tail wags when we bring her food…”


Bella is being fostered (and will be adopted) by Brandi Ormerod and her husband, the guy she licked. Her new siblings are Wiggy and Tish. Bella is gaining weight but is scared to leave their yard.

After a lifetime of pain and eight months on the run, Bella, the three-legged dog, is safe.

Brandi and her husband are planning for the opening of Camp Run-A-Mutt, a cage free dog day care and boarding facility in Gainesville, FL they are starting. Last year, she left her position as associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Florida to pursue this goal.


Never underestimate the heart of a dog. And, never underestimate the heart of those who care about animals. Bella would not have survived without the tenacity and detective work of dedicated volunteers, a public shelter director, and neighbors providing sighting information and encouragement via social media. They were united in their desire to help find a three-legged dog they never met.

That leads us to CareerMutt and me

I created CareerMutt for animal lovers, especially those who want to work with pets—volunteering, getting a job, finding a career, interning, career changing and more. There is a way for everyone to help animals no matter how much time or training they have, how old they are and whether it is paid or not.

I am returning to my first love, animals, after a career as a college career director. The desire to help animals never left. In addition to career information, our website also includes: 1. Links to help pet parents; and 2. Information about legislation that affects pets, so that we can work to end cruel treatment and make sure that those who harm pets are appropriately punished.

Bella epitomizes what we are about. So many people contributed to finding her, including cheerleaders on social media, volunteers looking night after night, experts on finding lost animals, a veterinarian with a dart gun (didn’t work) and reporters who covered the story.

Welcome to CareerMutt.

Reference: Mickie Anderson, “Three-legged dog’s 8-month trek tests trackers’ fortitude," Gainesville Sun,, Dec. 18, 2018.

Photo captions below next picture.

©2019 Brust. All rights reserved.

Photo by Brandi Ormerod. (description below)

Spoiler alert--photo captions: 1. Bella recuperating in her new home; 2. Bella soon after being found. Both photographs are by Brandi Ormerod, PhD.



bottom of page