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Nearly two months after their home was destroyed by a tornado that ripped through Middle Tennessee in early March, a family has been reunited with their beloved dog.
The National Weather Service office in Nashville said in March the twister that struck Putnam County was an EF-4 tornado with winds up to 175 mph. It killed 18 people and injured 88 in the county. Overall, the tornadoes and severe weather were blamed for 24 deaths in the region.
Forecasters said the Putnam County twister was the first violent tornado in the Middle Tennessee area since April 2009.
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Eric and Faith Johnson told WTVF-TV their dog, Bella, an Australian shepherd, alerted them to the tornado before it flattened their home in Cookeville.
“This is amazing because to have her back with us, it completes our family now and puts a missing piece back,” Eric Johnson told the television station. “This dog saved our lives. She’s the one who gave us a chance to survive.”
In an interview last month with the WTVF, Faith Johnson described how she was recovering from two broken ribs that resulted from holding her two children too tightly during the storm. The tornado also injured her husband, who was blown off his family while he crouched over them inside their bathtub.
The family made it out alive, but their home was destroyed. President Trump later toured devastated parts of Tennessee that were hit by the tornadoes, including Cookeville.
In the weeks since the violent storms, Bella was seen around the neighborhood but neighbors said she was too spooked to return.
Eric Johnson said he made return trips to the neighborhood to leave pieces of clothing, so she would remember the scent.
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“To say that I wasn’t starting to lose hope in ever finding her again would be a lie,” he said on Facebook. “Me and my wife would pray daily that God was keeping her safe out there until he brought her home to us.
On Friday, a friend of the Johnsons who tracks missing animals after storms told them she received a call about Bella.
Sarah Romeyn set up cameras on a fence between two buildings and was able to capture Bella after the Australian shepherd came out to eat food Romeyn put out for her.
Eric Johnson helped with Bella’s capture on Sunday after getting a call around 6 p.m. from Romeyn. She was taken for pet grooming and to receive care, then she was reunited with the family after 54 days.
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“This would never have been possible without the help of so many people especially Sarah Lang Romeyn without you this would have never been possible, your [sic] an amazing person,” Johnson wrote. “Thank you so much for never losing hope on our dog Bella”
According to Johnson, the “miracle dog” now has a “full belly of food” and is sleeping in a warm bed “where she belongs.”
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“Once again thanks to everyone that either participated in searching for Bella or simply saying a prayer for her,” he wrote.
The family told WTVF-TV earlier this month that they plan to rebuild their house in the same place.
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“We’re not going to let fear run us from our property and our home,” Faith Johnson said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.