Couple travels thousands of miles to adopt Ft Polk stray

Fort-Polk-stray-experiences-u2018true-Christmas--miracleu2019FORT POLK, La. — When retired Master Sgt. Ed Schafer saw a picture of Bella, a mixed-breed dog at the Fort Polk Stray Animal Facility, posted on a friend’s Facebook page, it piqued his interest.

“I always look at the dogs and cats Chuck (Guardian community editor Chuck Cannon) posts each week and Bella closely resembled a dog I had several years ago,” Schafer said. “When I told Chuck about that resemblance, he jokingly suggested I give the facility a call.”

Jokingly, because Schafer lives half a country away, just outside of Washington, D.C. But Schafer did make the call, and the rest — as they say — is history.

“When I talked to the people at the facility they told me that no one had expressed an interest in Bella and that her time was running out to be adopted,” Schafer said. “I couldn’t just leave her there.”

The dog Schafer had originally cared for a few years ago that resembled Bella had died, leaving an empty spot and leading the former paratrooper to vow he would do anything to save a helpless animal if given the opportunity.

“I spoke with my wife (Janet) that evening (Dec. 11) and told her I felt we should go adopt this dog,” Schafer said. “She agreed so I called Chuck and told him we’d be at Fort Polk Sunday (Dec. 14) evening. We have two rescue dogs already and I thought Bella would fit right in.”

True to his word, Ed and Janet — along with their two pooches — arrived in Leesville at about 6:15 p.m. Dec. 14. They spent the evening renewing an old friendship that spanned 35 years and three Army assignments. Following a good night’s sleep, the Schafers headed out the next morning to meet their new family member.

They were met at the facility by office manager Shawn Coffey who, along with the rest of the staff, welcomed them with open arms.

“We’re so excited,” Coffey told the couple. “We can’t believe that you would travel all the way from Northern Virginia to adopt Bella.”

After exchanging greetings it was time for the Schafers to meet Bella. When the playful spaniel mix was released from her pen, she ran straight to the couple as if she had belonged to them all of her short life. She especially seemed to feel at home in Janet’s arms.

“I think she already likes Janet best,” Ed said.

After a checkup by Dr. Angela Schoenfeld and the completion of paperwork, it was the moment that any adoptive parent introducing a new family member into the mix worries about — will all of the kids get along?

Janet introduced Bella to her new brothers. With a sniff or two, the three seemed to hit if off, dispelling any concerns the couple might have had about a worrisome drive home.

“They’ll have the two-day trip to get to know each other and by the time we get home it will be great,” Ed said. “I’m so glad we could make this happen.”

Coffey agreed, calling the Schafers’ willingness to make such a sacrifice — especially during the holiday season — special. “This is truly a Christmas miracle,” she said.

KLAX ABC 31 News 12/19/14