updated 12/23/2009 AT 8:32 AM ET
•originally published 12/23/2009 AT 1:00 PM ET
Residents of Boynton Beach, Fla., beware! There’s a new sheriff in town and she’s a 4-lb. Chihuahua named Bella – the diminutive 3-year-old pooch is credited with helping to apprehend a burglary suspect.
It happened last Monday when Bella was out for a walk with her owner, John Bonafair, who happens to be a sergeant in the Boynton Beach Police Department. “I had just gotten back from dropping my police vehicle off to be serviced,” Sergeant Bonafair tells PEOPLEPets.com. “The first thing I do when I go home is to walk the dog.”
Bonafair and his girlfriend adopted Bella, the runt of the litter, when a fellow police officer’s dog had puppies three years ago this Christmas. “I wasn’t even sure I would like a small dog,” Bonafair admits. “I had larger animals in the past, but Bella’s just a really fun dog and very smart.”
Wearing plain clothes and with his police radio on his hip, Bonafair took Bella for a stroll in the neighborhood. “I was walking Bella and this guy came running out of the bushes towards our general direction,” recalls Bonafair. “I thought, ‘This doesn’t look right.’ I turned on my radio and heard other officers saying they were in foot pursuit of a suspect.”
Bonafair identified himself as a police officer and yelled at the guy to get down on the ground. Instead, the suspect took off running, with Bonafair giving chase in a full-on sprint. “I totally forgot for that moment that Bella was with me,” Bonafair says. “As I ran around a couple corners, I saw Bella out of the corner of my eye trying to outpace me.”
What about Bella’s leash? Had Bonafair dropped it while running after the suspect? “Bella does not like to wear a Ieash,” reveals Bonafair. “I’ve taught her to stay with me. I can take her in public and she’ll stick right by my side.”
The tiny dog, whose favorite past time is chasing lizards, kept up with Bonafair as he chased the suspect for several blocks. “I’m not sure if she thought this guy was a lizard, or whether she was worried about me because I’d been yelling at him and she was trying to protect me,” says Bonafair. “Either way, she was right beside me keeping up. She was fearless. We chased the guy for a few blocks and I tackled him off in some bushes.”
Bonafair grappled with the suspect and relayed his location by radio as Bella ran around the struggling pair, barking furiously. “I wasn’t readily visible from the road and had a hard time describing where I was because I was on the grounds of an apartment complex and it all looked the same,” says Bonafair. Bella’s barking attracted the attention of police officers who were on foot, and they came running to help take the suspect into custody.
“I said, ‘Come here, puppy. Good job!’” remembers Bonafair, who gave Bella a little, gold police badge to wear on her harness. “It’s the kind that detectives wear on the lapels of their suits,” says Bonafair. “I’d give her a regular size badge, but I think she’d have trouble walking.” Bella is, after all, only four pounds!
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