Out of Washougal horror, a home for Bella

Dog that survived a shootout, fire shows love and trust to her new family

By Andrea Damewood, Columbian staff writer

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You can help

West Columbia Gorge Humane Society: This no-kill shelter, run by volunteers, took in Bella and put her up for adoption. To donate or adopt an animal, call 360-835-3464 or visit www.http://www.wcghumanesociety.org/

Camas-Washougal Animal Control: If you spot the black and white border collie-type dog or cat still on the loose from the Stanbarys’ home, call 360-835-8701.

If Bella could talk, the tales of unspeakable horror she witnessed on Dec. 7 would likely be too much for many of us to bear.

That was the morning her owner, Steven Stanbary, 47, shot and killed his wife and her twin sister, then set their Washougal home on fire. He, too, perished in the flames, shooting guns to keep firefighters and police away as the fire raged.

Bella is one of the few souls that made it out of that house alive that terrible day. Two other dogs and a cat are believed to have survived; four other dogs were found dead at the scene, including at least one that suffered a fatal gunshot.

And while one of her owners was clearly capable of terrible things, Bella has already shown she is still capable of love. And trust.

She and two other dogs were freed from a kennel in the Stanbary backyard as SWAT officers used a ram to clear the way. The terrified animals were left to roam the neighborhood until it was safe for humans to approach. But when Camas-Washougal animal control officers finally searched the area hours later, she was the only one who allowed them to scoop her up and take her to the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society.

“The others were too skittish to even come near me. Thankfully (she) was able to,” said Camas-Washougal animal control Officer Bryan Caine, who rescued Bella that night.

“The others couldn’t come within 20 yards.”

A second dog, captured the next day, was owned by other family members and was returned to them. But another black and white border collie-type dog and the cat are still roaming the area, although neither has been seen in a week and a half, Caine said.

On Wednesday, two weeks after her ordeal, Bella had the run of her new home on 10 acres east of Washougal with the Hickey family. The family, who volunteers at the humane society, took her in Saturday and decided to adopt her.

When she arrived at the humane society, the nearly all-black border collie mix had a bad case of worms; bald patches still show on her hindquarters. Her teeth are ground down in places as if she may have been chewing rocks. Her body shows signs of having borne multiple litters.

“She doesn’t act like she’s been in a house before,” Belinda Hickey said Wednesday as Bella settled at her feet. “Sometimes she acts kind of sad; she acts like she’s got somewhere to go.”

Bella, who is estimated to be between 8 and 10 years old, likely does miss her family, including Stanbary’s wife of 11 years, Leona “Lee” Bolton-Stanbary, 50, and her twin sister, Mona Daugherty.

But the Hickeys are already helping shape the dog’s future years as comfortable ones.

She’s been groomed and had her nails trimmed. She accepted pats from Belinda and Sydney, 16, and Olivia, 14, as she poked her nose into a Christmas display. Earlier, she’d helped herself to half a holiday cranberry bread loaf that wasn’t originally intended for her.

Originally named Chewie when she arrived at the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society, the Hickeys renamed her after she didn’t seem to respond to that name. (“She seems more like a Bella,” Belinda said). She’ll be spayed Monday.

“She’s just the sweetest thing possible,” said Sydney, stroking the dog’s back.

Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542 or andrea.damewood@columbian.com or www.facebook.com/reporterdamewood or www.twitter.com/col_cityhall