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Dog's incredible journey goes full circle; With Western New Yorkers' help, Bleu Bell soon will reunite with owner in Louisiana

If dogs could talk, Lucy would have some 'splainin' to do.

The 116-pound Blue Great Dane, surrendered March 29 to the SPCA Serving Erie County, had been reported missing in Louisiana four years ago.

According to SPCA spokeswoman Gina Browning, the woman who surrendered the dog at the Town of Tonawanda facility said her family recently moved here from Louisiana. They reportedly adopted Lucy from a Mississippi-based Great Dane organization two years ago and paid $1,600 to have her shipped here, only to learn their landlord doesn't allow dogs.

Browning said the woman, who asked that her name be withheld, said the dog's name is Lucy and she's five years old.

But after a microchip found in the dog's neck was scanned, different information emerged.

The microchip company said the dog, along with a second Great Dane, had been reported missing in June 2008, according to Browning. The SPCA was given a contact number for Lucy's owner, Ben Gautreaux, who lives in a suburb of Baton Rouge, La.

"First, he thought it was a prank," when the SPCA reached him, Browning said. "Now, four years later he's shocked and said he wants the dog back but doesn't have the means."

The dog's name is actually Bleu Bell, and she was born in May 2005. She was six weeks old when she was a birthday gift to Gautreaux, he said during a brief phone interview Friday.

Bleu Bell disappeared while Gautreaux was out of town for two weeks in 2008, he explained. A wire had been cut on a fence.

"All my Great Danes got out. The other ones all came back," said Gautreaux, a small-time breeder who recently advertised puppies for sale online.

When Gautreaux returned home he went to the local animal shelter to reclaim Bleu Bell. But the five-day holding period had expired, after which the facility has the options of adoption or euthanization.

Gautreaux said he was told: "We had to put her down."

Upon learning his dog was in New York, "I freaked out. It was a wonderful call," he said.

The dog is under foster care at a private home in Erie County.

Many questions about Bleu Bell's life remain unanswered.

"You wonder what could have happened," Browning said. "Was [the report of her being euthanized] an honest mistake? Did somebody have his eye on the dog?"

"We don't know who's telling us the truth," Browning said.

After contacting Gautreaux, the SPCA checked out his background before exploring options for getting Bleu Bell back to Louisiana.

A ride home has been secured. "I'm excited," Gautreaux said.

Browning said she talked about the dog's plight on a local radio talk show Thursday.

"Within minutes of doing the radio interview, I had four strong leads," Browning said.

Among them was Chris Silverstein, a local restaurateur who drives to Louisiana a few times a year to obtain frozen alligator. He's driving Bleu Bell home.

"I always drive down, and I usually bring my dog, who's a large dog, as well," Silverstein said.

Ozark, his 6-year-old Australian shepherd, will sit out this trip. Silverstein, a friend and Bleu Bell will make the 20-hour drive in Silverstein's SUV in mid-May.

"I just think it's a really neat story," said Silverstein, a former New Orleans resident who admits he's a sucker for dog stories -- especially those in which a dog finds its way home.

Browning said Silverstein's generosity is the story of this area.

"Only in Buffalo would this happen," Browning said.