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Julie Thornton Johnson could feel the dog sleeping between her and her husband when she got up around 4 a.m. earlier this month. She figured it was one of their three dogs that often find their way onto the bed at night.

But after a few hours, as the sunrise lit the bedroom in their southeastern Tennessee home, Julie woke up to her husband’s quiet yet stern voice.

“Julie, whose dog is this?” Jimmy Johnson said the morning of May 1.

Confused and half-awake, Julie rolled over to respond to her husband’s strange question. That’s when she saw the 90-pound bulldog-lab mix sprawled out on their king-size bed.

“He and I locked eyes for a second and just were silent. And I was like, ‘That’s not our dog,’ ” Julie, 42, said in an interview with The Washington Post.

A pet dog ran off into the mountain wilderness. Four months later, rescuers found it trapped in 5 feet of snow.

The dog was friendly — nuzzling up against Jimmy, 34, and lying belly-up with her head resting on Julie’s pillow. It was clear she was domesticated and had owners who cared for her, Julie said. So she took pictures of the dog lounging alongside her husband and posted them on Facebook around 8:30 a.m.

“This is the weirdest post I ever had to make,” Julie wrote after describing the surprise they discovered that morning. “Is this your dog?”

She tagged her husband and shared the post to community Facebook pages. Two hours later, Cris Hawkins and Felecia Johnson responded, claiming the dog as their own. Her name is Nala, they said, and they lost her the afternoon before while on a walk in their rural neighborhood. Nala had slipped out of her collar and ran off. They searched the woods but had to turn back when it got dark, Julie said. They assumed Nala would find her way home.

But Nala appeared to have found herself a new address. When one of her owners arrived to pick her up around 11:30 a.m. on May 1, the pup refused to leave, Julie said.

“She was standing on the front porch yelling for Nala — which you could hear from the bedroom — and Nala would not get out of the bed,” Julie said. “This poor woman had to come in our house, into our bedroom with my husband in bed with her dog and force her out of the bed.”

Kids wrote pleas to help unwanted shelter pups find homes. It worked.

In a Facebook post about the incident, Hawkins and Johnson joked that Nala “has hit an all time record for ignoring personal space and added yet another trick to her long list of Houdini acts.” They went on to thank Julie and Jimmy for treating Nala as one of their own and finding the situation amusing.

Julie suspects Nala sneaked into their house sometime after 2 a.m., when her husband let their three dogs out before they all went to bed. But Jimmy didn’t latch the door, Julie said, and high winds from a storm that night must have blown it open.

The resident dogs — Zeppelin, Hollis and Jupiter — did not seem to mind having their new friend around, Julie said, noting the dogs often bark at other animals. But that night, they were quiet.

“I guess they had a secret pact to have a spend-the-night party and decided not to tell me about it,” Julie added.

Julie and Jimmy also made new friends through the bizarre experience. They invited Hawkins and Johnson over on Monday for an ice cream party. The group has also been surprised by how quickly their story spread.

“I think that the world is just so full of negatives that people are thirsty for something positive and something good and something funny,” Julie said.

“A dog in the wrong bed brought us all together,” she added.


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