JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Firefighters save lives every day, but one Jacksonville woman says a group of firefighters with JFRD saved her family's Christmas.

Kendall Smith was frantic when her boyfriend called her Thursday, saying their dog, Tera, had gotten out of the yard.

“He said that he lost Tera and she didn't have her collar on,” Smith said.

Smith called neighbors and friends and put up flyers around her San Marco neighborhood, but hours later there was still no sign of Tera. She didn't know how to break the news to her two-year-old daughter.

“I did not know how to tell her that her dog was missing,” Smith said. “She jumps on the trampoline, Tera's right there. She rides her bike, Tera's right there. She sleeps, Tera is right there.”

Smith didn't know it at the time, but Tera was safe. A woman who found her dropped her off at Fire Station 13 in downtown San Marco.

Firefighter Michael Nelson took Tera to a veterinarian to see if she was microchipped, but the vet didn't find one.

“I said 'well what next?'” Nelson said. “And they said 'well you can take her to the Humane Society.' I was like no, this is somebody's pet. It's Christmas.”

As Tera's family searched for her, the firefighters bonded with the dog. They gave her water, treats and even took her out on calls.

“She was great [on the fire truck],” Nelson said. “She just sat there, like, took everything in.”

The firefighters even named her “Trece,” Spanish for “13.”

Also the while, Nelson tried to find her owner. He sat on the bench outside the fire station to see if anyone would claim her. When no one did, he turned to social media.

“With a dog like that, the owner had to be looking for her, you know?” Nelson said. “So I just figured…put the thing on Facebook and see what happens.”

A friend tagged Smith in the post, and she immediately recognized Tera smiling on the fire truck after her adventure.

“Usually when people see a 'pit bill,' they're not gonna approach it, especially one without a collar,” Smith said. “So [the firefighters] see a pit bull and they approach her with kindness, bring her to the station, give her water, feed her and actually take her with them on all the trips that they needed to go on.”

It was a bittersweet reunion for Nelson, who bonded most with the dog. But he's overjoyed to have been able to return her to her family.

For Smith and her family, "thank you" just doesn't say enough.

“He pretty much saved the holidays for us, I have to say,” she said.