But the severe weather continued to rage through tornado alley, and Monday afternoon, one of the strongest tornadoes in U.S. history touched down in Oklahoma, leaving 24 people dead, hundreds more injured, and others left to try and put their lives and their families back together.
In the aftermath of the EF-5 tornado, and in the midst of so many tragic stories of loss, there came tales of happy reunions, bittersweet rescues, and acts of kindness — many tales involving four-legged survivors and friends.
But little did anyone know that an unexpected miracle would unfold while Garcia was being interviewed for a local news broadcast.
“I hollered for my little dog, and, he didn’t answer,” Garcia told KWTV News 9 reporter Anna Werner during the live broadcast. “He didn’t come.”
Garcia explained that she had held tight to Bowsie as the enormous funnel cloud barreled through her neighborhood, crouching in the bathroom and hoping she and her dog would make it through the storm. But after the tornado came and went, Garcia’s little dog was nowhere to be found. Visibly distraught during the news interview, Garcia pointed to the rubble that was once the home she shared with her beloved Scottie, whom she believed to be dead. “So, I know he’s in here somewhere,” she tells Werner of her lost dog.
Suddenly, as Werner looked into the rubble, the reporter spotted something moving and realized it was a small dog. “The dog! The dog! The dog!” Werner yelled, running to the Scottish Terrier’s aid. Werner and Garcia carefully lifted debris to free Bowsie, and a relieved Garcia lifted her dog into her arms. After the tragic loss of her home, just getting to hold and hug her best friend again was enough to fill Garcia with emotion.
“Well, I thought that God had just answered one prayer, to let me be OK,” Garcia said, holding tight to Bowsie. “But he answered both of them.”
Meanwhile, across town, rescue workers in Moore discovered another four-legged survivor after the dog’s owner lost his life in the deadly tornado, the Huffington Post reports. The scared, mud-caked pup was found in a pile of wreckage, and when rescuers struggled to coax the dog to safety, they realized he was actually standing guard over his owner’s body.
The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Department, on scene during the rescue of the loyal pup, tweeted a photo of the dog to share the pup’s story. While the dog is currently being housed at a local shelter, he won’t be without a home for long — the sheriff’s deputy who discovered the dog plans to adopt him, and will bring him home soon.
Dogs are also a vital part of the recovery process in Oklahoma this week. The Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Parish Comfort Dogs— who have been on hand to help in New York and New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy, in Newton, Connecticut following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and in Boston following the Marathon bombings last month — are now on the ground in Oklahoma, offering friendly ears and wagging tails to survivors at disaster shelters and churches in the Moore area.
According to the South Bend Tribune, six Golden Retrievers, and nine dog handlers made the trip from Illinois and Indiana to Oklahoma City, including two dog-handler teams that were present after the devastating Joplin, Missouri tornado in 2011.
Handler Tiffany Manor and her dog, Zeke, are one of the comfort dog teams meeting Oklahomans who have been affected by the disaster. “You just want to do whatever you can to fix things and make it right,” Manor explains. “It feels like a privilege to be there and be able to serve.”
Messiah Lutheran Church Senior Pastor Mark Muenchow says the dogs will help survivors heal after the deadly tornado. “People will still be fairly shellshocked,” Muenchow says. “The dogs kind of take their focus off of it for a moment and allow them to kind of share.”
As the recovery begins, many Oklahoma families are still looking for their missing dogs and cats. A Reddit thread for Oklahoma pet owners has been started in the aftermath of the tornado. Photos and descriptions of pets both lost and found are being shared on the site, with new posts popping up by the minute.
The Central Oklahoma Humane Society has partnered with Oklahoma City officials and the City of Moore to assist animals affected by the storm. OK Humane is currently housing dozens of recovered pets at their facilities, and while some pets, like this dog, Baby, have been reunited with their grateful owners, many others are still waiting. OK Humane is posting photos of recovered dogs and cats on their Facebook page. The organization is also directing pet owners to another resource, the OKC Metro Area Lost & Found Pets site, hoping to help make more happy reunions possible.
If you would like to help the many dogs, cats, critters, and their families who have lost so much as a result of Monday’s devastating tornado, please consider making a donation to the Central Oklahoma Humane Society’s OK Humane Disaster Fund. Donations can be made by phone at (405) 607-8991 or online with this donation form.