Illinois tornado survivor finds his lost dog in the rubble

Last Sunday, November 17, a wave of tornadoes struck the Midwest, leaving small towns in southern and central Illinois in ruins.

The Shetland Sheepdog was found alive underneath a pile of rubble. (Photo credit: Charles Ledford/University of Illinois/

As the brutal storm barreled through his Washington, Ill., neighborhood, coming closer and closer to his house, John Byler Dann rounded up his four young children — ages 8, 5, 2, and 1 — and rushed down to the basement.

One important member of the Byler Dann family, however, was missing as the funnel cloud struck their home. Eleven-year-old Maggie, the family’s beloved Shetland Sheepdog, did not make it down to the basement before the storm leveled the house.

“Within three seconds, it was flattened,” Byler Dann tells the Chicago Tribune. “I looked up and could see blue sky, water coming in from the broken sink, and I could see through my van.”

The tornado had blown his house into bits. The family’s minivan was dropped nearly on top of Byler Dann and his children. After accounting for his kids and calling his wife Rebecca, who was at work in Peoria, Ill., at the time of the storm, Byler Dann turned to his Facebook in the hours after the devastating storm to let his friends and out-of-town relatives know he survived.

“We are all OK,” he writes. “House has looked better.”

But as he and his family began searching the debris, they realized someone very important was missing — Maggie.

“We lost Maggie today,” Byler Dann posted on Facebook later that day, grieving the dog he’d had since she was only 4-months-old.

Because their house was completely destroyed, the family stayed with friends nearby Saturday night and through Sunday. But Monday, the Byler Danns returned home to survey the devastation and see what, if anything, could be recovered.

Suddenly, Byler Dann heard a faint barking coming from deep within a pile of rubble. Underneath a slab of concrete, a layer of insulation, and rolled into a carpet was Maggie. The little Sheltie had miraculously survived the tornado.

“I felt intense relief and elation but also just panic,” Byler Dann tells of the moment he realized Maggie was buried in the debris but also injured. “I’m very thankful and blessed to have my wife and my children. And finding my dog today was just unreal.”

As friends and families pulled the little dog from the wreckage, Byler Dann couldn’t hold back the tears. Though Maggie’s hip was dislocated, she is expected to make a full recovery.

“So glad she’s still with us,” Byler Dann says.

Sources:, Chicago Tribune