Animals have an uncanny ability to know when a natural disaster is about to strike. Sometimes, they run away or hide, and their humans have no way of finding them in time to evacuate. More often than not, a pet owner has no choice but to leave their animals behind in order to save themselves.
At the end of every natural disaster– whether it be a flood, earthquake, tsunami, fire, or tornado, local shelters have to gather abandoned pets and attempt to reunite them with their owners. Many pets go unclaimed, and other times, people learn that their pets are not among the survivors. But in these next ten stories, pets are reunited with their owners in the most amazing ways.
Judy Pugh was an elderly woman sitting in her home in Tuscaloosa, Alabama when a tornado hit. A wall fell on top of her, which held her body down as the rest of her house was sucked up into the twister. Neighbors called her name and lifted the wall off of her, and the storm continued to move on and ravaged the rest of the town. Pugh had three pet cats, and finding them after the storm was her only concern.
She managed to find two of the cats soon after. but sadly, she could not find her third cat, Cadie. Her family suspected that the 10-year old feline was carried away in the twister. Despite the fact that over a month had passed since the storm, she did not give up hope. Pugh continued to show up to the wreckage of her home and search for the cat every single day. A local TV station found Ms. Pugh standing by the wreckage and interviewed her. In the middle of the recording, Cadie the cat silently emerged out of the remains of Pugh’s house. He found his way home home after all.
Cadie was skinny, dirty, and could not even muster the strength to meow. Pugh walked over to him, gingerly scooping his tiny body into her arms. “I have everything in the world, now,” Pugh said as she began to cry. She cuddled her pet close to her chest. The TV microphone picked up the loud purring emanating from the tired cat.
Lester Morrow had no choice but to abandon his farm animals in Plum Grove, Texas during Hurricane Harvey. He was able to bring his dog with him, but they had no time to hitch a trailer behind their truck, and left behind several horses, donkeys, goats, and a potbelly pig named Patty.
When Morrow returned to his farm, he was recording the devastation on his cellphone, starting at the end of his long driveway. There was still a lot of water on the property, and he commented about the trash and debris that floated onto his land, when he saw in the distance that Patty the pig was so happy to hear Morrow’s voice, she was wading through the water to greet him. He immediately began sobbing, and recorded the animals who had survived the storm.
Many of his horses had broken legs, and over a dozen animals had died, but several of them managed to break down a fence and stand on the porch of the house in order to survive. He posted the video on YouTube to share with friends and family, and it went viral. He made a GoFundMe campaign to help his animals, and he raised $14,000.
On March 11, 2011, Japan was hit by an 9.0 magnitude earthquake that was followed by a tsunami that hit the northern part of the country. Three weeks after the disaster, the Japanese coast guard was still flying over the ocean to search for bodies that may be floating in the water. A mile away from shore, they spotted a dog walking around on top of the roof of a house that was floating in the water. Somehow, it had survived the tsunami. They lowered a man down from a helicopter to rescue the dog, who was later identified as “Ban”. The dog was wrapped in blankets, given food and water, and the rescue team carried him out on a stretcher.
Ban was reunited with his owner, who wished to remain anonymous in the media, so she wore a medical mask in the video of when they reunited to conceal her face. Ban still recognized her, and jumped up, wagging his tail and snuggling into her chest as she hugged him. “Thank goodness…I’ll never let him go,” she told the press.
In 2017, wildfires spread across Santa Rosa, California, destroying thousands of homes in its path. The Weaver family was forced to evacuate, and they could not find their dog, Izzy, in time to escape. On October 10th, Jack Weaver and his brother-in-law Patrick Widen returned back to Weaver’s property to see if there was anything left. He began recording on this cellphone, and even from far away, he could see that their home was completely burned to the ground. Even though it was a long shot, they began whistling and calling Izzy’s name, in hope that he somehow escaped the flames.
Their disappointment was almost immediately replaced by joy, because Izzy the shaggy Bernese Mountain dog began walking towards them. Not only did he survive, but the loyal dog was waiting in the ashes of his former home for his master to return. It was totally unexpected, and the brothers began screaming out of joy as their reaction was captured on film.
Charles Trippy gained Internet fame by daily vlogging every single day for several years. He had continued to do this for so long, he even holds a Guinness World Record. When Florida was expected to be hit by Hurricane Irma in 2017, their town was ordered to evacuate. Charles and his family decided to take their chances by staying at home with their dogs and an electric generator. Since vlogging on YouTube is his job, Trippy recorded the experience of living in a town that was almost completely empty before, during, and after the storm.
Just as Charles and his wife Allie were driving home from with supplies from the hardware store to officially hunker down for the night, they spotted a tiny 4-week old kitten standing in the middle of the street. They got out and took her into their car and refused to leave the baby behind. That night, the amount of damage and flooding caused by the storm was worse than they imagined, and they were lucky that their house survived. They knew that if they had not rescued the kitten, there is no doubt that it would have died. They decided to name her Rica, which is short for Hurricane.
A tornado hit Granbury, Texas in 2013. A man named Jerry Shuttlesworth was living in a trailer park. Without a basement or a place to hide, he had no choice but to shut himself in the laundry room with his dog, a pitbull named Junior. The tornado directly hit his trailer, and Shuttlesworth described it like the home was being crushed down, and then sucked up. He flew into the air, and the wind flipped him upside down. He was desperately trying to hold on to Junior, but the tornado ripped the dog out of his arms.
The tornado dropped Shuttlesworth about 20 feet away, but the dog had completely disappeared in the twister. He laid on the ground with broken bones, looking up at the tornado. He described seeing debris circling in slow motion above his head, and it was so surreal, it was unlike anything he had ever seen in his life. After getting rescued and getting Internet access, Shuttlesworth posted a photo of Junior as a missing pet on Facebook.
By no small miracle, the local animal shelter found him. They called the news, and the best friends were reunited on film. He told the reporters that he was going to treat Junior to a meal of Kentucky Fried Chicken. “I think he flew through the air. Y’know, dogs weren’t meant to fly. But he had an angel with him.”
After Hurricane Harvey, Texas shelters were filled to the brim with pets in cages, waiting for their owners to find them. In August of 2017, reporters rode along with The Humane Society of Dickinson, Texas. They were responding to phone call from people who were displaced from their homes, and pleaded for them to find their missing dog and cat. They arrived to the flooded neighborhood, whistling and calling the names of the pets, and found two dogs.
They were a poodle named Snoopy and English bulldog, Abbey. A kind stranger saw the two dogs swimming through the water together. She rescued them and brought them to her house, which was above the flood line. A man named Ryan Johnson showed up to claim Abbey and Snoopy from the shelter. He knew that they belonged to his father-in-law, who was having nightmares and losing sleep over the fate of his dogs. “He can finally sleep tonight,” Johnson said.
Ronald Handel lived on a ranch in California. He owned two Great Pyrenees mountain dogs who took care of their 8 goats. It was their job to protect the goats from predators in the California mountains. In 2017, when the wildfires were approaching in the distance, Handel scrambled to get his daughter and the dogs into the car so they could evacuate.
One of the dogs, Odin, refused to neglect his doggy duty. He laid down with the goats, and stared at Handel, as if to say, “I’m not leaving.” Handel waited as long as he could for Odin to come around, but they had to leave. He describes a horrific scene of the fire being so close behind him and his daughter as they drove, it sounds like a scene out of an action movie. They could see parked cars a few yards behind them filling with flames, and heard explosions from propane tanks, and the shriek of grinding of melting, twisting metal.
After the flames were put out, Handel and his young daughter did not expect to find anything when they returned to their property, but Odin was still there. He and the goats were slightly burned in a few spots, but he had managed to bring them all to safety, despite the fact that everything else around them was burned to the ground. He was limping, and very tired, so Handel knew that Odin had been on an adventure of his own to save his friends. If only dogs could talk.
After the 2011 tsunami in Japan, Fuji TV was filming the damage from the disaster, and they spotted a Brittany Spaniel. She walked up to them urging them to follow her. She walked over to an English Setter who was laying on the ground, clearly injured and unable to move. While the men sounded sad and concerned for the dogs, and they sent a message to “please help” to the Nippon SPCA, the witnesses failed to do anything to help the pups themselves.
The video made its way to YouTube, called “Stay together dogs”. It went viral, and people around the world were heartbroken and started sending money to the Nippon SPCA to help their rescue efforts. However, the video started a controversy, and the SPCA began to receive threatening phone calls from people accusing them of not working hard enough to save the dogs. Owners of dog food companies created raising money for their own campaigns to save the “stay together dogs”. People were very invested in the fate of the pups.
The dog’s owner saw the video, and recognized her dog, Mei-chan. The second dog, Lee-chan, also belonged to her. It took eight months for the Nippon SPCA to finally find Mei-chan, and she was reunited with her owner.
In 2002, a retired K-9 police officer named Perry Martin adopted a ginger kitten and named it T2. Hurricane Jeanne hit Florida in 2004, and everyone lost their power, and they could not turn on the air conditioning in the summer heat. Martin started leaving his windows open to let some air in. The 2-year old cat climbed through a window and out into the hurricane aftermath. Martin searched for a long time, and notified all of the local shelters, but after enough time passed, Martin accepted that he would never see T2 again.
In 2018, a local animal shelter found a skinny stray cat and brought him in. The scanned him for a microchip, and called up Perry Martin. When they told him that they had the cat that had gone missing 14 years earlier, he did not believe them, but sure enough, he was reunited with his cat, who was now an elderly 16 year old. They have no idea where T2 was for 14 years, or how he managed to survive, but during media interviews, he looks very content curled up in Perry Martin’s lap.
Shannon Quinn (shannquinn.com) is a writer from the Philadelphia area. You can find her on Twitter @ShannQ