Dog Survives Tornado: 'Answer to Our Prayers'

Sarah, a very gregarious black lab who thinks she is still a puppy, is back with her family, which had been frantically searching nearly 24 hours for her.

Her recovery is a miracle for her family, because she was literally sucked out of her owner's home in Windsor, Colo., when a tornado hit Thursday.

But the family's joy is tempered somewhat because Buddy, the family's tabby cat, remains missing.

The day after the tornado, residents in this rural Colorado town were tallying their losses and counting their blessings. Families and friends were checking on one another, and volunteers are helping to clear yards and streets of debris.

As the tornado closed in, Maria Belasquez had only minutes to grab her two children and run into the laundry room before the tornado tore through her neighborhood. She also corralled Sarah and Buddy.

She heard someone pounding on the door, ran to open it, and found her next-door neighbor seeking shelter from the storm. That's when a panicked Buddy and Sarah escaped from the laundry room seconds before the storm hit.

The Belasquez family survived the tornado, though family members were forced to evacuate their badly damaged home. They frantically searched for Sarah and Buddy but could not find their pets.

The Weld County Sheriff's Department instituted a plan four years ago to deal with pets after a natural disaster. A group of animal control officers and local veterinarians activated the plan right after the tornado hit to make sure families could be reunited with their pets.

Maria's husband, Michael, showed up at the emergency operations center in Windsor Friday morning. Dozens of dogs, cats, birds and fish -- all refugees from the storm -- were housed temporarily.

Michael described Sarah to a volunteer at the shelter.

"She's a black lab wearing a red collar, a friendly dog," he said.

The volunteer thought for a minute, then led Belasquez over to a row of portable kennels, opened one on the bottom, and out bounded Sarah, a big scar over her left eye where she was injured in the storm.

Sarah was so overjoyed, she was crawling up Michael to get into his arms, tough for a black lab.

She still thinks she's a puppy, Michael joked. Onlookers applauded, some cried. Maria hugged Sarah.

"This is an answer to our prayers, and means so much to our children," she said.

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