Family finds lost dog one week after tornado lifted it away

Posted April 27, 2011 7:25 p.m. EDT
Updated April 27, 2011 10:58 p.m. EDT

— A Fayetteville family was reunited with their German Shepherd one week after it was picked up and blown away in the tornadoes that ripped through the state April 16.

The Alfonzo family was out of town when they heard the news that their home on Decatur Drive had been demolished and that their two dogs were missing, Meagan Alfonzo said.

"The house is replaceable, but my dogs aren't," Alfonzo said. "They're a big part of our family. We love them very much."

Prince, a 4-year-old pit bull, and Raider, a 1-year-old German Shepherd, were in the shed behind the home when the storm hit.

Teresa Esparza, 14, the Alfonzo couple's niece, was house-sitting at the time and said she watched both dogs get sucked up into the funnel cloud and lifted away.

"The shed like flipped away," Esparza said. "I was really scared because I didn't think I would ever see them again. It was terrifying to know they were going through that."

On the Tuesday after the storm, Esparza visited the Cumberland County Animal Shelter and found Prince there.

But there was no sign of Raider.

One week to the day after the storm, two Fayetteville police detectives noticed a dog that kept returning to the site of a demolished home on Decatur Drive.

"Three separate occasions when we'd come by, the dog was in the living room, even though there was no wall," said detective Stig Larson.

When they tried to corral the German Shepherd into the police car, the frightened animal ran away.

"I have a pet at home," said detective Glen House. "Our pet is like another child to us, so we wanted to get the pet back with the owner."

The detectives followed the dog until it disappeared into a wooded area. After talking with neighbors, they learned that the Alfonzo family had lost a German Shepherd in the storm.

They contacted Alfonzo who was out searching for Raider with Esparza. Together, they walked to the tree line and called for Raider.

The dog came limping out from the woods at the site of its owner.

Alfonzo said she was overjoyed to find Raider and to reunite the dog with its best friend Prince.

"Now they get slobber all over me and I don't tell them to stop. (To) see them together was amazing. They're biting ears, biting tails and rolling all over the floor," Alfonzo said.

Raider is nursing a slight injury to his hind leg, but is otherwise okay, Alfonzo said. The family is staying with relatives until they decide what to do next.