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The Shawnee News-Star
  • Owner finds Tommie the tornado dog

  • Fourteen years ago, the tornado outbreak in Moore destroyed the home where Andy Blochowiak lived. Monday, as a tornado raced toward his duplex, he wasn't worried about things that could be replaced, but was more concerned for his dog, Tommie.
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  • Fourteen years ago, the tornado outbreak in Moore destroyed the home where Andy Blochowiak lived. Monday, as a tornado raced toward his duplex, he wasn't worried about things that could be replaced, but was more concerned for his dog, Tommie.
    After four worrisome nights of not knowing where his beloved pet was in the tornado-ravaged area of Moore, Blochowiak found Tommie close to home after hearing her dog tags jingling in all the debris.
    "She's got separation anxiety — she will not leave my side," he said not long after finding her. "She was excited…wagging her tail."
    When the tornado barreled down on his neighborhood, he suspected Tommie was asleep on his bed, where she slept often. While at work in Oklahoma City and watching the tornado coverage on TV, he figured his duplex — a rental — along with his belongings, would be gone.
    "I pretty much knew — I knew it was gonna be hit," he said.
    As he tried to get home, "I was in denial a little bit," he said, but could tell things were bad once he arrived in Moore. With chaos and traffic, he parked his car and walked more than two miles to get to his home, located on 13th Street, about two blocks east of the Plaza Towers Elementary School where several students died.
    While his home was partially standing, houses across the street were completely flattened.
    In the debris, Tommie was no where to be found.
    As night fell in the chaotic tornado zone, where rescue efforts were ongoing for those possibly trapped, there was little Blochowiak could do.
    "The worst feeling is going to bed at night knowing your animal is out there," he said, with his biggest fear being that he would never know what happened to her.
    In the following days, he was able to go through the rubble of his home and managed to save a few items. But he was ready to trade all that to find Tommie.
    He went to all the pet shelters being set up for displaced animals to look for her, but had no luck. His neighbors thought they saw Tommie wandering around the neighborhood after the storm, which gave Blochowiak hope.
    Although he'd searched through the debris many times, he hadn't found her so he made laminated fliers to distribute in the area then went back to the house to look one more time.
    "I heard a jingle from her collar," he said, and began calling out her name.
    After so much rainfall on Thursday, the remnants of the roof that was left had collapsed, blocking Tommie inside what used to be the bedroom.
    Page 2 of 3 - He immediately crawled through the debris and snatched her up.
    "She was in shock — she didn't know what to do," he said, adding her little heart was racing with joy. To calm the shivering pooch, he ripped what was left of a curtain and wrapped her up.
    The normally white Beagle and Jack Russell mix, was brownish gray from all the soot and debris, he said, and immediately got a bath and something to eat.
    While she seemed unhurt — with no cuts or markings — he took her to see the vet, just in case.
    "I can only imagine what she saw," he said. "She took the scenic route."
    Blochowiak said he believes she wandered around the neighborhood and returned to sleep on his bed until she became trapped with the roof collapse.
    "I'm sure she came home every night like a good dog," he laughed.
    While on some days Blochowiak would leave Tommie outside in the backyard, he said he was thankful he left her in the house on May 20.
    "Her dog house was half-way down the street," he said, adding he saw many deceased pets in the aftermath of the storm.
    Blochowiak said the tornado-ravaged area of Moore is like "walking through a war zone," with insulation and all kinds of debris everywhere.
    Monday's storm was the third tornado that has directly affected Blochowiak. Had he been home, he would have sought shelter in his bedroom closet, which is one of the few areas still standing.
    When the tornado hit his Moore home on May 3, 1999, also was a Monday, Blochowiak, then age 15, lived with his mother and twin brother, Scott. On that day, Blochowiak wasn't too keen about taking shelter when an EF-5 approached Moore because he was playing a video game and wanted to save his place before getting into the closet. Although the house took a direct hit, they survived.
    And when the 2003 tornadoes came through Moore, one hit the restaurant where he worked.
    All three events had similarities.
    "There's a very distinctive tornado smell," he said, adding it's a combination of rain, natural gas, and moldy, rotten wood. "A tornado smell."
    And they all had another thing in common.
    "The weather was nice after…once the storm passes, it's perfect outside," he said.
    For now, Blochowiak is staying at his grandmother's house in Moore and said he feels fortunate to have a job and his car.
    And while he'll have to find a new place to live, maybe outside of Moore, he knows tornadoes can happen anywhere.
    Page 3 of 3 - "You live in Oklahoma, you have to get used to tornadoes," he said.
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