Dog Cradled in Texas Tornado Victim’s Arm Discovered Alive

MAY 19, 2015 UPDATE: The Tapleys’ surviving dog, an 8-year-old Great Pyrenees, has been adopted by Michelle Shockley.

“My mom and I agreed that we would set her birthday at her survival date. That is the day her life changed. It helps us honor the lives of her owners that perished in the tornado,” Shockley told the Huffington Post.

Cindy Nash of Nicholas’ Pet Haven said the dog, who has been named Emma, was the most traumatized of all the pets her non-profit group has been taking care of since the tornado.

“She has the saddest face and is absolutely traumatized,” Nash told the Huffington Post. “You can’t help but cry when you look at her, and just want to sit and hold and love her.”

Veterinarian Gary Spence said that despite her horrific ordeal, Emma will recover.

“Emma’s going to be okay,” he told the Huffington Post.

david and brenda tapley van texas tornado

Married for decades, David and Brenda Tapley of Van, Texas, were both animal lovers who volunteered their time to local rescue groups.

The morning after a devastating, 700-yard-wide EF-4 tornado roared through the small town Sunday night, David’s body was found near the rubble of his house. The retired police officer had one arm around one of his dogs. His other arm was reaching toward his wife, who also died.

The dog was still alive.

The Tapleys were discovered by their 14-year-old neighbor, Emmanuel Vasquez, who went looking for them with his father and brother when the couple did not appear after the disaster struck.

“Shocking… I couldn’t move at all,” Vasquez told CBS DFW.  “All I did was yell.”

Chuck Allen, the fire marshal and emergency management coordinator for Van Zandt County, told the Tyler Morning Telegraph the storm developed quickly Sunday night.

“I do not know exactly how much time residents had after the sirens sounded. I do know that it saved lives,” he said.

The Tapleys were the tornado’s only fatalities. Forty-seven residents of Van were injured, and nearly 100 houses were damaged. Two of the Tapley’s three dogs did not survive.

“I still can’t believe my uncle and aunt are gone,” wrote Cristie Tapley Brawner on the Van Texas Tornado Recovery Facebook page. “Such strong-willed, big-hearted folks…just gone. As the day wears on, the shock of it lightens and the pain of the reality sets in. I just continue to remind myself that they are together, husband and wife, in the presence of our God Almighty.”

Vasquez’s dad, Aaron, told CBS DFW he will never forget what he saw Monday morning. It’s a reminder that life can slip away so quickly, he said.

How to Help

The American Red Cross has been helping Van residents as well as people in seven other states after as many as 135 possible tornadoes occurred over the past several days.

“The last week has brought unrelenting rounds of severe weather and our volunteers are working around the clock to comfort and support people,” said Richard Reed, senior vice president for Disaster Cycle Services, in a news release. “Our work is made possible by generous donors, and we need your help now.”

A $10 donation to help Van residents can be made by texting “redcross” to 90999. Donations can also be made online or by calling 1-800-733-2767.

An online fundraising account to help injured Van animals has been created by the local non-profit rescue organization Nicholas’ Pet Haven. As of Tuesday morning, more than $2,100 has been raised. The rescue also needs dog food and supplies; call 903-312-7585 for more information.

Residents of Van who are missing pets should call Nicholas’ Pet Haven at 903-312-7585. After 7 p.m., call City of Van Animal Control at 903-539-0429. Photos of lost and found pets are being posted on the Van Texas Tornado Pets and Animals Lost Facebook page.

Photo via Twitter

Laura Goldman

I am a freelance writer and lifelong dog lover. For five years, I was a staff writer for i Love Dogs. When that site shut down, I started this blog...because I STILL Love Dogs!