Mother and son

Pam Chandler and Abbey
Credit: Shannon Cornman

The two were brought together May 22 at Southwest Integris Medical Center, where Chandler is recovering from a broken arm. The had been separated shortly after the twister, when Chandler was transported to the hospital by ambulance.

“My baby. Hi, sweetie,” Chandler squealed as she saw Abby for the first time in two days. “She thought I had left her, I think. She was crying when they took me.”

Abby immediately began licking her owner’s face.

The reunion was made possible by KWTV Channel 9 photojournalist Michael Johnston and reporter Michael Konopasek.

“We saw a pack of dogs and noticed Abby kept coming around,” Konopasek said. “We picked her up, and she stayed in the news truck all day.”

Abby spent the night at the reporter’s house. Konopasek found a telephone number on the dog’s collar and eventually got the last name of the owner.

On May 20, Chandler had wrapped her arms around Abby as the tornado ripped her house apart.

“I was buried pretty deep and didn’t have much of an air hole, but I held her (Abby) up so she could breathe,” she said.

Abby has been through tough times before. Chandler described her as a rescued dog that had been “dumped on the streets where I lived in Indiana.”

As the dog and Chandler were separated, Chandler’s adult son, U.S. Navy pilot Aaron Chandler, was dealing with anxious moments of his own.

Knowing that his mother’s house was in the tornado’s path, he began an agonizing journey to find her. “I knew I couldn’t get through [the tornado-stricken area] with my car, so I rode my bike toward her house as far as I could. Then ditched it and ran. I didn’t think Mom would be alive,” he said.

Houses and street signs were obliterated. No street addresses were visible.

“There was no identifier anywhere,” Aaron Chandler said. “Finally, I got to what I thought was her house and started screaming, ‘Mom!’ At first, I couldn’t recognize anything. The rubble was this high,” he said, gesturing to his chest. “We were digging frantically.”

Chandler finally heard his mother had been taken to a makeshift triage several blocks away.

Hours later, Chandler discovered his mother had been taken to Integris Southwest for a broken arm.

Finally, he was able to relax. “I had my doubts until I talked to her. One of the first things she asked about was the dog,” Aaron Chandler said. “I know how important Abby is to her. That became my next mission. Seeing Abby is better medicine than anything they could give her.”

Tim Farley

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