Former Munster resident Michael Konopasek, who is working as a television news reporter in Oklahoma City, said he and a photographer were following blocks behind the deadly tornado Monday that devastated the suburban community of Moore.
As the two made their way through the rubble ahead of rescue crews, he said they saw bloodied people walking like zombies and several dogs running loose.
One of those dogs, a scared dachshund, clung so close that they decided to give it shelter in their truck. Konopasek later took it to his apartment after a long day of reporting from the disaster site. He was surprised to discover a familiar 219 area code attached to the telephone number on the dog's tag, he but was unable to reach its owner.
After putting out word of the stray dog the next day on Twitter and mentioning it during a live broadcast, he was contacted by a friend of the dog's owner.
He learned the owner was Gary native and former Chesterton resident Pam Chandler, who like him, had moved to Oklahoma City two years ago this month.
Chandler, a former nurse with the Visiting Nurse Association of Porter County, said she had hid with her dog, Abby, in a closet at home when the tornado hit.
"Just as I got into the closet, I heard all the windows blow out and furniture flying," she said.
"Honest to God, I thought I would die," she said, describing being buried by debris and having a door crash down shattering her elbow and leaving her bleeding. "Honestly, I thought my dog and me would die together."
She was able to dig through the rubble enough lift the 13-pound dog to freedom. Abby drew the attention of other survivors, who dug out and freed Chandler.
Chandler said she was separated from Abby when she was placed in ambulance and the dog was left tied to a pole.
"They wouldn't let me have her," she said.
She later learned Abby had been rescued and they were reunited Wednesday afternoon at the hospital with Konopasek and a television news camera capturing the moment.
"It's amazing how things happen the way they do," Chandler said.
Konopasek said this is the third tornado he has covered since moving to Oklahoma City, including one on his first day on the job. He said he had been concerned about being at home in his third-floor apartment when a twister hits until a co-worker pointed out he likely would be on the job when there are storms.
Chandler said she has had enough and will be moving with her son to Texas until she regains her health. She leaves with fond memories of all who have helped her through her ordeal.
"They're wonderful people out there," she said. "I owe my life to them."