VILONIA — Melanie Gentry, practice manager for the Vilonia Animal Clinic, got tears in her eyes as she described some of the injuries she’s seen since a violent tornado blew through the city a week ago.
One dog had a “severed leg,” she said, hesitating to even say the words.
Gentry, who works with her husband, Dr. Chris Gentry, and co-owner Dr. Paul Jenkins, said the calls about injured animals started coming immediately on April 28, the day after the tornado tore through Vilonia.
Chris stuck his head out of an examining room long enough to say, “It’s bad.”
The clinic received “way more calls” than after the 2011 tornado, Melanie said. “As soon as I turned the phone over this morning, they’ve been ringing off the hook,” she said Monday.
“Last time was kind of silent for about two days, so I didn’t know what to expect,” she said.
A lot of the calls were about horses, she said, who were injured by flying debris. Melanie said Dr. Carl Fulton of the Faulkner County Veterinary Clinic helped care for the horses on Monday, and help with large animals is also being provided by Dr. Mike Lennon, who works part time at the Vilonia clinic. Jenkins, co-owner of the clinic, is also treating animals.
One happy story, Melanie said, was being able to reunite a dog with its family — the Smith family of Vilonia, whose sons, Cameron, 9, and Tyler, 7, were killed in the tornado.
It was a shepherd mix, she said. “It had lacerations. It was not badly injured and went home the next morning with family members,” she said.
The dog was found by Debbie Kennedy, a Faulkner County Humane Society board member.
Kennedy said she was helping friends clean up their tornado-damaged home on Cody Lane. The friends are neighbors of the Smith family, she said.
Kennedy said when she was outside working in the front yard of the friends’ home, a man who was across the street helping relatives clean up said he found a dog, but he wasn’t sure whether to approach it.
She said she went to check on the dog, who was under a patio table.
“I bent down and started talking to it, and I knew it was hurt,” Kennedy said. “I reached my hand down and let it smell me, and I said, ‘Baby, we can help you. Are you OK?’ It kind of lifted its head up to me, and you could tell it was hurt.”
Kennedy said a crate her friends had was too large to fit in her vehicle, and the dog didn’t want to be led by the leash she fashioned out of a ribbon. The man who found the dog eventually put the animal in the crate and took it to the clinic in the back of his truck, she said.
Kennedy’s friends told her the dog belonged to the little boys who died in the tornado.
“That was just harder than ever,” Kennedy said. “Here this dog came back, his house is blown away, he can’t find his owners, and so he went to another house and crawled under a table.”
Also, Kennedy said Cameron and Tyler had visited The Valley, her Vilonia church, which was “flattened” in the tornado.
“I taught these little boys on Wednesday night, so it just breaks your heart,” she said.
Kennedy described the boys as “very sweet, very well-mannered, both of them. One was quieter than the other,” she said.
Melanie said she spoke to a relative of the Smith family on Monday.
“They’re just trying to cope, but everyone was happy that the dog was well,” she said. “That was a good one; we were still kind of numb, but we were happy.”
Melanie said the Vilonia Animal Clinic is partnering with the Faulkner County Humane Society, which will pay for the clinic’s services through donations, “so owners don’t even have to think about it.”
Cindy Reyes, 25, who lives near Vilonia, brought in her pit bull, Precious, to be examined for a broken leg.
“My neighbors lost their three horses,” she said.
Melanie said the Mayflower Animal Clinic was damaged, “so they’re not even functional.”
The Maumelle Animal Clinic is taking care of injured animals from that city, which was also ravaged by the tornado.
Sarah Waller Payton, receptionist/supervisor for the Maumelle clinic, said as of Wednesday, employees had treated 17 dogs and one cat.
Maumelle Friends of the Animals is spearheading the effort, Payton said.
“Sunday night, they got together, and [they] contacted us Monday morning and said, ‘If we have patients, can we bring them to y’all?’ and we said, ‘Sure,’ Payton said.
“If they don’t come knowing who the owner is, we’re trying to post [pictures of animals] through Facebook,” Payton said.
Two animals were claimed through social media: one through a rabies tag and one through a microchip, she said. “Unfortunately, not as many as we’d like,” Waller said.
“I think there are four that are just boarding refugees,” she said.
In the hard-hit Parkwood Meadows subdivision in Vilonia, Kara Berrier, 38, said she found her puppy under the tornado-ravaged home she was renting.
Her friend Heather Adams said with a laugh, “We thought our stomachs were growling.”
Berrier said the puppy was in a kennel, and it came apart as the tornado shook the house, she believes.
A plant was on her counter next to a goldfish bowl, and after the storm blew through, the plant didn’t make it — the goldfish did.
Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.