In this photo provided by the Illinois National Guard is Guardsman Spc. Jacob Montgomery with Dexter at the home of a friend near Peoria, Ill.
WASHINGTON, Ill. (AP) — A six-month-old pit bull that was buried under a pile of rubble for more than a week after a tornado ripped through a central Illinois city has been coaxed to freedom with hot dogs and reunited with his owner.
Jacob Montgomery, a member of the Illinois National Guard, was separated from the dog, Dexter, when the Nov. 17 tornado destroyed his third-floor apartment in Washington. Montgomery combed through the wreckage multiple times but turned up no sign of Dexter.
Nine days after the storm, a neighbor who was looking for his cat, also missing, with the help of a group called Rescuing Animals in Need sent Montgomery a Facebook message to tell him Dexter had been found partially buried in debris where the apartment building used to stand.
"He said, 'I've got your dog right here,'" Montgomery recalled in a statement released by the Illinois National Guard. "As soon as Dexter saw me, his tail started going."
The pooch was in relatively good shape.
"The vet said he has no real injuries — just a few scrapes and cuts," said Montgomery, who got Dexter as a puppy to keep him company when he moved from Champaign. "He was malnourished, but he's going to be fine."
The Washington tornado was part of a band of heavy storms that brought rain, high winds and a rash of twisters to Illinois, and left seven people dead in its wake.
Montgomery has been a military police officer with the Illinois Army National Guard for more than five years and is trained to respond to emergencies. But he says he's never been the victim of such a disaster.
"All I had in my apartment is gone, but my dog was all I really had to worry about," he said.
Montgomery is staying with a friend in nearby Peoria until he can find a new home.