CLEMENTS, Ala (WHNT) - A family's search for their missing pet ended Saturday morning when a resident along Seven Mile Post Road called to say they had found the dog. Romeo, a pit bull, had been missing since the April 28th tornado destroyed Amber Buttleman's home near where the dog was found.
He had been run over by a car and was found lying in a ditch. Buttleman rushed to the scene and confirmed it was Romeo. She and her mother left in tears. A friend transported Romeo to her parent's home where he was buried. Amber says they are going to erect a cross at the dog's grave.
Buttleman says they adopted Romeo approximately four years ago. She says it was obvious he had been mistreated, saying he was underweight and had several scars on his back and neck where she says it appeared as though he had been used for fighting. But Romeo quickly accepted his new home and family, who loved and nurtured him.
Amber says about a month after adopting the dog, something strange happened. Her 8-year old son, Anthony, had suffered a stroke when he was 6 weeks old and was left with brain damage and he suffers from seizures. Romeo was able to spot the onset of Anthony's seizures and would alert Amber to what was happening so she could treat the event before it became bad.
"It was just unbelievable," Amber said. "He hadn't had any training for anything like that, it was just instinct he acted on."
A strong bond developed between the dog and his new family, especially with Anthony, who had asked daily where was "Ro-Ro," as he called him, "when's Ro-Ro coming home?"
Amber took her son and left her small duplex apartment near Seven Mile Post Road and Quinn Road ahead of the tornado warnings on April 28th. Anthony is in a wheelchair which meant a rapid escape from danger was virtually impossible. She never dreamed the EF-3 tornado would bear down directly on the close-knit neighborhood, destroying each and every building in the complex. Romeo and a 10-week old puppy were left behind.
"We found the puppy in the rubble," Amber told WHNT News 19 days after the storm. "He didn't make it. But we haven't been able to find Romeo." There was nothing but the concrete slab left of her apartment.
Amber returned to the apartment daily after the storm, leaving fresh food and water behind in case Romeo returned. She says several people reported seeing the dog in the area, but he would run away any time someone tried to approach him. Knowing Romeo was alive she worried he was frightened, hungry, maybe injured, and certainly unable to understand why neither the home that he knew nor the people he loved were not where he could find them.
Amber had posters printed and hung them throughout the area. There were constant updates and requests for help posted to social media. Friends and even strangers alike searched the area in hopes of reuniting Romeo with his family.
Thursday night, Amber received a phone call from a woman who said a dog matching Romeo's description had been brought to a veterinarian in Morgan County, treated for a broken leg, and then sent to the Decatur Animal Shelter. When the shelter opened Friday morning Amber was there, but it wasn't Romeo.
And then the call she had feared most came Saturday morning.
Amber expresses her sincere gratitude to all who helped in the search saying she would never forget the outpouring of love and concern. The hardest part, she says, was having to tell Anthony that Ro-Ro won't be coming home.