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Under bittersweet circumstances, dog and man find each other amid tornado, pandemic

The day after Phom Sisoukrath’s North Nashville neighborhood was devastated by a March 3 tornado, he discovered support in an unlikely companion that showed up at his doorstep: a dog named Phoenix.

A sleek red heeler with piercing blue eyes and a collar, but no owner contact information, made his way into Sisoukrath’s yard the day after an EF-3 tornado struck North Nashville and other parts of the region.

Sisoukrath named the dog Phoenix and immediately began the hunt to find his owner.

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Between aiding in the recovery efforts of his decimated neighborhood and the cleanup of his own home, which suffered a knocked-down fence, a damaged roof and a few broken windows, Sisoukrath and his friends scoured the community in search of Phoenix’s owner.

They posted on social media, knocked on doors and even were the subject of a television news interview about the found dog.

“I was thinking he must belong to someone whose house got damaged or fence got damaged,” Sisoukrath said. “I was thinking there was probably a lot of stray animals that have gotten lost. I have to take him in to make sure he gets home, and if I can’t find anybody, I’ll keep him.”

Sisoukrath and Phoenix stayed together for a week, both shaken by the deadly storms.

Then one of Sisoukrath’s friends notified him of some bittersweet news: Phoenix’s owner, a 90-something-year-old woman living only one block away, had been located.

Sisoukrath spoke with the woman’s son, who was ecstatic his mom’s beloved companion had been found. Sisoukrath said goodbye to Phoenix, crushing the quietly mounting excitement he felt at the idea of keeping him.

Then, last week, more bad news with a twist: Phoenix’s owner had died, and her children couldn’t keep him. Could Sisoukrath take him back?

“I want to give him a good home,” Sisoukrath said. “I was excited.”

Although Phoenix was timid after so much change so quickly, Sisoukrath said he’s adjusted well at his new home.

“He was still kind of nervous,” Sisoukrath said. “It was a big change for him. Once we got home, he went back to the spot where I kept him at before.”

Phoenix was formerly an outside dog in a fenced-in yard, and he’s still getting the hang of being an indoor pet. But Sisoukrath is coaxing Phoenix out of his shell with lots of belly rubs.

“He’ll walk up to you and just drop down and want you to rub his belly,” Sisoukrath. “And of course, I do.”

The tornado caused unthinkable damage across Nashville, destroying homes and communities. But finding, losing and reuniting with Phoenix brings Sisoukrath a sliver of hope for brighter days ahead.

“Sometimes you find the dog, sometimes the dog finds you,” Sisoukrath said in a Twitter thread about his and Phoenix’s journey.