HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – A 11-year-old Horry County girl still has her four-legged best friend, who became trapped under a barn following Wednesday's tornado that hit the Conway area.
"I'm really blessed that he was ok and that the rest of my family was ok," Ava Grace Cannon said.
Horry County Sheriff's Sgt. Jeff Benton and linemen with Horry Electric worked to retrieve Charlie Cat, the beloved cat of Ava Grace, who lives with her family off New Home Circle.
"You can't give up until you find the cat," Benton said. "Animals are really important to families and they are members of that family. We didn't know if Charlie had been trapped underneath something or was hurt."
The family was all safe and accounted for after the tornado, except for Charlie Cat.
"I felt like he was out here," said Myra Cannon, Ava Grace's mother. "He likes to lay on the hay in the barn. Didn't see Charlie cat anywhere, so I asked these guys, 'I know it sounds a little crazy, but will you keep an eye out for Charlie?'"
Benton said he and the linemen set out to find the cat, listening for his meows as they searched.
"You'd have to search a while then stop and listen for him to meow because with the boom trucks working here and the electric crews and everything else and the noise out here, it was difficult to determine where he was.
After 45 minutes, the rescuers got down on the ground next to a barn destroyed during the tornado on the Cannons' property and realized Charlie Cat had stuffed himself in a tight crawl space underneath it.
Benton said they tried using treats to draw him out, but he wouldn't budge.
he said the cat eventually smelled his hands, so he tried grabbing him, but the space was so small both his hands and the cat couldn't fit through.
Using a can of tuna fish, Benton and the linemen were able to entice Charlie Cat to come out to safety.
"You could hear little Charlie crying," Benton said. "Well, you're not going to leave. You're going to help him out."
Help him out they did, and the rescuers were able to reunite Charlie Cat with his very relieved family.
Ava Grace was still at school at the time the rescue was going on, but she said she would've been very upset if she had been there for it. She said she was already sad to see the damage to her neighborhood, including to her grandparents' house.
"I was more sad that my grandparent's house got really messed up," she said. "They'll have to get a new house. If they get a new house, it won't really be the same because of how much time I've spent over there."
Ava Grace said she's very thankful to still have her special cat after the storm.
"Thank you very, very much because it meant a lot to me."