Family’s kennel hit hard during twister

Sadie Gurman

One puppy fell through a wall. Two more were sucked out a window. Another was tossed into a cabinet, discovered later behind a stash of blenders and cake pans.

They’re OK — a little rattled, but OK — after Monday’s  tornado ripped through their Capron, Ill., kennel.

All of them need homes, breeder Brandi Williams said. Her parents, Richard and Anne Williams, were left homeless after the tornado damaged the kennel, their main source of income, and the farmhouse they were renovating.

Brandi Williams is selling 14 mastiff puppies for $500 each in an effort to rebuild her parents’ Old Style Kennels, 8647 N. Boone School Road, the family’s business. There were 15, but Machesney Park resident Justin Corliss was quick to pick up a clumsy, brindle one Friday at Happy Camper Pet Resort in Loves Park, Ill., which is temporarily housing the stranded dogs.

“When I heard his story, that made up my mind for me,” Corliss said of his still-unnamed pup. “Getting one can help (the Williams family), plus we’d been wanting one. So it’s a double joy.”

Sleepy and nuzzled together in cages, the mastiffs — 13 English and one Irish — aren’t obvious victims of the rare tornado, which toppled houses and tore down power lines in a fury that caused millions of dollars worth of damage.

The tornado damaged the kennel’s structure and walls, Williams said, and her family is still working out the details of how they will rebuild.

“The dogs have been great about this,” Williams said. “They have not been snappy. They are used to leaning on each other, just like we would for moral support.”

The puppies are all between 6 and 9 weeks old — small enough now that Corliss was cradling his new puppy in the crook of his arm. But mastiffs, English or Irish, grow to be massive creatures. Adult males can top 200 pounds.

The rescue effort for the puppies is being coordinated by Happy Camper, The Dogfather Behavioral Center and Stateline DogWatch. Employees worked Friday to ensure all the puppies are properly vaccinated. Quarters were full of other dogs that rely on Happy Camper’s day care and boarding facilities. Happy Camper is also housing some of the Williams’ other dogs.

“I’m happy to do it,” Happy Camper owner Sherri Ruston said. “We’re glad they are safe.”

The dogs can be visited by appointment only by calling The Dogfather’s Mike Borza at 815-997-8999.

Staff writer Sadie Gurman can be reached at 815-987-1389 or at

How to help

Happy Camper Pet Resort, 919 River Lane, Loves Park, needs supplies including newspapers, laundry soap, plastic bags, paper towels, used sheets and blankets. For information, call 815-398-8894.

To set up an appointment or learn more about the dogs, call Mike Borza at 815-997-8999.