People may think Catherine Rapinchuk is joking when she tells how she and her new dog, Toto, came to find each other.

She’s not.

The key element of that story, of course, involves a tornado.

Because of a natural disaster in the town of Holly — Toto’s tragedy — and the disappearance of Rapinchuk’s own dog, Toto and the Arvada resident found each other when they needed each other the most.

After the massive tornado devastated Holly this past March, Toto, a shitzu, was found north of town, his hair matted and a wire screen wrapped around his body. No one knows how far he flew, because Toto was not wearing tags, and no one came forward to claim him.

“He could have been picked up 40 miles from where he landed,” said Laura Gittings, the executive director of the Lamar Animal Sanctuary Team, a group that shelters lost and abandoned animals. She said a vet who worked on Toto said it was obvious the little dog was actually in the tornado, his body showing the damage of a wind-driven spin cycle.

So officials with the team cleaned Toto up and put him up for adoption.

More than 230 miles away, Rapinchuk still was reeling from the sudden disappearance of her dog, Bow, who she hasn’t seen since.

“There’s still a sizeable reward,” Rapinchuk said, hoping someone will find her dog.

Distraught, and her emotions in pieces, a friend told Rapinchuk about Toto. Soon after, Toto would become Rapinchuk’s saving grace, helping her deal with the depression she’s battled for years.

“I’ve got that body, I’ve got that warmth, I’ve got that cuddling,” she said.

Dogs have for years been thought to provide calming therapy to humans. Many doctors and psychologists believe the simple act of petting a dog can significantly relax a person.

Life has been going quite well since Toto arrived, Rapinchuk said. The dog has adjusted to living at her home and doesn’t seem to show too many ill effects of being swooped up by a raging tornado.

“The poor little guy was in sad condition,” Rapinchuk said. “I just thank God he was brought into my life.”