Monday, April 18, 2011
Natural disasters can happen in the blink of an eye, and people and animals caught in nature's fury have their lives changed in a matter of minutes. Even with all the destruction, life goes on as stories of survival emerge from the rubble. Japan's earthquake and tsunami devastated so many lives, but some were saved because of the devotion of dogs.
As an animal lover, when natural disasters happen I worry about the pets that are caught up in something they don't understand. Pets that suddenly find themselves wandering through debris and shivering through cold nights with no shelter, food or clean water and no comforting voice from the ones they love.
Since the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, videos and stories of survival have been popping up on Facebook. One video in particular captured my attention. It shows two dogs left homeless by the devastation. One dog is injured and his friend stands guard over him in a true display of loyalty. When this video began to appear, the person posting it left a comment saying, “This is a hard video to watch. It's heartbreaking.” So I passed it by not wanting to watch something I knew would make me cry. But it stuck with me as the days passed and I kept thinking about the dogs and wondering what their fate was.
The video was shot by a Japanese reporter and his cameraman surveying the destructive power of the tsunami in an area called Arahama. A dog approached but stayed a comfortable distance away from them. He gave a bark as if saying, “That's close enough,” and went back to another dog lying in the background in front of a large metal barrel resting on its side. It's obvious the dog was protecting his injured friend. Both dogs were muddy, wet, cold and probably hungry. No one knows how long they had been together, but it's believed they knew each other. The uninjured dog wore a collar, so he was at least someone's pet. The good news is, both dogs were rescued. The dog guarding his friend was taken to a shelter, and the injured dog was taken to a vet where he is being cared for.
One story of survival that has stayed with me recounted a 12 year old Shih Tzu named Babu and her owner, 83 year old Tami Akanuma, who rode out the earthquake in their home. Babu is not a dog who enjoys walks, but on the day of the earthquake, she insisted on going for a walk when the lights in the house began to flicker. Once outside, instead of following Tami, Babu yanked on her leash and went in the opposite direction towards a nearby hill. Each time Tami stopped to rest, Babu would urge her to keep moving by pulling on her leash to get Tami to move faster. Babu finally relaxed and stopped pulling, and Tami was amazed to have discovered they had walked a little over half a mile in just a few minutes. As she turned around to look down the hill, the tsunami crashed through her coastal town and Tami's home was destroyed, along with everything else in the area.
Those of us who are close to our pets aren't surprised by these two stories of devotion, but they are nonetheless humbling because they remind us how the strong bond we've built with our pets goes both ways. Even between two dogs.
I do think animals have an ability to predict the weather to a certain extent, and I'm sure Babu sensed the tsunami. She could have raced outside and left Tami behind – but she didn't. Babu knew her job was to lead Tami to higher ground because of the impending danger she sensed. The uninjured dog in the first story could have taken off on his own to find shelter and food – but he didn't. His devotion kept him by the side of his injured friend. Loyalty and love run deep once a bond and trust has been formed, and not even an earthquake's destruction nor a tsunami could break their bond.
This isn't a feel bad story. It's a reminder to love your pet each and every day, and never take them for granted. It's a reminder to “see” stray cats or dogs who are trying to survive the best they can because they could be someone's lost pet. It's a reminder to treat every animal with respect and realize how precious they all are. It's a reminder to give the people and pets you love an extra hug. Life and security should never be taken for granted, because both can be changed in the blink of an eye.
Read more articles by Linda Cole