Yesterday’s 4.9 earthquake, felt by people in the area of Vancouver and southern Vancouver Island down to Seattle, prompted me to share this story, which was first published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What? (2014). Unfortunately, Dylan, the dog in the story, is no longer with us, and our new dog does not have the same talent (the photo below is Dylan looking heroic, about the time the story took place).
Our dog Dylan was a lousy watchdog. He was a large Lab mix and had the potential to be intimidating. But instead of barking when strangers came to the door, he’d greet them with an eager wag of his tail.
One night, my husband Craig left Dylan in our van parked by the ice arena where Craig was playing hockey. Dylan was happy hanging out in the van (he always jumped in as soon as we opened a door, never wanting to be left behind). And Craig figured the presence of a big dog would be a better deterrent to would-be thieves than a car alarm. When Craig came out of the arena near midnight, he was surprised to see Dylan running loose around the parking lot. It took Craig a moment to register that the van was gone. Not only had Dylan not deterred the car thieves, he must have happily jumped out of the van to greet them when they forced open a door (which was just as well, because we’d rather have lost the van than Dylan).
Despite Dylan’s failing as a guard dog, we soon learned that he had the ability to raise an alarm of a different kind.
From the time we first adopted Dylan from a local animal shelter, he slept in a crate in our bedroom. When Dylan wasn’t yet house-trained, we locked him in the crate at night. Later, we kept the door open and Dylan would head into the crate on his own as soon as Craig and I began preparing for bed. The crate became a place of sanctuary and security for Dylan. When anyone mentioned the word “bath,” Dylan instantly hid in his crate. It was, therefore, out of character one night when Dylan refused to go into his crate. We pushed and coaxed, but he would not get inside. Instead, he slept on the floor at the foot of our bed. The next night was the same.
Coincidentally, shortly before this episode, I had been doing some research into the behaviour exhibited by animals before earthquakes. I had read that birds often stop singing moments before a quake hits and that dogs and cats have been known to avoid enclosed spaces (even to the point of running away from home) over a period of three days before an earthquake. On the third night that Dylan refused to go into his crate, I pointed out to my husband that Dylan might be displaying pre-earthquake behaviour.
“That would mean we should get an earthquake tomorrow,” Craig said, half intrigued, half laughing. We both went to sleep without giving it much further thought.
The next morning around 11:00 a.m., an earthquake hit. I was in the community centre swimming pool with my daughter at the time, and we didn’t feel it. But the rest of the city did. It was a small quake, with no damage reported, but it did give people a bit of a scare. As one woman interviewed on the local news said, “It was like standing on Jell-O.”
That night, Dylan returned to his normal pattern of happily bedding down in his crate, and Craig and I went to bed with a new feeling of security. Dylan might be a lousy watchdog when it came to burglars and car thieves, but when the next earthquake hits, we’ll be ready.