It is difficult to impossible to know how much animals perceive of our wishes and our circumstances. But it happens, and sometimes with startling results.
When my stepson and his family lived on the bench above Okanogan, their small dog one night jumped up onto the bed of one of the older children.
Someone had left a kettle on the stove, with the heat on, and the vessel had boiled dry. The metal was heating up and giving off the odor of very hot metal.
Once awakened, the child recognized the odor and realized the hazard, leaped out of bed and rushed down to the kitchen. There she snatched the now-glowing pan off the stove and into the sink.
In the excitement that followed, the family realized that the dog had saved them from a fire which could have taken the house and all of them with it.
How did the dog know? Somehow it did.
In an earlier story, my brother had a Bedlington terrier, which looked like a slightly smaller Airedale, although this breed was gray instead of brown. The family called him Stormy (because the color of his coat resembled mist).
It was their family habit to let him out for a few moments at the end of the day, and on one particular night he came back to the door, walked over to a place, and lay down. Someone looked at him and then did a double take.
“That dog’s been hurt!” she exclaimed.
They rushed over to look, and found a wound on Stormy’s head with blood oozing from the cuts.
A few nights later the question was answered when a car, with its lights on, turned the corner by their house just as the dog was going out the door.
She turned and bolted back into the house. They concluded she had had a glancing blow from the car, and was lucky it was no worse.
Not long after that, the mother in the house was coming home in the family car. Their house sat on a slight rise, which required the driver to hit the gas to get up the small slope, which prevented the driver from seeing into the carport.
As she turned into the driveway, she saw Stormy, standing in its doorway, and trembling strongly.
She scolded the dog and ordered her to move, but the dog refused to budge. Shaking, she stood in the doorway. The driver set the brake, got out of the car, and walked up the short driveway to deal with the dog.
And then she saw the cause of her behavior: a neighbor’s young son, just about old enough to toddle around, was sitting in the carport, not visible to the driver because of the slope of the driveway.
If she had driven into the carport, she would have run over him.
The family felt that because of Stormy’s earlier encounter with a car, her behavior in protecting the youngster was the more remarkable.
Again, how did the dog know? We can’t know.
I dare say that there are many stories of similar nature that loving dog owners could provide, but we may never know the answer.
But while we marvel and wonder, let us be grateful for this mystery. Particularly if it’s your dog.
Elizabeth Widel is a columnist for
The Chronicle. This is the 2,862nd column in a series. She may be reached at 509-826-1110.