Monday, March 28, 2011

Dog saves owner from tsunami

Tami Akanuma, 83, holds her Shih-tzu dog 'Babu' at an evacuation centre in Miyako, northern Japan. -- PHOTO: AP

Mar 28, 2011
Dog saves owner from tsunami

MIYAKO (Iwate) - BABU does not normally like going for walks, but when the 12-year-old shih tzu insisted on going for one soon after the March 11 earthquake, her owner, Tami Akanuma, suspected something was amiss.

And when Babu stubbornly headed for a nearby hill rather than taking their usual route in the coastal city of Miyako, Mrs Akanuma decided to follow along. Doing so may have saved Mrs Akanuma's life: Minutes after climbing the hill, a devastating tsunami slammed into the town, flattening the district of Taro-Kawamukai where they lived about 200m from the coast.

'Babu might have sensed a tsunami was coming,' said Mrs Akanuma, 83. Mrs Akanuma was relaxing in her living room when the quake struck off the Tohoku coast. The lights went out and Babu started scampering around the room, whimpering loudly and madly wagging her tail.

'It's a bit early for a walk,' Mrs Akanuma thought, but she put Babu on her leash anyway. While they were in the entrance to Mrs Akanuma's home, a warning that a huge tsunami was heading for the Pacific coast was broadcast over the town's community speaker system.

Mrs Akanuma experienced the 1933 Showa Sanriku quake, which triggered a tsunami that left more than 900 people dead or missing in the Taro district. Her memories of that disaster meant they only had one option. 'We need to evacuate,' Mrs Akanuma recalled thinking.

As soon as she opened the door, Babu frantically ran outside and headed toward a nearby hill - the opposite direction they usually go for a walk. When Mrs Akanuma's pace slackened, Babu would look back, seemingly urging her owner to walk faster. When Mrs Akanuma caught up, Babu would bound ahead again, straining at her leash. This game of hurry-up-and-catch-me continued over and over. When Mrs Akanuma finally took a breather, she had climbed the hill where an evacuation centre is located about one kilometre from her home. -- YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ANN