IM this article to a friend!

June 2, 2003


From: Plymouth Evening Herald, UK - Jun 2, 2003


A dog appears to have saved its owner's life by holding her back when he sensed a tree was about to crash down across the path in front of her.

The woman says she is lucky to be alive after her dog stopped her walking down a lane seconds before a tree blew down.

Valerie Smith, 61, narrowly missed being crushed while out walking her nine-year-old dog, Tommy, in a field in Eggbuckland.

She began walking home, and had turned into a lane when Tommy suddenly stood still and refused to move.

When Valerie tried to walk forward, Tommy started barking at her.

She paused for a few seconds but when she tried to move forward again, Tommy bared his teeth at her.

"He was quite aggressive and he's never like that," said Valerie. "I knew he wouldn't bite me, but I couldn't work out what was wrong. I knew it had to be something unfamiliar, because if it was an animal or a person, he would just sniff it.

"We just stood there and I felt quite frightened. I thought I'd walk on and keep close to the left. I was a bit shaky."

But when she tried again to step forward, a tree fell down on the path directly in front of her. Valerie was left with scratches to her arm as the eight- to 10-foot tree scraped her as it fell.

But she believes it would have struck her head if she had continued walking.

When she examined the tree, Valerie saw that the trunk had rotted through and believes it fell after it being caught by a gust of wind.

Valerie is partially deaf and could only hear a man mowing his lawn on what was an unusually blustery day.

She thinks Tommy may have heard the tree creaking before it fell, but is otherwise at a loss to explain his behaviour.

Evening Herald vet Nigel Taylor said it was not uncommon for dogs to have a sixth sense.

"This can happen quite a lot. You can train dogs to recognise when people are going to have epileptic fits - they just seem to be in tune with their owners," he said. "Dogs are often very sensitive to things: they can tell when an earthquake is going to happen."

To reward Tommy for his heroism, Valerie said she had given him 'plenty of kisses' and meat jerk.

Valerie and her husband got Tommy from the Woodside animal shelter seven years ago and she said his act of heroism had made him extra special to them.

"He's my hero. I'm still very shaky when I think about what might have happened. I've been giving him lots of fuss, which he thinks is just wonderful," she added.

If you have a similar tale, or an explanation of Tommy's ability, write to the Newsdesk, Evening Herald, 17 Brest Road, Plymouth PL6 5AA.

© Northcliffe Electronic Publishing Ltd.