December 25, 2004.
Joanne’s family is highly ecstatic. It’s their first Christmas in the newly acquired sea-facing house in Ramanathapuram (costal village in Tamilnadu). The house is filled with frenzied activity. Why only the house, the entire island was engaged in the week long preparations for Christmas and New Year. The smell of sweetmeats overpowered the smell of sea. Joanne was happy, but tired, because she hadn’t slept for nights together. She was yawning her head off. At least tonight, she was expecting to get some sound sleep.
Now three year old stray dog, was just a puppy when he had wandered into Joanne’s plot which was under construction. Joanne and her son Jason, had come to supervise the construction work and from nowhere this stray pup clung onto Jason. He immediately lifted him and held him tight to his bosom. He named him “Josiah”. A cleanliness freak Joanne, still couldn’t say no to her son Jason holding a dirty little stray pup. As time passed by, she started to have an affinity towards Josiah. Josiah was a dog who found extreme pleasure in discovering leftovers of chicken that goes into the dustbin. Sophistication was never a part of him.
He was never cranky but a no-nonsense and happy-go-lucky pet. Yet, his behavior has been very unusual from today morning. He refused to eat anything. Even his most favorite dishes failed to tempt him. He seemed to be frightened with the sound of sea and would go nowhere near it. This was so not Josiah. Why was he avoiding water? Has he got rabies? This very thought, sent shockwaves down Joanne’s spine. Evening brought no relief too. He kept moaning and made curious noises. His disturbed movements assured her that something was surely wrong with him.
Approximately 1300 nautical-miles apart, on December 25, 2004, Max (a six year old golden retriever) also behaved peculiar. His moaning was gut-wrenching. His cries reminded Sukarno (his pet-parent) of the day he could never forget.
November 2, 2002
The whole Sumatra Island was shattered by a massive earthquake of 7.3 magnitude. It was followed by an equally devastating tsunami which washed away 994 buildings, killing 3 and injuring several people. Sukarno’s house couldn’t make it through the earthquake. Many of his relatives were injured and some went missing too. Max behaved in a remarkably similar manner, exactly on the day before the calamity rocked the island. The memory is still fresh and the wounds deep. Sukarno never wanted to see the furious revenge of nature again but he was not lucky and his wildest fears came true.
December 26, 2004,
Planet Earth witnessed one of the deadliest natural disasters. It was the third largest earthquake with a magnitude of Mw 9.1–9.3. The entire planet vibrated as much as 1 centimeter which triggered other earthquakes even as far as Alaska. Tsunamis in Sumatra are relatively rare despite frequent earthquakes. The ‘2002 Sumatra earthquake’ is said to be a foreshock, pre-dating the main calamity by over two years. Only if Sukarno had taken Max’s instincts seriously, he would have had a chance to survive which was not to be. Sukarno, along with his fellow islanders, were not there to see the next day and Max was orphaned.
Joanne could no more see Josiah’s quandary. But on a holiday season, the vets were in no mood to work. Joanne had no choice but to immediately pack off Jason and Josiah’s essentials to travel to Paramakudi (20km away from Ramanathapuram, Tamil Nadu), where her cousin practiced as a vet. Joanne didn’t regret her decision as she could celebrate Christmas with her cousin and Josiah too, was getting back to his normal self.
The next morning, when Joanne switched on her TV, she was shocked to know that the entire island where she lived, in Ramanathapuram, fell prey to nature’s wrath and none survived. Is it her concern for Josiah’s health or is it Josiah’s sixth sense that made them escape the impending danger?
Most of the pets and wild animals escaped the December 26, 2004 earthquake and tsunami. Well before the giant waves struck, elephants, dogs, horses, cats and birds (most of them being pets) moved to higher grounds in Sri Lanka and Sumatra; the same happened in Thailand. Apparently, dogs and cats ran up the hill tops, and at Galle in Sri Lanka, pet-parents were puzzled when their animals refused to go for their usual morning stroll at the seashore.
Another prominent incident happened in Haicheng (a city in China) on February 4, 1975, where the officials evacuated the residents shortly before an earthquake of 7.3-magnitude hit the city. The decision to evacuate was basically due to the fact that almost all inhabitants had observed ‘’progressively unusual activity’’ among animals like dogs, horses, cats, pigs, and cows, as early as two months prior to the quake.
The mankind which boasts of possessing sixth-sense, spends millions in scientific research, yet neither has it been able to predict accurately nor could it act swiftly wherein the ordinary animals who possess only 5 senses, foresee such disastrous calamities coming. Perhaps they are so attuned to nature that they pick up subtle vibrations or sounds in the earth, and may even respond to subterranean gases released just before the earthquakes, or respond to fluctuations in the Earth’s electrical field.
Even though there have been documented cases of unusual animal behavior prior to ‘acts of god’, many scientists are skeptical and dismiss these as ‘non-sense’ that people share, after any disaster occurs.