20: Early Warning System

20: Early Warning System

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?

Early Warning System

A dog is man’s best friend, and vice versa.

~Author Unknown

I gave myself a month to grieve when my very first dog passed away. Then I adopted a two-year-old blond Cairn Terrier from Pet Rescue who had been abused and abandoned by his previous owner.

Naming him Toby, I showered him with love and kindness, yet it took months before he understood he would not be abandoned again. The change in his behavior once he realized that was like a reborn animal—happy, playful, eager to go with me wherever I went. We became inseparable.

He’d follow me into every room of the house, then settle at my feet. I couldn’t take a bath or shower without him demanding to be in the room with me.

I never realized how deep Toby’s love for me was until the early morning hours a few days before Easter Sunday. It was a hot, muggy day that continued into the night. Rain was forecasted, but by midnight I was too tired to care and went to sleep in my second-floor corner apartment, sharing that bed with Toby. I left the window open beside my bed, hoping for some cool wind to reduce the heat and humidity.

I was awakened rudely from a deep sleep by a short bark and hard nudge in my back from Toby to face the sounds of heavy rain, thunder, and the sight of lightning outside my window. Wow. The clock on my night table read 12:50 a.m. I had been asleep less than an hour. I rose and kneeled by the window to admire the lightning display and enjoy the cool wind blowing through the screen.

Toby leaped off the bed and barked again. I turned to see his blond body, reflected from the outside parking lights, standing in the doorway of my room. The look in his eyes seemed to say, “You idiot, I’m outta here.” He barked again, expecting me to follow.

Seconds later the power went out. Darkness enveloped the entire neighborhood. The lightning, thunder, and heavy rain swiftly cut off. There was a dark, ominous silence. You could hear a pin drop.

I peered into the darkness at the tall forest of trees beside my building, listening to their soft sighs as they began to bend. Strange, I thought, the trees aren’t swaying back upright. Then, abruptly, I heard snapping. The sound grew louder the closer it came toward my building. At the same moment Toby barked again, urgency in his tone.

I raced into the hallway, screaming for him, unaware he was right at my heels until I reached the hall closet.

The loud roar drowned out my voice. The entire two-story apartment building vibrated as I grabbed Toby with one arm and leaped into the hall closet. I knelt down and struggled to close the door while I watched the far wall of my bedroom and the roof above it rip off, the tornado fighting desperately to tear the door handle out of my hand and suck me and Toby into its vortex.

In what seemed like minutes, yet was no more than seconds, the roaring sounds and vibrations ended. The tornado had passed.

It was quiet and still. I waited, afraid to move, still clasping Toby under my arm. He had not made a sound throughout the tornado’s passing. I prayed it was over.

Suddenly I heard another roaring sound and the building shook. A second tornado struck, following the same pattern as the first. Through the closet door, I heard things crashing and splintering inside my apartment. Items on the closet shelf jumped and fell, hitting me as I held Toby tight to my chest with one hand, the other clinging for dear life to the doorknob.

I felt a loud boom from the other side of the closet, shaking the entire building, spilling even more debris off the shelf and onto my head.

My eyes tightly closed, my body filled with terror for what seemed an eternity, and then the second tornado passed. It was silent again. But soon, I heard shouts and yells from my neighbors.

I let another minute pass before daring to open the closet door and step out into the dark hallway. I stared into my bedroom, the debris so thick I couldn’t enter. I could see the sky, the large hole in the wall where my tall dresser had stood. A huge tree now lay across my bed and protruded into my second bedroom as well, barely ten feet from the closet where Toby and I had hidden. The bed the two of us slept in moments earlier was gone, smothered under the debris and thick tree. The tree had slammed down so hard it had put a hole through the concrete floor and into my neighbor’s bedroom below.

With Toby at my side I left the apartment, climbing over tree branches on the stairs. All my neighbors in our four-unit apartment section were safe, yet as frightened as I over what had happened so quickly and violently.

We gathered at my neighbor’s apartment across from me on the lower floor, Toby trying to climb up my leg, not wanting to be separated. As I settled on my neighbor’s sofa, sharing it with Toby, I petted him and calmed his shaking body, gazing into soft, dark brown eyes as they gazed into mine. I easily saw his love and trust for me, aware my own reflected the same. My adopted little hero had saved my life.

~charly s.

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