DEAR JOAN: I have thought about this so often over the years so thought I would share an interesting pet story and an earthquake.
In 2001, we were living in the Seattle area and there was a 6.0 earthquake. At the time, we had a rescued Greyhound about 3 years old. We had a large bathroom and I was there when suddenly, he started running in circles.
I assumed he heard the front doorbell and that I had missed it. So I put on my bathrobe and started down the hall. Suddenly this earthquake hit. Pictures flew off of walls, crystal sitting on shelves fell off, and glass was everywhere except where we were. He felt that earthquake at least 30 seconds to a minute before I did. It was startling to think about.
In this last earthquake, our little Shih Tzu reacted exactly when I felt it but was sound asleep before it hit. The same thing happened with the one the following night and we live about 2 miles from the epicenter in Pleasant Hill.
So apparently dogs vary in their sensitivity. Of course greyhounds are known to be very sensitive dogs. We were so fortunate to have him until he was 14, an age that is very unusual for greys to reach.
Lois LaShell, Walnut Creek
DEAR LOIS: Thanks for your story. It’s interesting so hear how two dogs reacted so differently, although to uphold your Shih Tzu’s honor, the Pleasant Hill-centered quake wasn’t as big or violent as the Seattle one.
Researchers continue to try to quantify animals’ abilities to feel earthquakes ahead of the actual shaking. So far, they haven’t been able to get consistent results, much like in your case where one dog sensed it coming and the other didn’t.
It might be similar to how some dogs are bothered by noises (firecrackers, gunshots, certain pitches of sound) and others could care less. Or how some dogs pay close attention to the television and others don’t.
If you have a particularly sensitive dog, I’d definitely heed the warning when he started acting oddly. The only time my Chihuahua, Bailey, gets worked up is when it’s treat time and I’m not moving fast enough.
I’d love to hear from readers about reactions they’ve noticed in their pets or the surrounding wildlife.
DEAR JOAN: Some have questioned what to leave out for birds’ nesting material. When I lived in Los Altos Hills and had angora goats, they would shed their thick gray fur in the warm weather and I would take these huge masses of fur and drape them over tree branches in the horse paddock.
The birds loved it. It would be gone in a few days, and I always hoped it somehow was helpful to the birds, squirrels, rabbits and other creatures.
I had men trimming trees one year, and they were amused that every nest they saw was lined with gray angora fur, so it evidently worked.
Shari Emling, Mountain View
DEAR SHARI: Those creatures knew a good thing when they saw it. I’m sure your ultra soft and cozy angora wool was appreciated by all the nest-building animals in your area, and the young ones that were born into the lap of luxury.