Our precious two-year-old dachshund, Flash Gordon, relaxing on the couch between heroics.

So it is nearly Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday and a particularly opportune moment for giving thanks, and I just have to share this story.

If you are a “repeat reader” here (and if so, YAY!, THANK YOU!!), you probably noticed our little family has had a particularly challenging year. It is also ridiculously easy to trace back to when the trouble began….it was on August 25th, when a hurricane named Harvey came ashore in our home state of Texas.

From there, it proceeded to decimate many areas along the coast, and, in a story I relate here, my parents’ home of 42 years.

This, as you might imagine, placed a lot of stress on minds, bodies, wallets, and, in the case of my nearly 80-year-old parents, hearts and respiratory systems.

What is significant about all this is that, from the moment my folks were evacuated from their home via kayak early one morning, our puppy, Flash Gordon, became unusually restless, fearful and, in some ways, uncontrollable.

(Flash is actually two years old now, but I still call him our puppy because he will always be that 9-week-old bundle the breeder plopped into my arms and I instantly fell head over heels in love with),

Anyway, Flash has had plenty of training. He knows what he should and shouldn’t do, and what is and isn’t allowed. Yet somehow he seemed to forget nearly all of it the moment my folks moved into the hotel.

He would also wake up around midnight or 1pm some nights, walk around to my dad’s side of the bed, and start head banging the bed frame until my mom woke up to pick him up and take him into bed with them.

Now, our family has had pet dachshunds for as long as I can remember (and this is getting longer every year). But not once – EVER – has one of our dogs been permitted to sleep in the bed with my parents. 

What is perhaps even more pertinent here: following the forced evacuation due to dam flooding, my dad began to seem kind of….out of it. He wasn’t as sharp as he’d been before the hurricane. And sometimes he said he felt faint or short of breath.

I didn’t pick up on what was going on until I asked my mom which side of the bed Dad sleeps on in the hotel. He sleeps on the other side of the bed from where Flash’s bed is located, right next to my mom. So he was waking up in the middle of the night, getting up out of his bed, walking all the way around my parents’ bed in the dark, and then bashing his head into my dad’s side of the bed.

You can probably see where this is going. But I have to tell you anyway, because I’ve read about these stories but this is the first time it has ever happened in my own life.

One night, my mom woke up to retrieve Flash and realized my dad was also awake. She asked him what was wrong and he said he was feeling short of breath. And that was when it hit her – Flash was trying to wake my dad up to BREATHE.

It all came together that night, which happened to be my dad’s birthday. My mom told me that Flash had had another one of his “nighttime episodes” and I quizzed her about when, where, and how. We looked at one another and you could literally feel the aha moment as it happened.

The next morning they went to the heart doctor, who discovered my dad’s blood pressure had fallen dangerously low. The upshot was that the doctor took Dad off a medication he clearly no longer needed and did some tests to make sure he was healthy otherwise.

Then my folks went out to have margaritas. To celebrate healthy hearts, and brave dachshunds, of course.

This happened nearly two months ago, but the wonder of it all hasn’t faded yet. How do they know? What do they sense that tells them “Act! Now!”?

How must it feel when we mistake our precious pet’s urgent alarms for misbehavior or simple canine anxiety manifesting? And yet they keep trying. They keep trying to warn us, to wake us up (figuratively and literally), to alert us by any means available to them that we are in danger and they want to help?

I am in awe.

Today’s Takeaway: Have you ever had an experience – first or secondhand – when an animal you are close to has tried to alert you or warn you about something important? How did they try to communicate the message? Did you understand – immediately or only later? What was that experience like for you?