The Bond Between People and Animals Helps Both to Cope with Disasters
The dog sleeps at the foot of the cart which is the bed of his owner. As long as they are together, they will have a home again someday.
Often a seismic event leads to other changes. Watching all of the media coverage of the Sichuan earthquake, we have all been moved by the story of Wang Youqiong , who was found alive under the rubble in Mian Zhu after being trapped for 196 hours. After she was pulled out, this lady said she survived her ordeal because her two dogs were trapped with her; they licked her face and lay alongside to keep her warm. All three survived on drops of rain water during their harrowing time under the ruins.
Other survivors have told similar tales, expressing how grateful they are for the companionship dogs have provided in their time of desperation. One old man lost is wife and son in the earthquake. He held the leashes of his two dogs tightly as they evacuated from Bei Chuan, “they are my only family now. As long as I have a bite to eat, they will too”.
In fact, many dogs are highly trained in the art of search-and-rescue. We have all seen their heroic actions in the epicenter in Sichuan. Using their keen sense of smell, hearing, and even night vision, these dogs have led their human handlers to dig out many survivors who otherwise would have perished under the rubble.
All of these scenes also unfold in other parts of the world whenever disasters strike, from hurricanes to tsunamis to wild fires. The bond between humans and dogs and cats is a special one indeed. And in most places, dogs and cats are considered important parts of families.
While nothing can ever replace the loss of a parent, child, husband or wife, companion animals do help fill this gap as survivors struggle to move on with their lives. These pets will continue to provide an important source of comfort in the months and years ahead, as Sichuan slowly rebuilds.
We have all seen the stories of joy when survivors are pulled from under the rubble days after the disaster struck. Perhaps the next joyous stories will be of people who have lost everything but have now adopted new “family members”: dogs who lost their own human families in the quake.