Dog Credited with Saving Elderly Owner from Tsunami

A 12-year-old shih tzu named Babu saved the life of her 83-year-old owner Tami Akanuma from the tsunami that hit their town of Miyako just minutes after the March 11 earthquake.

Akanuma was relaxing in the living room of her home located about 200 meters from the sea when the quake struck off the Tohoku coast. The lights went out. Babu started scampering around the room, whimpering loudly and madly wagging her tail.

“Babu might have sensed a tsunami was coming,” said Akanuma. It wasn’t yet time for their daily walk, but the dog’s apparent agitation prompted her to put on the leash. As they were about to leave the house a warning of huge tsunami heading toward the coast was broadcast over the town’s community speaker system.

Akanuma had experienced the 1933 Showa Sanriku quake which triggered a tsunami that left more than 900 people dead or missing in the Taro district. She knew they had to evacuate.

As soon as she opened the door, Babu bolted in the direction of a nearby hill in the opposite direction from the one they took for their usual walk. The dog stopped to turn and look at Akanuma as though urging her to walk faster. Each time Akanuma caught up, Babu bounded ahead, straining at her leash. This sequence was repeated again and again until they had attained the crest of the hill about one kilometer (0.63 miles) from their home where an evacuation center was later established. Moments after they stopped to look back, a towering tsunami slammed into the town, flattening the entire district of Taro-Kawamukai where they lived.

If Babu hadn’t urged her out of the house and hurried her up the hills, Akanuma believes, she would likely have become one of the 18,000 thousand that the tsunami would have claimed.