Real-life stories of animals and their amazing bond with humans

How Bob knew when his owner died in battle

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Bob the young the black and white collie was devoted to his master Roy, a young Englishman and army officer. The pair were always together and Roy and his wife both marvelled at Bob’s seemingly endless energy and enthusiasm. However, it was 1915, and like most young men of his generation Roy was called up to fight for his country in the war that had begun the year before.

Roy’s wife knew how fearful she would be when Roy went off to the Western Front. But she was quite unprepared for the effect on Bob. During the months following Roy’s departure the collie became far quieter and more withdrawn in nature. Gone was the playfulness she and Roy had seen before and the young dog was ‘almost morose’, she thought.

Bob also started sleeping in his mistress’s bedroom. Each night the collie settled down just inside the door, and each morning he would awaken her by trotting over and licking her hand to say ‘good morning’. This arrangement continued until the fateful morning of 15 September, 1915.

On that day Roy’s wife woke as usual, but was not greeted as usual by Bob. In fact, Bob was nowhere to be seen. She called twice, and eventually the young collie crept out from underneath the bed. He gave the woman’s hand a brief lick, then immediately crept back under the bed again.

This wasn’t the dog’s only unusual behaviour. Normally Bob went for a walk in the garden in the morning, but today the dog was having have none of it. His nose was dry, and he was also running a temperature.

Concerned at Bob’s state, Roy’s wife decided to take him to the vet in the car. Usually, the collie was eager to go for a trip in the car; but on this occasion she practically had to carry the dog to the vehicle. But despite her concerns, the vet assured Roy’s wife there was nothing physically wrong with the animal, and the pair came home.

Yet Bob’s off behaviour continued. He refused all food and lay forlornly on the floor, occasionally looking up at his mistress with a sad gaze. Looking back, she felt it was almost as if Bob was trying to tell her something.

Just as Roy’s wife was wondering whether a second visit to the vet was needed, the dog suddenly let out a terrible, haunting howling. For several minutes he was inconsolable, and even after he had stopped howling, Bob continued to whine in a way that was out of character.

Gradually his temperature went down, and though he refused food for several days Bob seemed to recover. Roy’s wife was puzzled.

Four days later she received the dreaddful news that Roy had been killed in action. His wife learned from a fellow officer that her brave husband had been shot dead as he rose from the trenches to go ‘over the top’ against the enemy.

She also learned the date and time her husband had died – and it was the precise moment when Bob had begun his terrible howling in the house. The pet’s behaviour on 15 September now made sense. Somehow Bob had known that his master’s life was in terrible danger that day. And the poor animal had been aware of his master’s death the moment it occurred, and had howled, uncontrollably, at the awful loss that both his mistress and he had suffered.

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