Sisterly love?

We have two Jack Rusell terriers, Maggie and Lucy, who were respectively four years old and two months old at the time of this incident. It was one early afternoon, and the two dogs were together in the back garden and I was in the front of the house.

I know Maggie's barks. There is the bark to tell Prince, the Rottweiler who lives further along the street, to 'keep on walking' when Prince passes by our house on his daily walk. There is another bark to warn off a large family of crows, and another to deter hapless golfers looking for their missing golf balls - we live overlooking a golf course.

As I said, I was in the front of the house when the peace and quiet of the afternoon was shattered by a frantic and frenetic barking by Maggie. It was unlike any bark I had ever heard from her - it was high-pitched, very rapid and extremely loud. I hurried through to the rear of the house, to be met by Maggie at the family room door and, by this stage, although I was running, it was not fast enough for Maggie. First she ran in front of me to show me the way and then she turned. Coming from behind, she started to snap at my heels to hurry me on my way!

We rounded the corner of the house and I saw the reason for Maggie's alarm. Lucy the puppy had managed to push her tiny head through a hole in a section of wooden latticework and, in her efforts to free herself, was choking herself to death.

I had to break the lattice with my hands - there was no time to get tools. I extracted the puppy's head and was able to stand and examine the trembling and very frightened puppy. Fortunately, apart from being very frightened, Lucy seemed to be unharmed. Maggie had stopped barking when I freed the puppy; now she directed two sharp yaps at me. I put the puppy down beside Maggie and put out my hand to pat, praise and thank Maggie. I received a very deep growl for my efforts. I stood back.

Maggie inspected Lucy very carefully and then, when apparently satisfied that the puppy was unharmed, she led her into the house and onto a rug that the dogs have in the family room. Maggie lay down on her side, and Lucy nestled down between Maggie's front and back legs with her head resting on Maggie's flank. Maggie nuzzled Lucy for some minutes before she, Lucy, settled down and went to sleep. The two dogs remained in this position for over an hour, Lucy sleeping and Maggie awake and very alert.

There is no doubt in my mind that, had Maggie not raised the alarm, I would have lost our new puppy in a tragic accident. Despite the age difference between Maggie and Lucy, the two dogs are half-sisters. They come from the same breeding kennels and, while they have different mothers, they do have the same father .

Since the above incident, I have wondered whether that relationship had any influence during that near fatal incident, and Maggie's recognition of Lucy's peril and her very prompt raising of the alarm and calling for help.

True story by David Higham of Australia

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David Higham
True Story?: