October 28, 2007

Elec-trick dog

I wrote this a couple of years ago...

A few weeks ago, Yoda (my four year old black Labrador) and I were on our regular morning walk. Reading 'pee-mail' and just sniffing around at his own casual pace... Yoda was having a good time. I had been working late the previous night and just wanted to get the walk 'done'... and get back to bed. But Yoda had other plans.

He stopped at a street corner... sniffed the ground aggressively and let out a small bark, tried to dig, yelped and jumped away... barked again at the particular spot, looked at me, and ran away... I wondered if he had seen or smelt an insect, or worm.. or something. I didn't give it much thought till I noticed something a few days later.

It rained. And, like any good 'rain affected' city, Chennai had its share of power-cuts and shutdowns.

The Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB) people came to investigate the fault on our street... and I found that they discovered a burnt out cable at the exact spot where Yoda had barked a few days earlier. I was shocked... (emotionally, not electrically) and wondered if Yoda had been trying to tell me something the other day. Was he trying to indicate to me that the cable was faulty? The fresh rain water seems to have short-circuited it.

When it happened the first time.. it thought it was a 'fluke'... but the next time we had a fault I went and actually told the Elec. Board guys - who were digging all over the place... about another place that Yoda had reacted similarly... It turned out to be the faulty spot... and they even thanked us for it.

Did you know that dogs can sniff out a faulty electric cable?

When you have the next power breakdown and you are sitting at home with nothing to do... take you dog for a walk... it may just help bring the power back.



Epilogue:
I learnt an interesting fact from one of the guys at the TNEB - they have no scientific fault detection method, they just use their nose. When they have a breakdown, the way they identify a fault is by digging small pits along the path of the cable, and smelling the mud 3-6 inches below the ground... if it has a 'burnt-musky' smell... then the fault is nearby. The stronger the smell the nearer the fault.

I guess, for dogs, they don't need to dig small pits... they can smell the fault at the surface.

Some reactions...
  • Yoda and many other pets must be rewarded. Millie
  • Smart lab! they are wonderful creatures. Have a good day! Chamu
  • interesting... Kartick P Sivaram
  • Hi harsha, this proves the point that a dog is the man’s best friend. can you imaging a cat reacting like this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! - Lalitha Rai
  • Quite interesting. Please let me know, i there is any development on this. Can this idea be used to.... Chenthi Kannan
  • i hope we had yoda with us last week ,we had pretty bad power cuts whole of last week. Gautham Rai
  • Good one. - Vijay
  • Interesting, I remember Prabha talking to me about Yoda’s behaviour on the day of the December disaster. Yes, animals do have a sense which we have lost. - V. K. Natraj
  • Not surprising. Jedi Masters are capable of many such feats. Anand Ramachandran
  • How well you write! Yoda is quite a guy, isn’t he? - Geeta Padmanabhan
  • That is very interesting... Maybe Yoda can get a job with the Electricity Department!- Sadhana

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