Stories abound about dogs and cats who have found their way home, sometimes from many hundreds of kilometres away. People tend to explain this by assuming that animals have a homing instinct consisting of some sort of GPS (without satellite help).

   However, there are also a number of accounts of animals who have tracked down their humans, or a new home, in locations they have never been to before. The GPS theory tends to fall a bit flat in such cases. Or do they have programmable types?

   One of the most notable examples was when Private James Brown, serving in 1914 in the trenches of Armentiers, France, was not surprised to receive a message from his wife that his beloved Irish Terrier, Prince, had disappeared some weeks previously from home in England (this seems most likely Staffordshire, but accounts differ). 

   Prince had, in fact, arrived in his trench most joyfully a few days before.

   This story is widely told but cannot be verified completely. If it is true, though, it means that the dog either swam the English Channel or stowed away in a boat. Very many vouched-for stories of animal stowaways are on record, so I wouldn’t discount that. The big question is, of course, how did he know where to go?

   A story Much Better Half and I do regard as verified relates to a Border Collie whose owners we met in the Natal Midlands where they were doing weaving for the Midlands Meander some years ago. We made a fuss of their dog, and they told us that he was in fact a celebrity. They had been obliged to leave him some 1,600 kilometres away in Zimbabwe when they had moved rather hastily to South Africa, but he had disappeared from there. Some months later he had arrived at their new home in The Dargle to give them an ecstatic greeting. His picture appeared on the front page of the Midlands Meander brochure at that time.

   How could he possibly know where to find his people if not through using some sort of telepathic link to navigate? 

   In both these cases, an explanation that some acquaintance had been playing at being an anonymous ‘good fairy’ simply seems even more unlikely than the telepathy one if one thinks it through carefully. 

   There are also a number of accounts regarding dogs who have started to howl when a family member has died from illness, or from an accident, in some other location. One recalls, too, the story in March this year of the elephants who came a long distance to pay their respects when ‘elephant whisperer’ Lawrence Anthony passed away. 

   On a much less dramatic scale, we took over a Border Collie called Jitterbug from my daughter because he was (wrongly I’m sure) accused of worrying sheep. He loved coming with us when we went to see them, which was fairly often after they moved back to Durban for a while. The point is, we could leave home to be going to the shops or anywhere else and Bug wouldn’t turn a hair – but every single time we decided to pay a visit to the family he would be waiting to spring into the car. This, even if it was a spur-of-the-moment decision made while he was somewhere else.


   Our present pooch pack start going into hysterics every time I make up my mind to go to the beach – even if I don’t wear the clothing they associate with it. How do they know?

   We also had a cat at one stage who always knew I was on my way home – and I was working most irregular hours at the time. He would be waiting at the door long before it would have been possible to hear the sound of the car engine or anything like that.

   I would love to see other posts on the subject, and any other explanations or theories which might account for such occurrences.  

© Colonialist August 2012 (WordPress/Letterdash)

About colonialist

Active septic geranium who plays with words writing fantasy novels and professionally editing, with notes writing classical music, and with riding a mountain bike, horses and dinghies. Recently Indie Publishing has been added to this list.
This entry was posted in Dogs, Nature, Personal Journal and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


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  2. Gobetween says:

    Dogs are very intelligent, they can sense things and they also know our routines.


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  4. nrhatch says:

    How do we KNOW the unknowable?
    By tapping into our intuition . . . our sixth sense.

    When we circumvent reason and logic (and tell Ego to shut up), we tune into the Universal Internet and we can read each other’s minds via “the collective consciousness.”

    Dog is home alone. No distractions. It tunes into its owner’s mind and “sees” that owner is on the way home. It waits by the door.


  5. adinparadise says:

    I’ve often thought that our pets are on a higher plane than we are. Their sense of perception and mind-reading is quite uncanny. Lovely stories. 🙂


  6. Nicola says:

    Hi,Rupert Sheldrake has been doing some research in this area


  7. optie says:

    What an interesting post Col. I don’t believe we give animals enough credit for their intelligence, loyalty and devotion to us. They sense our pain and distress and instinctively offer comfort, they protect us and our human pack from danger and entertain us with their antics. They bond very closely with us and us with them. I know that Ozzy can read my mind like you say your’s do when you think about a trip to the beach. Could it be that their non-verbal communication is stronger and more powerful than language?


  8. 68ghia says:

    Maybe dogs just know…


  9. footsy2 says:

    I can do a little post for you Col 🙂


  10. Lisaman says:

    Isn’t there a book Lassie that tells a similar true story or was that just made up!!


    • colonialist says:

      Lassie Come-Home was a fictional story by Eric Knight about a Collie who had a long journey to be reunited with his young master. A successful movie was made of it. However, it is fiction which has become fact on many occasions.


  11. Marco says:

    Nature’s little stalkers, ha ha!


    • colonialist says:

      Yes, nobody minds being stalked systematically by a pet, but they don’t like humans to do it? Weird.


      • Marco says:

        Let’s set up an experiment, shall we – human vs animal stalker – see who ends up being shot first. People stalkers shouldn’t be too hard to find but a proper animal stalker – like a hyena – or do you think a cutesy pet would work better?


  12. newsferret says:

    The inexplicable of the animal world.


  13. Pussycat44 says:

    My cat always seemed to know when I would arrive home from school. She was always in the parking area and show her happiness when I got out of the car. She also knew when I’d be going away for a long time, when she saw me packing my suitcase. She’d have a scowl on her face.


  14. Colline says:

    You make an interesting point – and not one I had thought of before.


  15. Do you know, Col, this is something I have never considered before. Yet, of course, how else could they have found their owners, surmounting such obstacles? I was about to blog about the separation anxiety of my dog, Macaulay. He gets so very worried when we are not there, and I could see him practically crossing oceans to close the gap between us.


    • colonialist says:

      I think that many like him suffer deeply when their adored people are away, but of course few have whatever sense it is that enables them to tackle the problem so successfully.
      This is another of those areas where people will seize on almost any ‘rational’ explanation, no matter how irrational it actually is, rather than admit there might be something in telepathy, or ghosts, or ESP, or alien visits.
      I look forward to that post!


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