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TO THE RESCUE

Mother says family dog led her son, 7, to safety

CHINNAKALAPET, India -- "Run away!" her husband screamed from a rooftop after he spotted the colossal waves.

Sangeeta grabbed her youngest two and ran -- figuring the oldest, 7-year-old Dinakaran, had the best chance of outrunning the tsunami churning toward their home.

But Dinakaran headed for the safest place he knew, the small family hut just 40 yards from the seashore.

Sangeeta thought she would never see him again, but the family dog saw to it that she did.

While water lapped at Sangeeta's heels as she rushed up the hill, the scruffy, yellow dog named Selvakumar ducked into the hut. Nipping and nudging, he harried the boy up the hill.

Sangeeta, who like many south Indians only uses one name, told her story a week after the giant waves crushed or washed away at least 123,000 lives on the shores of the Indian Ocean.

Selvakumar looks pretty much like every other dog in the village. He hardly ever barks and lets the three boys climb all over him and even pull his tail. At night, he joins the rest of the family and sleeps among them, no matter how may times they throw him out.

Most days, the dog escorts Dinakaran to and from school, spending the rest of the day playing with the other two boys, or begging for food.

Sangeeta's brother-in-law gave her the puppy following the birth of her second son. When the brother-in-law died in an accident two years ago, they changed the dog's name to his.

Her family had always lived along the coast, just north of Pondicherry, a former French colony.

The morning of Dec. 26 began like most others, with sunny skies and a cool breeze.

Sangeeta's husband, R. Ramakrishnan, had just returned from his early morning fishing with a boat full of fish.

When they heard a strange noise coming from the sea, Sangeeta's husband went to investigate.

When Ramakrishnan saw the waves, he ran to the roof of the center and shouted down to Sangeeta to flee. That's when she made her agonizing choice.

"He is somewhat older than the other two. I knew he would be able to run, so I grabbed the other two," Sangeeta explained.

Dinakaran credits the dog with saving his life.

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