In my book, The Common Cold: A Zombie Apocalypse, I introduced a dog to the survivors. It was trapped on the aeroplane with them. He appealed to everyone as something from normal times; he amused the children, helping to keep them calm, and maybe, just maybe, he could function as an alarm, warning of zombie presence.
Ever wondered why your dog knows things before you? Did he hear it, smell it? Sense it? I watched an interesting programme recently, not very scientific but it gave pause for thought. A family owns a dog. The man goes out every day at 0830 and arrives home at 1700, almost without exception. Every afternoon the dog goes to the settee near the window and watches for the owner to return – he does this within a minute of 1630.
How does he do it? Based on their ‘experiment’ it appeared to be a diminishing odour of the man. On this premise, they took the man’s unwashed football kit and wafted it around the house at 1600, half an hour before he was due home, thus re-energising the smell. At 1630 the dog remained on his bed, sleeping. At 1640 the same, at 1650, still the same. First time in memory that he’d done that. When the man arrived home the dog was taken by surprise, jumped up and ran to the owner. It is very suggestive that it is the lowering of intensity of odour in the house over a day. It does highlight that dogs have sense we can only imagine. I, for one, always believed dogs waited for their owners because of a strong circadian rhythm. I am happy to be wrong – it makes dogs even more interesting.
Eyesight is another fascinating thing about dogs. I did a biological science degree and at the time it was deemed that dogs only saw in black and white. Later on colour-blindness was mooted. More recently it is said that dogs have an element of colour vision. The most interesting announcement lately is that they can see into the UV spectrum. It is known that bees see in this spectrum. Flowers reflect UV at different rates and so they can differentiate between species and work on their favourites. That’s why some perfumes attract bees; under UV light they reflect it back and bees see it.
Right, back to zombies. In most stories they have cataract-laden or cooked eyeballs. Question is, can they see anything or are they sensing our presence? Does their visual ability change – I imagine it would have to. On that note, what can dogs do to help us? If they have different visual abilities to us, do they detect zombies by their reflective capabilities? It is not uncommon for a bacteria or virus to excrete material that reflects UV. Perhaps dogs can see the difference. What would they see? Bodies that glow, like aliens, perhaps. Poor sods, no wonder they would bark, I would too. And as for smell, I imagine dogs could smell them a mile off. Dogs know when their owners are not well, they can smell it on the skin. When they do sense this, their demeanour changes, I’m sure you’ve all seen it.
All in all, I wouldn’t want to be a dog, but I sure as hell respect them and I’d want one with me in an Apocalypse. Anyway, they’ve spent millennia training us to do their bidding so it’d be a shame to waste the effort!
Zombie books by David K Roberts:
The Common Cold: A Zombie Chronicle
The Common Cold: A Zombie Chronicle – Cabin Fever (Sequel)
Return Of A King: A Zombie Chronicle