Canadian Ben Lucier was inside his property in Toronto one stormy Sunday in April 2018, when he heard a dramatically loud cracking noise. He instantly realized it meant mortal danger for a loved one and dropped to his knees. He cried out in panic to his dog in the backyard, from where the crack of doom had sounded. He knew her life was in the balance; the question now was whether she would make it to safety in time.
Ben Lucier is a 40-something resident of the East York borough of Toronto, Ontario, in Canada, who owns two dogs, Sprocket and Drake. And Lucier now has a pretty dramatic stormy dog story to share. It all happened on Sunday, April 15, 2018, when the city was going through a particularly rough patch of weather. Lucier is the head of an hi-tech communications consultancy, and perhaps as a consequence his home has plenty of security cameras. And it would be one of these devices that would capture exactly what went down that day…
It was a chill and stormy Sunday with snow on the ground and a stiff wind shaking the bare trees. Lucier had wisely opted to stay inside, but his four-legged friend, Sprocket, was more carefree and had other ideas. She bounded out into the backyard to stretch her long legs in the very fresh air, totally unaware of what was about to happen.
Lucier had one of his CCTV cameras focussed on the yard, so the nerve-racking moments that followed were documented on video. The resulting footage was so dramatic that the dog owner uploaded it to his various social media profiles where it attracted plenty of gobsmacked reaction.
The short clip begins with Sprocket ambling aimlessly around the snowy yard, seemingly without a care in the world. With her tail wagging, she appears perfectly content out there in the cold. But suddenly, the mood changes and Sprocket seems spooked by something.
As she wanders towards a snow-covered BBQ, Sprocket abruptly veers off to the right and makes a desperate dash to the back door. For the next few moments, the dog’s reaction seems unnecessarily overdramatic. The footage does not show anything untoward or any reason she should have been scared.
But then the camera frame is filled with a startling sight – like a jump scare from a horror movie scene. Out of nowhere, a massive tree limb and branches fall from the sky, crashing down onto the yard below. Lucier’s washing line is completely taken out and his garden fence and BBQ do not fare all that well either.
Indeed, the ice-clad branches are clearly very heavy and came down with a great force. There is no doubt the falling timber would have seriously injured Sprocket, had she not had the instinct to run to safety in that instant. Needless to say, her rocked and relieved owner was more than happy his dog was so smart.
In fact, Lucier spoke to the Toronto Star newspaper soon after the chilling incident. “When I think of what could have happened, it’s a feel-good situation,” he said. “Nobody got hurt. I was so glad [Sprocket] was OK. Our dogs are our babies. Our life kind of centers around them.”
And it turned out that the dog owner had endured a gut-wrenching few seconds when he knew exactly what was about to happen. “All of a sudden, I heard this really loud crack,” he recalled. “I just dropped to my knees and called, ‘Come on, come on, come on, hurry up.’”
However, the silent video seems to show that Sprocket had no need for Lucier’s encouragement. It looks like the dog heard the crack and then went sprinting inside to her owner. Nevertheless, the noise itself had indicated to Lucier that something awful he had predicted might happen was now a life-threatening reality.
The homeowner had noticed before that a tree overhanging the backyard was looking none too stable. In fact, the Siberian elm in question had a worryingly large crack in it. The tree was actually in a neighbor’s garden, but nonetheless it had caused Lucier no little concern in previous bad weather. As he told the Toronto Star, “You could actually see when a big gust of wind came up, the gap in that crack would extend to two to three inches.”
So, considering the storm that was raging over East York that weekend, the perilous state of the elm must have been in the back of Lucier’s mind. He was aware that the tree owner, Michael Janzen, had attempted to secure the elm’s fissure with some cable, but was worried it was not enough. As Lucier later explained to the newspaper, “With all the wind and everything, it just couldn’t handle it. It was pretty much just a matter of time.”
Of course, Janzen was totally relieved that his next-door neighbor and Sprocket were uninjured when the tree limb and branches crashed down. Janzen also spoke to the Toronto Star, saying, “The fact that that dog got out of the way is totally remarkable. Most humans wouldn’t have made it out.”
Whether or not it is the end of the elm as a whole remains to be seen. Janzen has consulted arboreal experts about the best course of action for what remains of his tree. Whatever happens, both of the East York neighbors were very thankful that the incident was just dramatic and not tragic. Meanwhile, the video of Sprocket’s close shave has been wildly popular online, and it has sparked plenty of praise for the fast-paced pupper.
In fact, a media savvy Lucier uploaded the clip to his Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube accounts, and it swiftly went viral thereafter. “Smart dog indeed,” wrote one Facebook user who was impressed by Sprocket’s super-quick reaction. In fact, the same wag even suggested that Lucier rename his canine companion “Lightning” or “Speedy” following the incident.
Another admiring commenter wrote, “You can totally see exactly when she heard the crack! The poor thing, good thing she’s all legs!” And it turned out that Sprocket was not the only one with legs, as her story looked set to run and run. Indeed, it was not long before the traditional media came across the video online and wanted to speak to Lucier.
Not only was a photographer from the Toronto Star dispatched to Lucier’s house, but the story also appeared on the Canada’s Global News network. What’s more, the dog owner was interviewed by CBC and subsequently appeared on the Canadian national broadcaster’s evening news bulletin.
Nevertheless, Sprocket’s story was by no means the only drama during the stormy weather, and Lucier was not the only one picking up wood. According to the Toronto Star, the city received 534 calls logging “tree-related issues” over that tempestuous April weekend. In addition, more than 60 specialist teams were dispatched to help out with fallen timber.
Nevertheless, Lucier and Sprocket could have been killed that day, so everyone concerned was totally relieved they were okay. But, according to social media, Lucier subsequently had another windfall. One social media user, commenting on the amount of views the viral video had attracted, enquired whether Lucier had his Adsense money generating program running. The delighted dog owner was happy to report that indeed he did, and that he was due more than $1,000. More than enough to help get that backyard cleared up.