February 19, 2010 04:57 PM

Engaged couple Brian Wheeler and Jessica Richelderfer always knew that Sophie, their white Labrador mix, was smart – but they never knew she could sense natural disasters.

“She’s always been bright – an exceptionally smart dog who knows a host of tricks. And I swear she can understand English,” Wheeler tells PEOPLEPets.com. “I just never knew she could smell an earthquake coming.”

The dog’s amazing intuition was caught on camera (in the surveillance video above) when a 6.5-magnitude quake hit Northern California on Saturday. At the time, Sophie was hanging out with her owners at work, inside the Times-Standard newspaper in Eureka, Calif.

“My fiance Jessica was on the second floor washing her hands at the restroom sink when it started,” Wheeler, a production technician, says. “Since she wasn’t at her desk, Sophie continues booking it around the corner … until she finds Jessica and follows her out the door and down the stairs.”

Wheeler believes that Sophie was being protective of Richelderfer in the moments following the quake, which sent about 30 people in the area to the hospital but didn’t cause any fatalities, the L.A. Times reported.

“Normally Sophie is the first one out the door, or up or down a staircase. She wants to scout our path, and she’s a very fast runner, which means we’re all much too slow for her to walk behind,” he explains. “It’s interesting that in this case she followed Jessica until she was safely out of the gigantic, shaking building.”

According to National Geographic, what exactly animals sense before an earthquake is a big mystery, but some theorize that pets can feel the earth move before humans do.

Sophie seemed fine when the couple returned to their home, some 30 miles away from the office, but the pooch hasn’t forgotten what happened that Saturday.

“When we took Sophie back to work Monday after much of the mess and debris had been cleared up, she started shaking and was visibly upset,” he says. “She even dove under the steering wheel briefly when I opened the door – a tight squeeze for a 70-lb. Lab mix. We wanted to be sure she knew everything was all right, so we put her on a leash and brought her inside.”

But Wheeler says they didn’t have to drag the dog into the building; in fact, Sophie refused to leave Richelderfer’s side the entire time.

“[She] spent most of it sleeping under her desk,” says Wheeler, whose first video of Sophie during the earthquake had more than 41,000 views on YouTube. “She loved the attention from all of her fans – our co-workers – but was very jumpy and a little freaked out.”

See more amazing animal videos on PEOPLEPets.com:
Missing Cat Hobbles Home on Two Broken Legs
Fearless 4-Lb. Chihuahua Helps Nab Burglary Suspect in Florida

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