Rachelle Berube's three-year-old German shepherd Robot was sniffing the ground, loaded with fresh smells from a recent rainfall, while on a walk to a Pizza Pizza in Scarborough on Boxing Day when the dog let out a high-pitched shriek.
Seconds later, Berube discovered Robot had been shocked by stray voltage from a faulty wooden power pole.
"I didn't know what had happened to her, but obviously dogs don't yelp for nothing," said Berube, who wasn't paying close attention to her dog dodging across the sidewalk, tracking every new scent near her home at Markham Road and Kingston Road.
She first thought the dog had stepped on a nail, but didn't find a puncture wound on her paws. Then she recalled reports of dogs stepping on sidewalk grilles and electrocuting themselves.
"That's when I put two and two together," Berube told CBC News.
But she was reluctant to report the incident to Toronto Hydro. "I was like, should I bother to call them? It's Boxing Day. But it all turned out good."
By the time her son was finished eating his pizza 15 to 20 minutes later, Hydro workers had arrived, she said.
"Even later, when I got home, they called me and asked how the dog was," Berube added.
She is happy, it didn't turn out worse. Robot weighs 80 pounds, but "if it was an older dog, or a very small dog, or a child — which it could've been because I had my son with me — then he could've been shocked or even electrocuted."
Toronto Hydro believes Robot got close to an area where the ground around the pole was energized. The wet conditions and salt on the ground made things worse.
"It's definitely a winter problem," said Tori Gass, a spokesperson for Toronto Hydro, "where there's water pooling on the ground because the ground is frozen and then it's mixing with road salt that just makes the perfect conductor."
Gass says Berube made the right call by reporting the incident.
"If a pet owner does have something like this happen, it is very important that they call us and we can get there and we can make sure the scene is safe right away for anybody else," she said.
Hydro crews have stopped electricity flowing to the pole and plan to rewire the area by the end of the week.
Berube said, "We always complain about Toronto Hydro rates, but here's an example of them doing a really good job."