Halloween is the time we enjoy shivery ghost stories, and there are plenty that include dogs. Dressing them up in puppy costumes or having the new pup raid holiday chocolate might turn your baby dog into a trembling mess. It's a good idea to take some Halloween safety precautions to keep the pup from dashing out the door, for instance. But it's fun to look back in time and see how far we've come in regard to our canine companions.
In fact, ancient civilizations honored both wild and domestic critters with paintings in caves and on canvas, celebrated them like gods, and were mystified by their weird and wonderful behaviors. Today, that puppy snuggling on your lap has become a beloved companion. But when Junior-Dog howls at the moon or stares at things we can't detect, his puzzling behavior still can shiver your spine, especially around Halloween. Here are 10 spooky dog tales just in time for Halloween.
Leeds Castle, a medieval fortress in the Kentish countryside near Maidstone, England, has at least three ghost dogs. The fierce “Black Dog of Leeds” dates from the 15th century and is considered a portent of doom, thought to be the ghost of Henry VI’s aunt who was imprisoned for practicing witchcraft.
But one of the other dog ghosts actually saved a life. A visitor perched in a bay-window seat in a room located high over the moat, and saw a black dog walk across the room. She thought it was a real dog until it disappeared into the wall. The surprised woman rose from her seat to investigate; abruptly the bay window cracked and fell apart, dropping in the water below with a crash. Had she not risen to follow the ghost dog, the woman would have plunged to her death.
Demons and Dogs
Kludde is an evil Belgian goblin and is feared as a werewolf or large winged black dog that walks on his hind legs. He plays brutal tricks on people, usually around twilight, knocking them down. One can hear the chain about his neck clanking and can recognize him by the two small blue flames that hover about his head.
The ancient Chinese believed that demons feared black dogs; for that reason many black dogs were sacrificed so that their blood could be sprinkled to exorcise demons. During the Middle Ages in Europe, a similar belief fostered the practice of smearing the blood of black dogs on the walls of the home to protect the householder from demonic possession. In Brittany, elaborate rites supposedly forced wicked souls into black dogs, which were then ceremoniously destroyed.
Supernatural Guard Dogs
Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and metal, forged a bronze dog that slowly came to life under his divine breath. From this dog was born Cerberus, the watchdog of Hades. Cerberus lay chained to the gates of Hades, where he fawned on those who entered and devoured those who tried to escape. He had three heads: a lion, wolf and dog, with a mane of writhing snakes, a dragon’s tail and a mastiff’s body. The ancient Romans placed a cake in the hands of their dead to pacify Cerberus.
The Icelandic goddess of the dead is Garm, the Dog of Hel. It’s said that anyone who fed the needy while on earth will find bread in their hand to bribe Garm for safe passage.
The Avesta, sacred book of Ancient Persia’s Zorastrian religion, tells of a rainbow bridge guarded by a yellow-eared dog whose bark drives out the fiend from the souls of the good.
Guide Dogs to the Hereafter
At one time in Greenland, the children who died were buried with the head of a dog—a trustworthy guide into the next world.
Aztecs believed their dogs were spirits sent by the god Xolotl—god of fire, lightening and death—to guide them in life. They also believed when a human died, a dog would lead the soul of its dead owner through the underworld, so a dog was sacrificed at every burial for this purpose.
In South America, some Inca tribes believed that human life was first released from the underworld by a dog scratching up at the earth from below.
Native American people cherished dogs. Shawnee legend says that Our Grandmother and her dog live close to the Land of the Dead where she weaves a basket--when it’s finished, the world will end; but each night while Our Grandmother sleeps, her little dog unravels the day’s work and buys us more time.
I don't know about you, but my canine companions "save" me in so many ways, just being themselves. Just consider all the health benefits of keeping puppies! There's nothing supernatural about it. Or...is there? *cue scary music*