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Superstitions about Dogs

In thinking up my latest superstitions post, dogs came to mind only because I posted about cats. Being a dog lover myself, I wanted to know more about the superstitions connected to our adorable canine friends. Check out what I found:

The close relationship between man and canine is reflected in a host of time-honored superstitions, not least in the stories of dogs that have pined to death on the demise of their owners. Dog lovers are inclined to consider meeting a dog a lucky event, especially if it is a black and white spotted dog such as a dalmatian, and in sporting circles a greyhound with a white spot on its forehead is said to guarantee good fortune. Others, however, get very nervous if they are followed by a dog they do not know, especially if it is black. In Scotland and Lancashire, for instance, this is tantamount to an omen of death (though it is lucky according to West Country lore).

The way a dog behaves is alleged to reveal many things. If a dog scratches itself and seems sleepy, a change in the weather is in the offing. If it eats grass or rolls in the dust, then rain may be expected, but if it produces a bad smell then gales are on the way. According to US authorities, should a dog fall asleep with its paws drawn up and with its tail pointing straight out, the tail indicated the direction in which death will soon appear.

Various superstitions, in fact, link dogs with death and the afterlife. Dogs are widely believed to have psychic susceptibilities, and many dog owners tell stories about supposedly haunted locations where their pets regularly refuse to proceed, hackles raised, at some apparition invisible to the human eye. In the spectral black dog or barghest is much feared as a harbinger of death and disaster, and it is also claimed that the devil sometimes takes the form of a dog in the course of his nefarious activities. Perhaps in connection with this, sailors are reluctant even to mention the word 'dog' while at sea, and it is also thought a very bad omen if a dog is allowed to come between a bride and groom just before a wedding ceremony (in many places, indeed, dogs are banned from entering churches at any time).

the howling of dogs for no apparent reason is dreaded by many people, who claim that the animals have detected the presence of unseen spirits or evil forces and are warming of someone's imminent demise. In medieval Poland and Germany it was said that dogs howled incessantly en masse at the approach of the plague. A howling dog that is driven away but returns to resume its noise is a certain omen of death, while a dog that howls three times and is then silent is a sign that death has already taken place. Some maintain that there is no baulking fate if a dog is heard howling; people living in Staffordshire, however, have the option of taking off their left shoe, placing it upside down on the ground, spitting on it and then treading on it with the left foot, which will both quieten the dog and provide a measure of protection. It was once believed, incidentally, that dogs that howl on Christmas Eve are fated to go mad before the end of the year, and many otherwise healthy animals were formerly destroyed on these grounds.

The risk of rabies has made many people acutely nervous of dogs, and some victims of dog-bites have resorted to bizarre remedies to avoid developing the disease. These have included eating grass from a churchyard, consuming some of the hair of the dog that bit you fried in oil with a little rosemary, and even eating parts of the dog itself (typically the heart or the liver). Destruction of a dog that had bitten someone was once automatic: superstition holds that, even if the dog was in good health at the time of the attack, its victim will none the less contract rabies if the dog happens to catch the disease at a later date. In Scotland, meanwhile, it is said that a dog will never bite an idiot.

In folk medicine, applying a poultice made from a dog's head mixed with a little wine is said to benefit those suffering from jaundice, while the lick of a dog's tongue will alleviate sores on the skin and melted dog fat will help against rheumatism. Wearing a dried dog's tongue around the neck, meanwhile, will cure scrofula. Some authorities hold that removing a few hairs from a patient suffering from whooping cough, or various other complaints, and feeding these to a dog in some bread and butter will successfully cure the patient by transferring the problem to the dog.

Oh, the final part of this post got my stomach twisting. There's just something about eating dog. And yet, I come from the Philippine and dog is considered a delicacy here. I know, I know. Take your mind off it by entering my October giveaway:

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