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Posts Tagged ‘Halloween’


African American Ghost Dogs

When my son was young, I was on a mission to find children’s books that would help him learn about other countries, their cultures and customs. This was in the early 1990s, and that genre was still pretty sparse. Once the publishing industry acknowledged the vacuum, they were on it:  Pretty quickly, more and more culturally sensitive and culturally accurate books for youngsters and young adults began to appear in bookstores and catalogs; at least that’s how I remember it.

Ghost dog Lucy comforts young Daniel in this sweet story written by Jo Ellen Bogart. "Daniel's Dog" was published by Scholastic, Inc. in 1990. Image from: http://www.scholastic.com/

I felt as though I’d found a buried treasure the day I stumbled on, “Daniel’s Dog,” at a book fair at my son’s school. Published by Scholastic, Inc. in 1990, it’s an illustrated children’s book by Jo Ellen Bogart about an African American boy and his dog, Lucy. I’m glad “Daniel’s Dog” found its way home with us, because it became a favorite with my son the first time we read it. For weeks, story time included flipping through the pages again and again to see if we could spot where the translucent spaniel-like Lucy was hiding in the enchanting illustrations.

Lucy was the kind of dog you could see right through; because she was a ghost dog. My son and I learned that ghost dogs frequent black American folklore. Children’s books have been some of my best teachers.

I wish I’d had a ghost dog instead of my imaginary friend, Betty. I think I was about five when Betty showed up. It hadn’t been a very good day, so I called on Betty for some help. I told my mom and dad it was my friend Betty who’d thrown chewing gum into the fireplace. I also told them it was Betty who’d spilled the milk and not cleaned it up. An imaginary dog would have made the scolding easier – and maybe lapped up the milk.

Lucy was more than a playmate for Daniel. She was his solution to feeling left out and lonely when his baby sister arrived and captured nearly all of his mom’s attention. Lucy was a ghost, but she wasn’t a secret. Daniel describes the faithful Lucy in detail to his mom and his best friend. Soon enough, Lucy becomes a prop for Daniel to tell his mom how ignored he’s been feeling.

“ ‘Who is Lucy?’ his mother asked?

‘Lucy is my dog,’ Daniel explained. ‘My  ghost dog. She always has time for me, no matter what.’

‘Oh, I see,’ Daniel’s mother said. ‘Is she here now?’

‘Right here next to my feet. She’s nice and warm, and she likes it when I read stories to her.’ “

Daniel tells his pal, Norman, that Lucy was sent from Heaven by his late grandfather for comfort and company. When Grandfather was a boy, Daniel explains, Lucy had been his ghost dog.

Ghost dogs happen along in adult literature, too. Critically acclaimed novelist Randall Kenan, an African American, remembered the ghost dogs of his childhood in an article in “US Policy” magazine in 2009.  He met them in stories told in the North Carolina town where he grew up.

Like Superman, the ghost dogs Kenan knew always showed up just in time to rescue someone from death or destruction. His great-great aunt told of a white dog that had led her to safety when she’d become lost in the woods. Kenan’s great-great grandmother recounted the tale of a woman who was about to be attacked by wild dogs when a ghost dog leapt to her rescue and guided her home. Eventually, ghost dogs became Kenan’s muse and led him to write his first novel, “A Visitation of Spirits,” published in 1989.

The South and Its Ghost Dogs

Many a ghost dog tale is recounted by Randy Russell and Janet Barrett in their book, "Ghost Dogs of the South," published by John F. Blair in 2001. Image from http://www.blairpub.com.

Ghost dogs, it seems, followed folks all over the American South. Award-winning folklorists Randy Russell and Janet Barrett recount many ghost dog tales in their book, “Ghost Dogs of the South,” published by John F. Blair in 2001. Complete with photos of dogs and/or their owners, this book captures the stories of several dogs that passed-over yet remained in their owner’s earthly life in invisible yet significant ways. Dog lovers won’t be surprised by claims of bonds this strong between persons and pups.

Russell and Barrett differentiate between dog ghosts — dogs that have become ghosts; and ghost dogs –humans who return as ghosts in the shape of dogs. Then, they say, there are dogs that see ghosts as well as dogs that are afraid of ghosts.

Each type shows up in “Ghost Dogs of the South.” The 20 tales recounted by Russell and Barnett introduce: a stray dog that warns coal miners of impending disaster; a Tennessee dog that returns home every year to go trick-or-treating; and a butterfly dog that eases a young girl’s pain.

Britain’s Phantom Dogs

Local superstition and ethereal dogs seem leashed together in British lore. They are most commonly described as being calf-size and black with saucer eyes. British tradition and tale have it that black phantom dog sightings occur most often along old tracks and roads: And a street called Black Dog Lane is surely haunted by one.

Another renowned scholar and Britain-Ireland folklorist, Katharine Briggs (1898-1980), also described two kinds of phantom dogs: those that are the ghosts of human beings returned as dogs and the ghosts of dogs in their own right. They are, generally, benevolent. In Scotland, phantom black dogs are said to guard buried treasure; while other tales applaud phantom black dogs for scaring away would-be robbers.

Author Daniel Parkinson lists these among the names for ghost dogs in Britain:
Bogey Beast, Bargheust, Black Shuck, Capelthwaite, Cu Sith, Gallytrot, Gurt Dog, Hairy Jack, Mauthe Dog, Old Shock, Padfoot, Pooka, and Skriker.

The infamous phantom dog in Andrew Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes classic crime story, "Hound of the Baskervilles," is likely the best-known ghost dog. Or is it a dog ghost? Image from http://www.flickr.com.

We must not forget the infamous phantom hound in ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’ by Arthur Conan Doyle. This Sherlock Holmes crime mystery begins with lecherous Hugo Baskerville imprisoning a young lass at his country estate. The night she manages to escape, Hugo chases her across the moors. Before he reaches the young woman, Hugo is set upon and killed by a “marauding hound of hell.”

This brings a curse on the Baskerville family; a curse that includes being plagued by a mysterious and supernatural black hound. Consider reading, or re-reading, this classic as you burrow in for winter.

If you know any ghost dogs or stories about them, I’d love to hear from you.

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E-cards are abundant and easy to deliver. A snail-mail greeting is a pleasant surprise these days. The snuggling-in time of year that is fast-approaching seems ideal for sending warm thoughts via a greeting card — the old-fashioned kind that you can hold in your hands. The cards below, with my original verses, have animal-related themes, of course.

SEND A FRIEND a seasonal message with sentiments and scenes of animals. It’s free.

Right click on the links below: Choose “Save As” to create a document you can download to your computer and print. You can also view and download these and other cards in the “Free Offers” category at right.

White card stock or matte finish photo paper provide the best results. Finished size of the side-fold cards is 4.25″ x 5,” which fits a standard 4.5″ x 5.50″ envelope.

You’ll find dogs, pigs, kittens and colts represented. From PAUSE FOR PAWS PRODUCTIONS.

Black Cat in Halloween Sky

Black cats haunt silent barns.

Giant moons spotlight cows on farms.

Pumpkins scream out, “pick me,”

from U-pick patches up-valley.

Apples drip with caramel.

“Trick or treat,” the children yell.

Their costumes: Lions, tigers, bears,

Cowboys, cowgirls and ghosts with hair.

Witches’ hats take their place,

Sharing front porch space

with corn stalks and straw bales.

Chocolates and gummies fill the pails.

Youngsters fall asleep with grins.

Coyotes howl as the fog creeps in.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN

Fall-colored Horse in Autumn

Reds and brown all around.

Gold leaves dress up the ground.

Woodpiles, axed and stacked,

Await frost’s first attack.

Coats appear, gloves go on.

Mornings have later dawns.

Hens molt while geese depart.

Barn twine hangs like orange art.

Hay and straw all tucked in:

Let the rain and cold begin.

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