Barking DogJuly 1, 2011
It was late summer a few years ago when my wife and I were talking about getting a dog. We had been married a few years but we weren’t ready for children yet and we thought a dog might be a nice addition to our little family. The temperature outside our second story apartment was very nice for late August, so we had our windows open let in the soft summer breeze as we sat on the couch and talked.
Suddenly from outside the window we heard the sound of a dog barking. It was clear as day and sounded as though the animal was right outside our window, which of course was impossible since it was 15 feet off the ground. Thinking maybe a dog had gotten up into the outdoor stair well that connected the apartments, I went outside to check and found nothing. Confused, I searched all around the building and checked the windows across the street to see if maybe some trick of acoustics had carried a dog bark into my window from afar. But there were no dogs near and I knew no one in our building had one.
After I returned bewildered, we joked about there being a “ghost dog” outside our window, hoping to be the dog we adopted. We speculated, just for fun, that he had been unloved in a past life and upon hearing us discuss bringing a dog into our house to love, he was asking to be let in. We stopped joking short of actually inviting him inside, which I think now may have been the best decision I have ever made.
We eventually did get a dog, a beagle puppy who was full of energy and loved to play. He was an especially great companion for me, since I worked from home and needed an excuse to get outside and see the sun during the day. Despite all his playfulness he did have one peculiar habit: He occasionally paused to stare out the window, the one we had heard the dog bark through, and let out a long, low growl, as if to warn something he found threatening to back away from his house. The first couple of times I chided him, saying he should leave the poor ghost dog alone. Eventually though, I gave up and just chalked it up to a peculiarity of the dog. We all have our quirks, right?
Fast forward a year and my wife and I have moved into a single family home about 20 miles away from our apartment and got a second dog. I had moved into an office job now and our beagle needed a friend to keep him company during the day. On almost the same night as the first occurrence, I had the windows open and from the back yard we all heard the bark of a dog, just like the first. Both dogs leapt into action and almost smashed into each other going through the doggie door to find out what intruder had invaded their back yard. I grabbed a flashlight and followed, only to find my back yard, my fenced-in back yard with a locked gate, completely empty. There was no dog back there at all. In fact, there weren’t even any crickets making noise back there. None of my immediate neighbors have dogs and the nearest dog, four houses down, is a big German Shepherd with a distinct bark, who, I might add, barks his head off if any animals come near any of our houses. The dogs across the street do the same and I know their barks as well. This time I began thinking that Ghost Dog was not a hallucination.
While the first two occurrences came about a year apart, things have picked up since then. Shortly after our second visit, I began hearing scratching noises on the roof at night. I thought maybe mice in the attic or critters on the roof, but an inspection of the attic revealed no traces of mice and there are no trees near enough my house to let a raccoon or possum get on top of the house. I also began to find dead animals in our back yard; mice, snakes, sometimes birds. At first I chalked it up to our new dog, a rat terrier mix, who had a proclivity for hunting crickets and frogs in the backyard, but after a while I noticed that she stayed well clear of the dead bodies, something dogs like her usually love to at least sniff. She also began to occasionally run into the house scared, leaping into my arms and shivering with fear, but only when she was alone in the yard and only at night.
However, just this winter I moved from concerned to full on scared about the possibility of a ghost dog. We visited my parents over Christmas and my daughter, another new addition to the family, was napping in an upstairs bedroom. When she woke up I grabbed her from the crib and turned off the baby monitor, but forgot to turn off the receiver in my parents kitchen. After a few minutes of sitting in their living room, my dad suddenly said “Everyone quiet! …Do you hear a dog barking?”
My heartbeat began to race. We went into the kitchen and found the noise was coming from the receiver. A ghostly static was playing and behind it, the constant barking of a dog. I asked my dad about the neighbors, but he explained that it couldn’t be anyone within range of the baby monitor. None of the immediate neighbors had kids and the only family on the block with a dog had taken it with them on their family vacation. This bark was coming from someplace far beyond the normal range of a baby monitor. I turned off the receiver and turned it back on quickly. The barking was gone.
Unnerved, I explained the entire story of Ghost Dog to my father, hoping he would be the voice of reason and explain everything away as coincidence. Instead, he told us things that made my wife clutch our daughter in fear. As it turns out, right near where I grew up in Southern Maryland, there is a legend of a ghostly dog who guarded the treasure of his master. This is not a lie. It’s a true story. You can even read about it here:
or do a search on google if you don’t believe me. But more terrifying was that a few months before we had come to Maryland for my brother’s wedding and stayed at my parent’s other house, a little cottage on a inlet of the Chesapeake Bay. The day after we left one of my father’s neighbors asked him if he had seen the dog “on the water” the night before. My dad thought she meant the neighbors dog had gone swimming, but she explained that she had seen a large spectral dog literally walking ON the water the last night me and my family had been in the house. She told him that their inlet had once been a creek that ran through a cemetery for soldiers killed during the Civil War and that a hurricane had washed the soft ground away, disrupting the men “at rest” there and turned the area into an inlet, rather than a creek. She believed that the sacred nature of the ground under the inlet allowed specters to become visible there and asked if our family had any dogs that had died recently. At the time, my dad shrugged it off as crazy talk from the rural locals… but now he wasn’t so sure.
We returned home after Christmas and didn’t speak about Ghost Dog at all on our journey home. We had left our real dogs with my in-laws while we were traveling and we got home too late to go get them. So we went to bed with the block still in the doggy door, left there to keep the house from getting too cold while we were gone. A little after 2am that night my wife and I were woken by scratching at the doggy door. I grabbed the baseball bat I keep under the bed and raced into the backyard… but all I found was a dead raven, clearly mauled to death and left in the middle of the yard. I yelled into the night “YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE” and then hurried back into the warmth of the house.
I don’t know what to do or if I should even be afraid. Maybe Ghost Dog just wants us to let him in. Maybe he just wants to be loved. But if he mauls animals to death in my yard and terrifies my real dogs, I can’t risk him getting near my daughter. I believe he can’t get in unless I invite him, but I don’t want to be terrorized for the rest of our lives by this apparition. What should I do?