Growing up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Botetourt County , Va., I heard a lot of urban legends and tall tales. One of them was that dogs were able to see the death angel, and that a howling dogs, was a signal, that someone was about to die.
Although I myself, and my friends all owned many dogs in childhood, not once did any of our pets warn us of an upcoming death, except a cat. I owned a number of cats as a teenager, and my great grandmother was particularly fond of one named Tinkerbell.
One day Tink did not come running when great grandma called, and we never saw her again. About a month later great grandmother died of heart failure while in the hospital. My grandmother said the cat disappeared because it could sense, that her mother was about to die.
We moved to the city in 1979, and this is when I began to realize the story of dogs seeing death had some truth to it. During the summer of 1981, dogs belonging to a neighbor who lived 2 house down from us began howling. My grandma said that someone was about to die. The dogs howled for 3 days straight. it was a ghastly sound, and got on my nerves. On the third day, their owner was shot to death.
In 1987 my husband and I had a German Shepherd named Frisco. One day Frisco began howling to the high heavens. All day and night, he moaned. We checked to make sure he was not injured, and saw no signs that he was sick. The next morning, Frisco lay dead near his dog house.
Over the years, whenever I heard dogs howling I would pray, and tell the death angel to stay away from me and mine. More times than not, after hearing them, the news would come that a neighbor or acquaintance had passed on.
On February 1st, 2010, I was taking my morning walk. Just as I passed a house a few blocks from where I lived, a dog in the yard began to howl. He reared his head back as far as he could and let out a mournful blood curdling sound. It made the hair stand up on the back of my neck.
This dog always sat quietly whenever I passed that way. He had been sitting silently on that morning until I approached, and I felt his howl was specifically for me. When I returned home I told my husband to prepare himself because death was coming, and it was coming in spades.
Two days later my grandmother who had been sick for a while, passed away. Less than 24 hours later, her good friend and cousin, whom she talked to daily on the phone also died. And about six weeks later, a third older cousin in the family took her last breath.
Stanley Coren, PHD, says as a scientist he does not believe that dogs can predict death. He lists reasons why he believes people are projecting what they desire into what he calls a superstition. Even so, he shared a testimony of a woman in Psychology Today who as a child had an encounter with a howling dog and death.
As a young girl, this woman had a dog that howled so much one day, a neighbor asked her father to silence the animal. The neighbor explained that his mother was sick in his home, and the dog was disturbing her. The child’s father told the neighbor that the dog would stop howling when his mother died. At 6:00 p.m. the animal abruptly became silent. It was at this time, that the neighbor’s mother passed away.
There really is no way to study, or prove this phenomenon because it seems so random. Those like Stanleu Coren will always find a logical explanation for everything. Others, like myself who have experienced howling dogs and death, know without a doubt there is validity to it.