If your dog tells you that your only hope for a normal life is to kill someone, odds are that your dog is a liar. He obviously does not have your best interests at heart, and it’s highly unlikely that he’s even a dog. While blaming the dog for eating the homework you neglected may work once or twice, blaming him for your detour into the dark arts, psychopathy, or your multiple homicides is probably giving him far too much credit. He is a dog after all. You probably shouldn’t have listened to him, because (1) his intellectual capacity for discerning the consequences of his actions are demonstrably less acute than yours, and (2) he is a dog. Maybe, you argue, Satan or some equally unsavory mythological monstrosity was simply speaking through the dog, to which I respond, the fact that the dog was speaking at all should have alerted you to the fact that you were either suffering some sort of psychotic break, or alternatively, that some sort of decidedly unpleasant supernatural critter was possessing the family pet, and therefore was not to be trusted, regardless of whether it was offering helpful suggestions on lifestyle changes, complaining about the snooty poodle down the hall, or laying out plans for the perfect murder. Just in case anyone is unclear, the message here is don’t listen to the dog. It doesn’t matter what he says. That he’s saying anything is a bad sign and you probably require either medication or an exorcist. Start with the medication, not because you’re necessarily crazy, but it will probably take the edge off and I have yet to find a healthcare plan that includes the Roman Ritual on the list of approved services. At any rate, history abounds with spooky black dogs telling people what to do, from the 16th Century case of Abel de la Rue, a Franciscan monk who reputedly abandoned the Church in favor of the sorcerous life and canoodling with the Devil, to the black demon dog that infamously followed creepy occultist Cornelius Agrippa around, to the more modern “Son of Sam” David Berkowitz, who’s murderous insanity was reportedly at the behest of unnatural, and irritatingly insistent canines in the neighborhood. Perhaps the oddest aspect of these cases is that when the dogs started talking, people listened. If you hear voices in your head, its one thing. I mean, at least it’s your head. When the dog starts making insidious suggestions, consider the source. Their assessment of character generally involves sniffing another animal’s backside, and they treat toilet water like fine wine. Besides, as actress Martha Scott warned, “Do not make the mistake of treating your dogs like humans or they will treat you like dogs”. This is doubly true when the dog starts diabolically suggesting the need for a few human sacrifices to dark gods or the importance of a shooting spree. Even the dog will be surprised if you listen.
In a notable historical instance, well documented by French jurist Jean Bodin (1530-1596 A.D.) in his famous De la démonomanie des sorciers (“Of the Demon-mania of the Sorcerers”), a cobbler turned novice Franciscan monk named Abel de La Rue from Coulommiers, France was brought up on witchcraft charges involving the magical induction of impotence in Jean Moreau de Coulommiers. Europe was all about witch hunts from the 15th-18th Century, and estimates suggest that somewhere around 100,000 people (6000 alone in France) were executed across 300 years for various sorcerous crimes, so this was not exactly a cultural irregularity, apart from the usual batshit craziness of the Inquisition, but a fascinating aspect of the de La Rue trial was that he claimed that his actions were done due to prodding and promises made in conversations with a big, black dog, widely interpreted to be the devil. Given that confessions were generally a result of torture at the hands of an over-enthusiastic inquisitor, we have to consider the possibility that this is the best he could come up with to avoid further attentions with a hot poker, but surprisingly, the legal minds of the time felt that the story hung together pretty well. These things never end well for the confessor, and de La Rue was no exception as “In 1582 the Parliament of Paris condemned one Abel de la Rue to be hung and afterwards burnt for having wickedly and willfully point-tied Jean Moreau de Contommiers (Davenport , 1869, p40). When it comes down to it, its better to be hung, then burnt, than to be burnt and then hung (which is logistically difficult, since I have it on good authority that post-burning you tend to be a bit crumbly, besides the obvious overkill factor). In fact, you probably should avoid either fate if possible. Turns out, Abel de La Rue and his black dog had a rather complicated relationship.
This notion of a personal and private treaty with the Evil One has something of dignity about it that has made it perennially attractive to the most imaginative minds. It rather flatters than mocks our feeling of the dignity of man. As we come down to the vulgar parody of it in the confessions of wretched old women on the rack, our pity and indignation are mingled with disgust. One of the most particular of these confessions
is that of Abel de la Rue, convicted in 1584. The accused was a novice in the Franciscan Convent at Meaux. Having been punished by the master of the novices for stealing some apples and nuts in the convent garden, the Devil appeared to him in the shape of a black dog, promising him his protection, and advising him to leave the convent. Not long after going into the sacristy, he saw a large volume fastened by a chain, and
further secured by bars of iron. The name of this book was Grimoire. Thrusting his hands through the bars, he contrived to open it, and having read a sentence (which Bodin carefully suppresses), there suddenly appeared to him a man of middle stature, with a pale and very frightful countenance, clad in a long black robe of the Italian fashion, and with faces of men like his own on his breast and knees. As for his feet they were like those of cows. He could not have been the most agree able of companions, ayant le corps et haleine puante. This man told him not to be afraid, to take off his habit, to put faith in him, and he would give him what ever he asked. Then laying hold of him below the arms, the unknown transported him under the gallows of Meaux, and then said to him with a trembling and broken voice, and having a visage as pale as that of a man who has been hanged, and a very stinking breath, that he should fear nothing, but have entire confidence in him, that he should never want for anything, that his own name was Maitre Rigoux, and that he would like to be his master; to which De la Rue made answer that he would do whatever he commanded, and that he wished to be gone from the Franciscans (Lowell, 1873, p98-99).
Abel de La Rue clearly had a problem with authority, since he didn’t think much of stealing fruit and nuts from the convent, but strangely seemed to have no problem with swearing fealty to a talking black dog. I understand regretting one’s decision to become a monk, what with the beatings, lack of fashion, and vows of chastity, but it seems that there are easier courses that chumming it up with a demonic dog and calling down bad marital mojo on those who displease you. The dog must have been pretty convincing. The Parliament in Paris showed surprising charity when they decided to hang de La Rue first, rather than burn him alive at the stake, considering that 200 years later, a similar group of Parisians thought the guillotine was the coolest thing since cotton underwear.
Secular parliaments were fully as severe in dealing with these supposed mischief making culprits, for while the church looked well to the damning of the soul of these recreants, the civil bodies burned, hung and otherwise punished the body, so that the devil could the sooner come into possession of their souls. This is very evident from the old records which tell us of a cobbler named Abel de la Rue, who was publicly hung and afterwards burned for having so bewitched Jean Moreau de Coulomoniers, who, whatever his other failings were, was sufficiently powerful not to allow any low born cobbler to triﬂe with his propensities. The Paris parliament, before whom the case was tried, promptly condemned Abel to the stake, but on an appeal to the Reuen parliament the latter very magnanimously so altered the sentence as to have him ﬁrst hung, and then burned (Remondido, 1899, p523-524).
The American serial killer David Richard Berkowitz (“The Son of Sam”) is best known for a string of arsons, shooting thirteen people (killing six) and eluding police from 1976-1977 in New York City. When caught, Berkowitz happily confessed, and pointed out that he was ordered to kill by his neighbor’s dog (which of course, by that time, he believed to be possessed by the Devil). Why the possibility that the dog was possessed did not occur to him before he started his homicidal rampage is unclear, but this seems to be the modus operandi of evil, talking black dogs. They clearly have the gift of gab. Berkowitz later denied his original claims about taking his marching orders from the neighbor’s dog Harvey, but one wonders if this was simply out of embarrassment at having listened to the dog in the first place. “The “Son of Sam” case, which occurred in New York City over a period of 13 months during 1976-77, brought an active involvement of both psychiatry and psychology into the criminal investigation, as police authorities attempted to identify a “mad man” who would shoot young couples as they sat in parked autos at various locations in the city. This serial killer communicated with authorities by sending cryptic messages to a major metropolitan newspaper and claimed that he was acting under instructions communicated to him by a neighbor’s dog” (Geberth, 1986, p494). Poor Harvey the black Labrador didn’t escape unscathed, as Berkowitz eventually shot him, but the simple truth is that Berkowitz had been receiving evil messages from dogs prior to moving into Harvey’s neighborhood. Luckily, despite being ostensibly born-again in prison, Berkowitz will never see the light of day, which suits us just fine because we should probably focus on a more general campaign for separating people who follow instructions from malevolent dogs from the general population.
Phantom black dogs are a fairly common strange phenomenon and have a strong presence in mythology. Most folks when faced with a menacing canine (spectral or otherwise) have the good sense to run or call animal control. An ignominious few think it’s a good idea to strike up a conversation. Rest assured, an existential chat with a demonic dog is unlikely to produce positive results. Should you find yourself at a party, trapped in a conversation with a dog, and he begins to lay out a villainous plan, lightly tap him on the nose with a newspaper and say “bad, evil dog”. Strangely, humans value the opinions of dogs and this places undue force behind the suggestions a talking dog might make. Avoid the temptation to consider what the dog proposes, and most importantly, as Ann Landers recommended, “Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful”. Particularly if he approves of your insanity.
Davenport, John, 1789-1877. Aphrodisiacs And Anti-aphrodisiacs: Three Essays On the Powers of Reproduction; With Some Account of the Judicial “congress” As Practised In France During the Seventeenth Century. London: Priv. print., 1869.
Geberth, Vernon. “Mass, Serial, and Sensational Homicides: The Investigative Perspective”. Bulletin of the New YorkAcademy of Medicine 62:5 (June), 1986.
Lowell, James Russell, 1819-1891. Among My Books. Boston: J. R. Osgood, 1873.
Remondido, P.C. “Some observations of the History, Psychology, and Therapeutics of Impotence”. Pacific Medical Journal V42:9 (September), 1899.