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The Howling Dog


The summer of 1969 wasn't a very good one for me.

I was sixteen and my mother was dying of cancer. I'd known since May that she was terminal, and it was pretty harrowing. It was hard on everyone, of course; my brothers were only eight at the time and this was pretty hard to take, especially as she was at home, not hospitalized.

There were two things I recall most about that summer: the fact that I was losing a lot of sleep from hearing Mom's groaning with the pain and my stepfather trying to do what he could for her. The other was a dog that belonged to someone who lived across the street from us. Every night, for hours on end (or so it seemed) that dog howled and howled. The two sounds made a hellish counterpoint as I tried to sleep.

When I came home from church on Sunday, the 17th, I knew that there was something going on. My grandmother had been there all weekend, and my oldest sister had arrived while I was out. Dad told me he'd called my middle sister and my uncle as well. I didn't need anyone to tell me that the end was near.

My grandmother had a fit of the vapors, in keeping with her rather histrionic personality, and I spent the bulk of that rather long, hot afternoon in my room. I just wanted to be left alone. My oldest sister, the one to whom I've always been the closest, tried to encourage me to join the family downstairs, but I just couldn't. And that dog across the street was howling for all he was worth--in the broad daylight, no less.

Sometime a little after five, I heard my grandmother start wailing and carrying on and I knew it was over. I called Denise, who was sleeping, and left a pretty blunt message for her with her mother, something like, "Well, when she wakes up, Mrs. Dieter, would you tell her it's all over? Mom just died." I remember saying that, and thanking Denise's mother for her expression of sympathy, then hanging up.

Dad sent my brothers upstairs--my grandmother was having something near to hysterics, and he didn't want the little guys any more traumatized than they'd already been. I remember taking them into my parents' room where they'd been sleeping all summer anyway (Dad slept on the couch, since we had a hospital bed set up in the dining room for Mom).

It was only then that I was able to cry, as the three of us sat there holding on to one another.

When we finally got sleeping arrangements sorted out, I just fell into bed. There were two things I realized the next morning: the dog had stopped howling sometime before I'd gotten to bed, and it was the first good night's sleep I'd gotten all summer long.

After the bustle of the funeral, as we started to settle into being a family of four instead of five, I asked Dad if he'd heard the dog howling all summer. He said yes, and remarked that he'd never heard it again after Mom died on that hot Sunday afternoon...

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The following comments are submitted by users of this site and are not official positions by yourghoststories.com. Please read our guidelines and the previous posts before posting. The author, libertybelle, has the following expectation about your feedback: I will read the comments but I won't participate in the discussion.

ghostgirl417 (5 posts)
12 years ago (2011-06-17)
im soo sorry for your loss mabye the dog was an angel feeling the pain of your mum and when it was over it stopped because it didn't want to suffer without anyone to car for if you ever need someone to talk to talk to me ghostgirl417 ❤
libertybelle (14 stories) (207 posts)
14 years ago (2009-09-04)
Jazzey Jay, I find it interesting that it's only relatively recently that they've discovered the ability of dogs to smell cancer--and I know for a fact that it does, indeed, have a peculiar odor of its own. If you've once been around a terminal cancer patient, you know what I mean, though describing it is next to impossible. Believe me, though, you'd recognize it again anytime, anywhere. So it makes perfectly good sense to me that dogs, whose sense of smell is much keener than ours, would indeed be able to detect it.

Also, my mother had an affinity and affection for dogs, so I don't think it out of the realm of possibility that that might have played a part, even though we couldn't have a dog or cat because of my brother's asthma.

Book_luver123, I know how sensitive animals are to human emotions--I once had a cat that seemed to know whenever life's stresses were threatening to overwhelm me. He'd jump on my bed and curl up on the pillow next to me, then start to purr in my ear. I'd begin stroking his fur, he purred more loudly, and next thing I knew it was morning.

Cheaper and healthier than any prescription medicine or other substance to escape from reality for awhile!
book_luver123 (227 posts)
14 years ago (2009-09-04)
I'm Sorry to hear about your mother.
Did you know that dogs are really sensitive to human emotions and so the dog might have felt the pain and grief from your house and let it out howling. ❤
jazzeyjay (3 stories) (215 posts)
14 years ago (2009-09-03)
That was a very sad story. Thank you for having the strength to share it with all of us.

Dogs are very sensitive animals. Their senses are so keen and they can smell, sense, feel and see all kinds of things that we as humans can't. This dog could not only smell your mother's illness, but he/she could also sense it. It has been proven over and over again that they can sniff out cancer. This dog could also see and sense the loved ones that had passed on before her as they made their way back over to our dimension to assist her with her transition over to the other side. The dog was also aware of her Angels that were there and also we have a Totem animal that is with us at all times and protects us, so her totem animal was also there by her side to assist her with this transition to her next level. That's the reason for the howling, it was the dogs way of singing out to the heavens above, praising God for all of his Glory, and it's own way, his/her little heart was probably heavy and full of emotion too.

Be comforted, because your mother is talking to the Lord right now. God bless you.
libertybelle (14 stories) (207 posts)
14 years ago (2009-09-03)
Hopeful23--I knew Mom was terminal as far back as May of that year, and she died in August at the very young age of 43 and a day short of three months--her birthday was in May, also, on the 18th.

No one told her that she was terminal--I honestly don't know why, but she played it off like a trooper. She always talked in terms of getting well, but I really believe to this day that she knew. As my oldest sister said in the aftermath, she was too intelligent a woman to NOT see for herself that she was only getting weaker. She'd been diagnosed with cancer about a year and a half previously, and undergone radiation treatments both as an outpatient and several times in the hospital as well.

I know firsthand, too, how hard a mother will cling to life when she knows her children need her--I was nearly murdered 18 years ago and to this day remember thinking that my two boys--14 and 8 at the time--were just a little too young to shift for themselves, so I wasn't able to "go gentle into that good night." The thought of them gave me the motivation to fight with everything I had (and a large dose of help from Heaven and prayers, many from people I didn't even know, sure didn't hurt any).

I'm pretty sure Mom must have felt the same way. It was only many years later that I learned that she'd made my stepfather promise to take care of my little brothers and me (for more on that, check my posting Promise Me).

I guess her fight to stay around for her youngest children (both of my sisters were married with families of their own) was just longer than the one I had.
Hopeful23 (12 stories) (93 posts)
14 years ago (2009-09-03)

I'm not sure if they match up exactly as I couldn't tell from the story, but could it be possible that your mother was sick for 6 weeks prior to her death? Could the dog across the street howl for such a long time because she was close to death each day? Perhaps it went on for so long because your mother was trying her hardest to postpone leaving you?

Thank you for sharing such a story with us, my condolences for your loss.
-Hope ❤
libertybelle (14 stories) (207 posts)
14 years ago (2009-09-03)
Hobbyholly, I'm actually indebted to the people on this site for giving me a forum in which to share some of the rather odd things I've experienced over the years. I've found it to be very cathartic to not have to stop and explain every little thing--and, yes, some of them are intensely personal.

As you can see from the date in the opening line, this one's been lying inside me for 40 years now, and it gave me a real sense of unburdening myself by sharing it.

Thank you for reading and being so much help to me.
libertybelle (14 stories) (207 posts)
14 years ago (2009-09-03)
I was aware of the belief in a howling dog being a death omen, Surya, but in the version that I knew of, it always occurred almost immediately before the death. This howling had been consistent for about 6 weeks or so.

When discussing it many years ago with my first husband (who was, admittedly, more open to explanations that seem to defy logic than my current spouse is), his take on it was that maybe death had come close many times over that period.

I asked my brother Steve (we talk at least several times a week) if he and Dennis recalled hearing the dog
--he said no, and I was really glad to hear that. At the age they were, I can only think it would have made an already painful situation a lot worse.

Dad had plenty of coping skills--he'd been in the Navy during World War II and had spent some time as a 'guest' of the Japanese emperor, so he'd probably seen so many harrowing things that he was pretty unflappable--and even I, at sixteen, was better equipped to handle something like this than a couple of little boys were.

Thanks so much for your kind words!
hobbyholly (11 stories) (572 posts)
14 years ago (2009-09-03)

I'm with Surya. Well written and I thank you for sharing something so personal.
Surya (39 stories) (867 posts)
14 years ago (2009-09-03)
That was surely a very difficult time for you and your family. It is not unheard of that dogs will howl when death is at someones doors. I know they say it is an old wives tales, but one that regardless of the tale I believe is true.

A very well written piece might I also add.

Thank you for sharing your story with us.


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