Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, March 29, 2013


Dogs, Devils & Demons:  Lore and Legend of the Dog by Louis L. Vine, D.V.M. (1971)

For Patti Abbott's Forgotten Books today, I turn to a vanity press item by a veterinarian from Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  A large portion of this book, though, was ghost-written by another resident of Chapel Hill, the great Manly Wade Wellman.

Dogs, Devils & Demons is a fascinating, though often repetitive, compendium of dog lore.  (And, yes, there are a few conclusions here about dogs that I find specious, but remember that this book was written more than forty years ago.)  Vine first gives us anecdotes and legends of dogs as instruments of evil, of good, and of fate -- dogs aligned with the devil as hounds of hell, dogs as symbols of good luck, and dogs as harbingers of death.  One superstition guaranteed to elicit an "ew" is that when "a dog strolls up and urinates on your leg, as though you were a fire plug or an elm tree," good fortune will ensue.

From superstitions we move to "Tain't So Stories" -- a collection of just plain strange stories and beliefs about dogs and their care.  For example:  "A sure cure for worms is to feed the dog ground glass."  That might do the trick, but it will also do in the dog.  "Dogs and human beings can be mated."  Vine reports that a human-canine litter was supposedly born within ten miles of his hospital, but when he begged to be taken to see them, "that's when the subject dies down."

A fever blister can (supposedly) be cured by kissing a dog.  If you bind the tail of your dog about three inches from the root using a cord (and, to be more efficacious, hair from the tail of a horse) and wait four hours before you remove it, the dog will be cured of diarrhea.  If a dog vomits in your house, you will have good luck.  (I must be the luckiest s.o.b. on the planet, then.)  It's also good luck if a yellow dog follows you.

Pity the poor dog.  Among the many superstitions, both current and past, are a number that involve cutting off parts of the animal's tail or wounding the dog in some way.  One cure involved throwing a live puppy into boiling water and using the water as a basis for a medical concoction.  It is amazing -- or, perhaps, not -- how stupid, mean, thoughtless, and cruel man has been over the ages.

I am more of a cat person than a dog person, although I do confess to a great liking for my uber-dumb black lab, Declan.  Declan has only two major purposes in life:  to love unconditionally and to solve the nation's energy crisis by providing an unlimited, never-ending supply of natural gas.  After reading Dogs, Devils & Demons, I find myself both cuddling and appreciating Declan even more.

A very interesting book, although probably not for everyone.


I believe Todd Mason is collecting this week's Forgotten Book links at Sweet Freedom.  Check it out.

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