It’s National Dog Day, Unbound Worlds readers!
Founded in 2004 by Animal Behaviorist and author Colleen Paige National Dog Day recognizes the important roles that dogs play in human lives as companions, rescuers, protectors, and guides, and raises awareness about the many shelter dogs that need to be adopted.
All of my dogs (and cats) have been shelter animals, and I can’t tell you how much companionship my four-legged family members have been to me. I wrote about my dog Pixie in October of last year in an article about fascinating canines from science fiction and fantasy. I’m very sad to say that my Pixie girl passed away only a few months later. It was on Christmas Eve.
When it came time to get another dog, I skipped the classified ads, private breeders, and pet stores and went to my local animal rescue league. That’s where I met my new dog, Riley. He was six weeks old; a warm, snuggly little puppy who dozed in my lap all the way home. That little puppy has grown to be a fantastic young dog who remains at my feet throughout my work day. He’s not pure-bred (unless “All-American Mutt” counts) and didn’t come with any fancy papers (except for a handwritten receipt in the amount of $85), but he’s my dog – my buddy – and that makes him very special to me.
Since I covered the dogs of science fiction and fantasy last year, I thought that I’d look to myth and fable for this year’s batch of fanciful dogs. They’re a scary bunch, but don’t worry: You won’t find any of them at your local shelter!
Culture of Origin: Aztec
Description: The ahuizotl or (“spiny aquatic thing”) is a man-eating aquatic monster that looks like a small black dog with sharp teeth and clawed hands in place of its front paws, plus a third clawed paw at the end of its tail for good measure. As if that wasn’t dangerous enough, the ahuizotl has a sleek coat of fur that it can transform into spikes whenever it wants, and believe me, it wants to all the time. The ahuizotl makes its home in hidden caves at the bottom of lakes and streams, waiting until someone comes close enough to shore that the creature can snatch them and pull them under. The victim’s body is found later, usually missing its eyes, teeth, and nails.
Pet Potential: Extremely low. Presuming that you can survive long enough to tame the creature, you’re still going to have to provide it a healthy living space. It’s hard to find a ahuizotl-sized fish tank at your local pet shop, not to even mention the trouble you’ll have keeping it fed.
Name: Black Shuck
Culture of Origin: UK: Great Britain (East Anglia)
Description: If you can believe the historical record, Black Shuck is as common in England as fog and indigestible foodstuffs. The earliest recorded sighting of Black Shuck dates back to the 1100s and they continue to this day. Almost all of accounts describe Black Shuck as a large black dog with fiery, saucer-shaped eyes. In some cases, the creature appeared just before a death or tragedy, with the warning that a sighting of Black Shuck means that your death is near. In one terrifying tale from the 1500s, Shuck pushed through the door of a church and attacked and killed two members of the congregation before it left, leaving a collapsed steeple and scorch marks in its wake.
Pet Potential: Black Shuck might make a better pet than ahuizotl, presuming you can keep him from dissolving into mist or burning enormous paw prints in your lawn. Housebreaking might be difficult for obvious reasons.
Culture of Origin: Greek
Description: Cerberus is an enormous, three-headed dog monster with a mane made of snakes and enormous claws. In Greek mythology, Cerberus guards the gates to the underworld, only allowing the dead to enter. Cerberus is a heck of a doorman: If you’re alive, you’re not getting into anything but Good Old Cerby’s stomach.
Pet Potential: Terrible, unless you’re planning on a life outside of the gates of the Greek underworld. Even then, you’ll have to be careful not to get within reach of those three gaping maws. Oh, and you might have some trouble with his mom and dad, Echidna and Typhon: “The Mother and Father of Monsters.”
Name:: Moddey Dhoo
Culture of Origin: UK (The Isle of Man)
Description: Like Black Shuck, Moddey Dhoo (What a fun name to say: “Moddey Dhoo!”) is an enormous black dog with shining, saucer-like eyes. However, unlike Shuck, Moddey Dhoo seems to be mostly harmless. It makes its home in Peel Castle, a fortification located on the west coast of the Isle of Manx. In one story, soldiers at the castle had grown so accustomed to the sight of Moddey Dhoo stretching out by the fire that it no longer frightened them.
Pet Potential: Moderately good. Moddey Dhoo is a semi-invisible specter, so as far as you know he could already be your pet. Check your hearth this winter.