The Dog’s Howl

The Dog's Howl

Elders tell us that persons born with ‘caul’ have the unique gift of seeing the spirit of dead people. Caul is the lining on the inside of the mother’s uterus, which sometimes covers the newborn’s head at delivery.

According to folklore, if you rub a dog’s boo-boo (mucous in the eyes) in your own eyes, you will empower yourself to see jumbie. No one has ever admitted to actually carrying out this unsavory ritual, so the verdict is still out on proof of its merits.

Dogs in Guyana are credited with the natural ability to see ghosts. Many villagers can tell you when a deceased person’s spirit comes back to visit, alerted by the howling of dogs. The animals can sense the presence of the unseen visitors. 

Villagers aroused by neighborhood dogs’ eerie warnings, react in different ways. Sliding deeper into their thin cotton covers and sticking their heads under pillows is the overwhelming choice by the majority. They wait out the threat and endure the rest of the night, praying for the speedy arrival of sunlight.

Our story today tells of one such episode, involving Lalita, her husband Desmond and their neighbour’s dog, Sparky. Lalita described the macabre events that took place one dark moonless night. 

Lalita sprang up into a sitting position, grabbing her sheet to her chest with heart pounding and a cold chill running down her spine. Sparky’s howls jolted her out of deep slumber. Desmond slept through the ordeal, contributing a few deep notes of snoring to the nightly sounds himself. She looked around the dark room of the lower flat and realized that the current was off again.

Another high pitched howl from Sparky made her jump and caused Desmond to stir, allowing a brief reprieve from his nasal droning. Lalita seized the moment. She shook Desmond’s inert body with all her strength, while calling his name several times with desperate urgency just above a whisper.

“Wha happen, Lalita?” Desmond heard Lalita’s voice, roused by her violent shaking. “Someting wrang?”

“Desmond, Sparky howling right outside we bedroom window again.” Lalita’s voice trembled. “Ah tink he seeing Aunt Gertie spirit again. Desmond, ah frighten.”

“Lalita, ah gat fuh wok in di marning.” Desmond made an attempt to turn away from Lalita. “Try get some rest. We gon talk bout it in the marning.”

“Desmond, doan go back to sleep.” Lalita grabbed his shoulder and rocked the big man with adrenalin fueled force. “Go an trow some wata pun he, nah.”

“Rass, man Lalita.” Desmond sucked his teeth and rolled over to sit with his legs hanging off the bed. “Ah cyant see a ting. Look like we gah blackout again.”

“Di candle and matchbox deh pon di washstand.” Lalita’s voice sounded steady, buoyed by Desmond’s wakeful presence and his attempt to carry out her bidding. “Di bowl ah wata deh-deh to.”

“Wow! Dah dam dag scare me!” Desmond reeled from a sudden loud howl from Sparky. “Ah doan know why Daris doan lack up dat dam dag in di night. She only mekkin e badda people when deh wan fuh sleep. Why e doan go an howl outside she bedroom winda.”

He made cautious little steps to the washstand and searched in the dark with his fingers for the candle and matches. He picked up the matchbox and slid the tray open at the same moment when Sparky decided to let out a loud yowl. The sound, a couple of feet outside the bedroom window gave them both goose-bumps. Lalita pulled her legs up and hugged her knees, wide eyes unable to see in the dark. 

“Blasted dag mek mi jump.” Desmond sucked his teeth when the open box of matches fell to the ground and spilled all the match-sticks. “Rass, now all di match deh all ova di ground.”

After he recovered, Desmond lit the candle and unbolted the wood-framed awning window, with the bowl of water poised for a launch at Sparky. The dog’s loudest caterwaul blasted through the open window and caused the bowl of water to slip out of Desmond’s fingers. The window slammed shut as he backed away and stood frozen in the pool of water on the floor. 

“Ayou get out ah di house fass!” Sparky’s howls sounded like Aunt Gertie’s voice, sounding a vocal and ominous warning. “Di house bunnin dung.”

Lalita sprang out of bed with the sheet wrapped around her, as smoke started billowing into the bedroom. The husband and wife jumped through the window and raised the alarm. Their home was burnt to the ground, caused by the blaze of an oil lamp that leaked kerosene onto the tablecloth in the kitchen.
The fire department showed up in time to save all the homes within proximity of their spark filled, crackling house-fire.

Lalita and Desmond swear by the events they experienced that night, when Aunt Gertie, the former owner of their home, came back from the dead to save their lives.
No one had cause to doubt, giving thanks to Aunt Gertie for saving the neighborhood from disaster. Unlike all the previous occasions, this time everyone was grateful that Aunt Gertie paid them a visit.