Angel or Devil? Black Dogs and Dusty

Daily Prompt Weaving the Threads Draft a post with three parts, each unrelated to the other, but create a common thread between them by including the same item — an object, a symbol, a place — in each part.

The gate was easy to open, finally. The frozen ground under the cracked concrete had thawed and sunk back in place. For the first time in two months, there was no ice. Just dirt, small rocks, dead leaves, some detritus from construction. Everything said, “You need a rake.”

“Go to house,” she said to Dusty, who immediately leapt from the back of the hatchback Focus and ran to the back door of the house. He loved it when he was given a command and got it right. There were so many things he could do but she hardly ever asked him. He wanted to learn more things and during the big snow storm when the gate couldn’t even open, he’d learned “Go to garage!” on the first try. He was very proud of that.

She wondered what the big black dog remembered of his life as a puppy. Some of it had been grim, she knew that. “He’ll never be a pet” and it was true that as a pet, he was a little problematic, but mostly he was just an immense, affectionate, graceful, loyal and obedient dog who wanted to do the right thing.

“No one wants a black dog,” said the animal control officer. “We euthanize more black dogs than any other colors. I have no idea why. A dog is a dog is a dog, right?”

She learned later that black dogs, especially being followed by a black dog, signify bad luck.


The story starts with an Easter walk. The villagers have all gone to church and from there they go, arm in arm, on a spring perambulation over the hills and dales, finding destinations that charm them. Christ is resurrected and all is right with the world. On a hillside sits a grumpy old man, Faust, and his student, Wagner.

As he and Wagner walk back to his house they are followed by a large, black dog.

Yon black hound
See’st thou, through corn and stubble scampering round?

I’ve mark’d him long, naught strange in him I see!

Note him! What takest thou the brute to be?

But for a poodle, whom his instinct serves
His master’s track to find once more.

Dost mark how round us, with wide spiral curves,
He wheels, each circle closer than before?
And, if I err not, he appears to me
A line of fire upon his track to leave.

Naught but a poodle black of hue I see;
’Tis some illusion doth your sight deceive.

Methinks a magic coil our feet around,
He for a future snare doth lightly spread.

Around us as in doubt I see him shyly bound,
Since he two strangers seeth in his master’s stead.

The circle narrows, he’s already near!

A dog dost see, no spectre have we here;
He growls, doubts, lays him on his belly, too,
And wags his tail—as dogs are wont to do. (Faust Part 1, Goethe)

The dog is playful and chases sticks thrown by the grumpy old man. There is something charming about a gamboling canine even though Faust sees that the dog may not be just a dog as Wagner insists. But when they reach he house, the dog will not come inside with them…


“Nothing going on. That’s good. Just checked. Everything is fine out there. I know she’ll go out with me to get the trash can. I always ‘stay’ when she tells me to. She worries I’ll get out of the gate while she’s doing her chore, but I won’t. I wouldn’t leave her for anything. I’m proud of the way I ‘stay’. I’m good at that. I’ve even learned to ‘stay’ in the back of the car when she tells me. I hope she loves me. If she stopped loving me, I’d be lost. I can’t believe I got to come home with her! But I did and I’m still with her. I wish we went on more walks, though, but if we don’t, it’s still OK. I like to visit my friends in Colorado Springs. I have some dog friends there and some people friends, too. They’re her friends, too. They like me and pet me and we go for walks on a place called ‘the mesa’. I saw deer there. They ran when I barked. I wanted to chase them, but if I had, I might have lost her. What would she do if she didn’t have me? I’m going to have to go back out soon to check everything again. But for now, I think I’ll lie down here beside Mindy and enjoy the sunshine on the carpet.”

19 thoughts on “Angel or Devil? Black Dogs and Dusty

    • Dusty is very devoted, too. He’s not exactly my “type” (I like snow dogs best) but I love him with all my heart. I’ve never had a dog who tried so hard to get things right. ❤

  1. You did a wonderful job with this prompt, Martha. I don’t know when I’ve seen a better job of portraying a dog’s mind. And, I have a black dog who was a very very very naughty puppy. To this day he sleeps in a locked cage because I could only trust him in the house that way for years. Now if I don’t keep the door shut during the day, he sneaks into the house to go into the cage and if I don’t close the hasp, he worries the lock until I do. But, in the past month, he’s sneaked in and made off with two complete company dinners!!! Six pork chops out of the skillet on the stove top and an entire cooked chicken off the counter…without breaking or even moving the plate or skillet! On the other hand, today I spilled a piece of papaya onto the kitchen floor. I opened the back door–he ran in–I pointed with my toe to the papaya. He grabbed it and immediately ran back out the back door without being told. Good Dog! I know he wants to mind–when his taste buds don’t take control of his reason. Thanks for this wonderful trio of tales. Judy

    • Dusty used to sleep in his crate. He learned to do that when I first brought him home and he felt very secure there. It was a hard transition for him when I took the crate away (I was trying to sell my house and dog crates are NOT chic decorating features). I didn’t know how he’d manage the changes of moving away from the only home he’d known to a new home and then new people and visiting friends but he has LOVED it. I have had dogs like yours — they could make three pounds of cheese vanish in minutes, destroy and consume whole loves of bread. One was a lab mix and the other a Siberian husky. My Aussie has been known to do that, too. All different motives I think. They’re hunters! 🙂 Thank you for the kind words.

  2. My dogs are, at this minute, laying together in the sunshine on a rug in front of my open front door, keeping an eye on the cul de sac. Dogs are great, and so is your response to this prompt. Now I’m wishing I had done to properly.

  3. Yes, loved it from the begining to the end, but the middle bit refreshed my reading of Faust from last week. This Wagner guy turned up in the story. As I was reading it in German I dd a check with Mr. Swiss who had never read the book/play or whatever, but he explained that the word “Wagner” would actually mean someone that built carts with big wheels out of wood. So I am a little confused, Was that just a name that Goethe gave him? And the poodle, yes I was not surprised that Mephistopheles turned up as a hound, but Goethe constantly referred to him as “Pudel” which seemed a little too nice for the devil. “Höllehund” would have been more appropriate.

    • Wagner is just a name. I understand that Püdel just meant dogs in general. I think Goethe was trying to show how captivating the devil can be and to show his methods of seduction. And then, of course, when Mephistopheles revealed himself he was dressed as a student — as Faust was a professor he would feel inclined to help a student without even being conscious of it. Me too; second nature — even the biggest arschloch of a student could win my sympathy. So first Faust plays with the devil and then he feels sympathy for him. What a seducer! There’s a man who goes around and reads/performs bits of Goethe all around the country (world). I don’t remember his name. I went to hear him read from Faust and he read well. I laughed at the püdel part because it’s funny. The guy got upset at me for laughing, but you know, Goethe wrote it to be funny just like he wrote the Witches’ Kitchen part to be funny. There’s a lot of humor in that play — the part where the devil puts a tap into the table and pours beer from it, the parts where Mephistopheles talks to the students about the branches of learning, especially about the law which Goethe studied and hated. Goethe’s personal philosophy here,
      “Grey is, young friend, all theory:
      And green of life the golden tree.” Spoken by Mephistopheles 🙂

  4. There are so many layers to this post … you could should peel it back like an onion.

    Garry says it’s pure racism. Bonnie, our little black terrorist, is our favorite. She has a will of her own, strong opinions, and is too smart for her own good. Probably that why we love her.

    • I had to put Lily to sleep two weeks ago. I wrote a post on it but I think you were in a transitional state. It’s Lily RIP. Dusty and Mindy are doing great. 🙂

      • Oh jesus. Martha, I am SO SORRY. She was doing so well for her age.
        She had some wonderful new experiences, don’t you think ?

      • I think Lily was happy to be in Colorado, to be in snow storms, to be with me on the whole journey. Letting go of her was so hard because she and I we “young” together — she’s the last dog who went on long hikes with me (I can’t do them anymore). But her last month was tortured. She had night terrors and canine senility and was disoriented. I don’t know if you read the post but her passing was kindly and lovingly accomplished. But I miss her very much and I’m grateful to have known such a brave and positive little creature. And it’s so cool that the last few months of her life were one adventure after another.

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