Everyone is familiar with the old superstition associated with black cats: a black cat can bring bad luck to the person who sees it, especially if said cat’s path crosses with theirs. Silly, right? Well, did you know there were similar superstitions associated with black dogs?
In folklore from the British Isles, a “black dog” was the name given to a devilish nocturnal apparition whose appearance portended death. Remember the Sherlock Holmes adventure, “The Hound of the Baskervilles”? Although in the story the ghostly “hellhound” that stalked the Baskervilles turned out to be a regular, flesh and bone dog, to this day there still exist stereotypes against black dogs.
This stereotype is a very real phenomenon known to the animal welfare community as Black Dog Syndrome. Black dogs are the last to be adopted from shelters and often the first to be euthanized because of the difficulty of finding them homes. I first heard about Black Dog Syndrome several years ago after I had already adopted two black dogs of my own and I was shocked and puzzled by the statistics. Why would so many beautiful, sweet animals have trouble finding homes just because of their color?
There are a few theories about the root of Black Dog Syndrome, one being as basic as the way the human eye discerns images. These days, many people search the internet for a dog to adopt and unfortunately, darker colored objects simply do not photograph as well as lighter colored objects. Therefore, a black dog’s picture may not show up as well and thereby not resonate as well as a light colored dog’s picture. Or, a black dog’s picture may be overlooked entirely because the human eye is naturally drawn to a lighter object. Shelters are typically not lit well either, compounding the problem of photographing a black dog in a flattering way.
Another strike against black dogs being adopted may be popular depictions of good and evil. You have never heard of a “black knight” riding in to save a maiden, have you? In movies, television and literature, the color white is traditionally associated with “good” and the color black is traditionally associated with “evil.” Big, black dogs are perceived as more menacing than their same-sized, lighter counterparts.
Slang and culture may also play a part in tipping the odds against black dogs. First coined by the Roman poet Horace, and later used by Winston Churchill, the term “black dog” has been used for centuries as a metaphor for depression.
Even though you and I realize that none of these are valid reasons to discount adopting a black dog, the problem still persists, so I would like to challenge you to share these misconceptions with others and spread the word about why black dogs are awesome and adoptable.
I’ll go first:
Because they’re so gorgeous and sleek, having a black dog at my side makes me look ten pounds thinner! Ok, no it doesn’t. But here are some reasons why I love my black dogs:
Is there a special black dog in your life? Share your story with us (pictures too please!) or leave a comment below.