The Hounds of Hel
“Your grandfather wishes to speak to you,” said my friend Rita. “He says to tell you Barney is with him.” She giggled. “That’s an odd name. Is that an American name?”
“Barney was my childhood dog,” I replied. It is also the name of President George W. Bush’s Scottish terrier and the name of a well-known children’s character. It became a popular dog name, but few had heard of the purple dinosaur or Bush Jr. when Rita gave me this psychic reading. I was way ahead of the canine Barney craze.
“Did you really name your dog Barnabas Collins?” the kids at my school asked incredulously when I got my first puppy. It seemed over the top to everyone, but I was the #1 fan of the vampire soap opera, and I later mourned the demise of Dark Shadows almost as much as the death of Barney.
Rita was relaying messages from my grandfather, who had recently died. He was considered a difficult man by most, a curmudgeon even when young, but he had always been good to me. He related better to dogs than to people and formed a close attachment to the dogs of all his children and grandchildren. I had always felt uneasy about being away from home when Barney died, and it relieved me greatly to know that my grandfather was watching over him in the spirit world.
When I gave Barney that unfortunate name, I did not understand just how much dogs and vampires have in common. Dogs, like vampires, belong to this world and to the land of the dead. They have a predatory aspect and are associated with blood. They incite fear. But unlike vampires, who operate as rogue agents, dogs are yoked to a greater authority. They are emissaries from the otherworld, sent to portend the end of life, protect us from untimely death, and guide us on the final passage.