Dog Howling

EPISODE I : PART TWO

IS THER ANY...
SCIENCE BEHIND SUPERSTITIONS : EPISODE I

Is there any connection between a dog howling and somebody’s death?

A BROAD PATH THAT GOES A LONG WAY, BORDERED BY A THICK GROWTH OF GRASS THAT HAD BEEN STREAKED YELLOW BY THE HOT MORNING SUN.

IT IS TWILIGHT.

A LONG CHAIN OF MOUNTAINS RISE GRACEFULLY ON ONE SIDE. AS I STROLL ALONG THE WAY I COME TO A SIDE ROAD BORDERED BY TREES. I SIT UNDER A TREE. THE SILENCE IS VERY COMFORTING. I FEEL THAT THIS MYSTIC SURROUNDING CAN EXIST FOREVER.

I THINK DEEPLY ABOUT MYSELF. I RECOLLECT MY COLLEGE DAYS. I PONDER OVER THE THINGS HAPPENING IN THE WORLD AROUND ME…

A SLIGHT DISTURBANCE….

I CAN SEE SOMEBODY COMING TOWARDS ME FROM A DISTANCE. THE FIGURE IS TALL AND SLIM , WITH BIG AND LOOSE PYJAMAS GETTING RUFFLED DUE TO THE BREEZE, LONG GOLDEN SUNSHINE HAIR THAT HAS BEEN PULL BACK TO REVEAL A SAD YET INTELLIGENT FACE. THE FEATURES ARE VERY DELICATE BUT THE STRENGTH BEHIND THEM IS OBVIOUS.

IT’S A WOMAN.

ASSUMING THAT SHE WOULD PASS BY, I LEAN AGAINST THE TREE AND CLOSE MY EYES. BUT I CAN FEEL HER SITTING NEXT TO ME. I LOOK AT HER. SHE SMILES AND IT’S EFFECT ON HER FACE IS BREATHTAKING. I WISH I WERE TORTOISE SO THAT I CAN DUCK MY HEAD INSIDE THE SHELL. I START TO GET SHY AND UNCOMFORTABLE.

“MAY I KNOW WHO YOU ARE?”, I ASK WITH A SLIGHT HESITATION.
THE WAY SHE CARRIES HERSELF MAKES ME LOOK UP TO HER.

“ I’M APEETHA. I’M FROM AUSTRALIA. I CAME HERE TWO YEARS AGO. MY BROTHER IS A VETERINARIAN IN AUSTRALIA. THE CULTURE AND THE SPIRITUALITY OF INDIA HAS INSPIRED ME SO MUCH THAT I DECIDED TO STAY BACK HERE. MY DOG PASSED AWAY ON THIS SAME DAY LAST YEAR. I CAME TO VISIT HIS GRAVE . “, SHE SAYS CALMLY.

SHE LOOKS AT ME AS IF EXPECTING ME TO INTRODUCE MYSELF.

‘I WORK HERE AS A VET. THIS IS MY FIRST YEAR AT WORK. I FINISHED MY COURSE LAST YEAR. MY PARENTS LIVE IN MADRAS. I WANT TO CONTRIBUTE SOMETHING USEFUL TO MY PEOPLE AND TO THE ANIMALS. MEDICINE IS MY PASSION. I WANT TO DISCOVER A DRUG THAT WOULD HELP EVERYONE. BUT I’VE GOT TO WORK TO UPLIFT MY FAMILY’S FINANCIAL SITUATION.”
“WHAT DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE PEOPLE OF THIS COUNTRY?”, I ASK.

SHE REMAINS SILENT FOR A FEW SECONDS...
“THE PEOPLE OF YOUR COUNTRY ARE VERY EFFICIENT AND CAPABLE OF MANY THINGS. BUT THEY DON’T TRY TO SEEK KNOWLEDGE. THEY LACK CONFIDENCE AND THEY FAIL TO RECOGNIZE TALENT. I ASKED THIS SAME QUESTION TO ONE OF MY INDIAN FRIENDS. DO YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT HE SAID? HE TOLD ME THAT MOST OF THE INDIANS ARE FOOLS. THEY ARE NARROW MINDED. FOR EXAMPLE, WHEN A DOG HOWLS THEY FEEL THAT SOMEBODY HAS PASSED AWAY. SHE CONTINUES...
“I COULD’NT TOLERATE HIS TALK ANYMORE. I TOLD HIM THAT HE WAS THE BIGGEST FOOL I EVER HAD THE MISFORTUNE TO MEET. I ALSO TOLD HIM THAT THERE IS ALWAYS SOME SCIENTIFIC EXPLANATION BEHIND EVERY SUCH SUPERSTITION”

I FEEL CURIOUS. WHAT IS THE CONNECTION BETWEEN A DOG HOWLING AND SOMEBODY’S DEATH? I BEGIN TO WONDER.

SHE LOOKS AT ME. “YOU ARE A VET. YOU WILL KNOW THE ANSWER.”


I AM REALLY CONFUSED. I DON’T KNOW WHETHER TO ACCEPT THAT I DON’T REALLY KNOW OR TO ACT LIKE I KNOW SOMETHING.

“ WHAT DID YOU TELL HIM AFTER THAT?” I ASK.

“ I TOLD HIM WHAT MY BROTHER HAD TOLD ME A FEW YEARS AGO. EACH AND EVERY LIVING THING IN THIS WORLD IS MADE UP OF CELLS. BE IT A SMALL CREATURE LIKE A RAT OR A HUGE ANIMAL LIKE AN ELEPHANT, THE CELLS START DECAYING SOON AFTER THE ANIMAL DIES. THE SMELL EMITTED BY THE DECAYING BODY CAN BE FELT BY THE HUMAN NOSE. BUT THE NASAL POWER OF THE DOG IS TEN TIMES GREATER THAN THAT OF THE HUMAN’S. THE TURBINATE BONE OF THE DOG’S IS BIGGER THAN THAT OF THE HUMAN’S. IT’LL BE ABLE TO DETECT THE DECAYING ODOR AS SOON AS THE FIRST CELL STARTS DECAYING. THE DEATH OF A GROUP OF CELLS IS CALLED AS TISSUE NECROSIS. THE ODOR TENDS TO IRRITATE A DOG’S NOSE. IT’LL BE A HINDRANCE FOR THE DOG TO BREATHE THROUGH ITS NOSE. IT WILL TRY TO RESPIRE THROUGH ITS PHARYNX. THIS CAUSES THE DOG TO HOWL. I TOLD HIM THAT IT IS NOT A MERE SUPERSTITION BUT THE INDIANS WERE RIGHT ABOUT IT.”

I SMILE BECAUSE I KNEW THIS ANSWER ALREADY.


MAN’S OLFACTORY SENSE IS DEVELOPED TO THE EXTENT OF RECOGNIZING A DEATH ONLY WHEN IT IS TOTAL.  FOR EXAMPLE, IF THE TAIL OF A RAT GETS NECROSIS, IT WILL NOT BE FELT BY THE HUMAN SENSE UNLESS THE RAT ITSELF DIES.  BUT A DOG CAN FEEL EVEN IF A FEW CELLS OF AN ORGAN DIE.  THIS IRRITATES THE DOG’S OLFACTORY SENSE, ESPECIALLY DURING THE NIGHT WHEN THE ENVIRONMENT IS CLEAR AND DEVOID OF ANY INTERFERENCE.  THUS THE DOG FEELS IRRITATED AND WILL NOT BE ABLE TO RESPIRE NORMALLY.  THEREFORE, THE DOG RESPIRES THROUGH ITS PHARYNX RATHER THAN THROUGH ITS NOSTRILS, AND THUS A LONG LOUD DOLEFUL CRY IS PRODUCED, AT THE TIME OF IMMINENT DEATH OF ANY CREATURE.


“ IT’S TIME FOR MEDITATION. I’VE GOT TO LEAVE. I’D LOVE TO MEET YOU AGAIN. I LIVE NEAR RAMANASHRAM. PLEASE DO COME SOMETIME.”, SHE SAYS AND LEAVES WITH A SMILE.

TIME PASSED VERY QUICKLY. WE BECAME GOOD FRIENDS. I LEARNT SOMETHING NEW EVERY TIME I MET HER. I CAME TO A CONCLUSION. MY ANCESTORS WERE NOT FOOLS.

THERE ARE STILL A LOT OF SUPERSTITIONS THAT ARE EXISTING IN INDIA. “ HOW DOES THE GANGES STILL REMAIN PURE?” “ WHY DO PEOPLE SAY ‘GOD BLESS YOU’ WHEN SOMEONE SNEEZES?” I WANT TO SHARE A LOT OF THINGS WITH YOU. MAY I?



*THESE ARTICLES WERE WRITTEN IN HIS MOTHER TONGUE BY THE BLOGGER IN ONE OF THEIR HOUSE MAGAZINE WHICH HAS NOW BEEN BEAUTIFULLY TRANSLATED BY HIS DAUGHTER Ms. NIVYASHEKHER.

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