The Black Dog (Friday Fictioneers, August 2014)

Copyright Jan Wayne Fields

On black dog days, the door remained closed.

We crept about the house, ducking beneath the shadows festering outside the study.

Mother said that for him, when the black dog came, there was no difference between day and night. He couldn’t help it, she said.

As we grew, we began resenting that gaping hole in the family where he used to exist, and we challenged him.

“C’mon Dad, get a grip, man…”

“Take a pill or something…”

Finally he did.

I sit at his desk. The shape in the corner rises, tongue lolling, waiting to play.

I get up and close the door.

It’s been a sad week and I expect lots of us will have recent events on our minds as we buckle down to Friday Fictioneers this week.  I found this link whilst googling around, which says it better than I can really. The graphics on this clip are so apt. 

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About Sandra

I cruise the French waterways with my husband four or five months a year, and write fiction and poetry. I love animals, F1 motor racing, French bread and my husband, though not necessarily in that order.
This entry was posted in Friday Fictioneers, Just Sayin' and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

110 Responses to The Black Dog (Friday Fictioneers, August 2014)

  1. A black dog.. very intriguing and dark. Whenever i hear black dog I think Led Zeppelin .. eyes shining red.

    Like

  2. Dear Sandra,

    That nasty black dog used to live in my corner. It took years to evict him and I’m pleased to say that when I hear him scratching at the door now it’s easier to ignore him.
    As always your story’s well written and right on target.

    Shalom,

    Rochelle

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sandra says:

      I had an encounter with him myself too, Rochelle. He still hangs around the block but doesn’t get fed on this patch if I can help it. 🙂 Thanks for commenting.

      Like

  3. dmmacilroy says:

    Dearest Sandra,

    Your story this week is one of your best ever. It is a credit to you that I find myself saying that quite often to you, but that’s your fault for being so damn good. Please keep at it. Stellar work this week.

    I’ve heard it said that two of the major job related hazards of writer’s are alcoholism and depression. i’ve missed the first and know where the second one lives. When he comes to visit I fight tooth and nail and eventually he leaves. I think he knows he’s not welcome. If he ever decides to move in for good, I’m leaving. I’m pretty sure that’s what happened to Robin. We all lost a friend this week.

    You are a wonderful person and a great writer, Sandra.

    Mahalo and Aloha,

    Doug

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sandra says:

      Awww thanks for that Doug. Your comments mean a lot to me. I wonder just how many of us have completely escaped the attentions of the black dog. When I saw some recent clips of Robin, it seemed as though the light had gone out of his eyes. The smile certainly had. We’ll miss him and his work.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have a black dog. Literally. She helps me keeping that other black dog at bay. Wonderful, wonderful story, very poignant and relevant.
    As for Mr.Williams…Sad day…He was a lonely man, loved by millions.

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  5. When you have to make the choice….you make it..there’s evil in that tale, not sure in who exactly though…good may have triumphed through evil means.

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  6. Horus says:

    I agree with Doug – as this being one of your best I read !

    Guess that Black Dog in some shape or size has visited most. It drove me to despair too – and am blessed that I have my significant other to drive it away now a days !

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  7. Excellent piece. Sometimes it’s necessary to take that pill.
    And a great video. Says so much.

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  8. Did Winston Churchill actually coin that phrase? Can’t recall, but I’ve used it my whole adult life. My father had a black dog, too, and my sister and I heard its growl far too often, and we knew to run and hide or else get bitten. I sat inside your story and relived childhood nightmares. That’s how well written it was — I just wish I hadn’t read it this morning. Yes, it’s a mixed back of compliment and sadness, darling, but you know it’s my way. I need a hug now.

    Like

    • Sandra says:

      I believe he did Helena. It’s said that it was the depressive side of his nature that enabled him to identify the threat that Hitler represented long before other, more optimistic souls. Thanks for reading and commenting, now go out there and seize the day. (Hugs) 🙂

      Like

  9. I’m reminded of Winston Churchill and Robin Williams. I note the element of heredity too. Sandra, this is one of your very best yet. And that’s saying something.

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    • Sandra says:

      Thank you Barbara! 🙂 Yes, I believe a depressive personaity does run in some families. I beieve Churchill’s daughter Diana committed suicide The inevitable nature/nurture debate prevails, or as I call it these days ‘hardwired/acquired’.

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  10. Sandra, That was an excellent story. I’ve lived with my husband and know that black dog well. He has bi-polar disorder. He’s finally staying on his medication after 3 times in the hospital. I heard that poor suffering Robin Williams had bi-polar disorder. I wasn’t surprised when I heard that because I recognize the symptoms after almost 40 years of marriage to a sufferer. The manic behavior is a give-away. I recently had to hire a full-time caregiver as my husband is almost 84 and broke a hip. We just take it a day at a time. That’s about all most of us can manage.I’m a bit OC, but fight it. I have to fight depression because someone has to remain in charge and stable. I can’t afford to live in a dream world. Most of us can’t. Always well written. —Susan

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  11. Lovely piece, Sandra. The video helped round it out (although it is plenty round as it is) thanks for including it!

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  12. Sandra,
    I have agree with Doug, this is phenomenal. It is especially apt this week too. Amazing story.

    Like

  13. erinleary says:

    Sandra, This is both eloquent and timely. I absolutely was touched by it – especially in light of Robin Williams’ passing. Depression is indeed a black dog and takes over too many lives. Really well done!!

    Like

  14. paulmclem says:

    Wow. Great build up to a killer ending. One of my favourites of yours so far. Thanks for sharing!

    Like

  15. high five and raspberries says:

    Straight through the heart. The black dog, my constant companion. Depression is a cancer that eats away at your soul…one day at a time. Robin Williams did not die from suicide, he died from a much greater demon. I am hoping this event will open a door ( even if it is just a crack ) to a better understanding. Your story is both timely and thought provoking..well done.

    Like

  16. Elizabeth says:

    These days, maybe always, but only recently we start to pay more attention to the black dog visits. It’s a dangerous disease and most of the time it’s not treated as a disease. You described it very well. Thanks,

    Like

  17. plaridel says:

    i agree that it’s a sad week, indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. “Black Dog” was Winston Churchill’s name for depression and one can only wonder how he dealth with such a debilitating disease while also dealing with WWII. Black Dog, of course, is a whole different animal from the small “d” depression. I’ve long thought Robin Williams was bipolar along with a number of other celebrities who do not acknowledge it. Wish he had found a way to defeat Black Dog before it defeated him.

    Like

  19. Lynda says:

    My Black dog is a lurker waiting to pounce. I send him on holiday, but he returns from time to time. Some dogs chew on slippers; he chews on my dreams keeping me awake nights.

    Awesome post, Sandra. And thank you for sharing the film.

    Like

  20. draliman says:

    Very sad and topical story, beautifully written.

    Like

  21. JKBradley says:

    That black dog lurks, at times quiet or asleep, at other times panting and licking his slobbering chops, until the time is right, or wrong.

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  22. Lucy says:

    Excellent story, Sandra. I keep the Black Dog at bay with medication, But, when going through cancer treatment for a year, I had a difficult time. He was my companion for awhile. I’m just amazed by discovering that so many people are bi-polar. It’s so sad that Robin Williams will no longer be here. thanks for such a wonderful story. Lucy

    Like

  23. elmowrites says:

    A powerful story and made even more so by the implication that the dog isn’t finished in this home. This is condensed fiction at its absolute best; i can’t praise highly enough.

    Like

  24. Must admit to being ignorant of ‘the Black Dog’. A quick read through the comments did well to enlighten me, which meant that when I reread the story again, the pieces fell into place. The end is very poignant, all in all an enjoyable read. Thank you

    Like

  25. Sarah says:

    An incredibly well-written story! Very touching.

    Like

  26. storydivamg says:

    Tremendous and powerful story, Sandra. I shared both a link to your story and the YouTube link on Facebook. People need to be educated.

    Thanks for this one.

    All my best,
    Marie Gail

    Like

  27. Sandra, hauntingly beautiful. Clearly our minds are in similar places this week. No doubt there are many who share the space. This piece is really evocative. Interestingly, I read yours and Bjorn’s back to back… Dogs abound. Hugs, as we all grieve.

    Like

    • Sandra says:

      Yes, I thought it was going to be a dog week when I saw Bjorn’s. Thanks for reading and commenting. I’ll be doing the rounds again later this morning and will get to yours then. Have a good day.

      Like

  28. misskzebra says:

    You have it spot on, Sandra. A lack of understanding and sympathy towards those who need it from those they need it from the most. It really hurts.

    A very effective and emotionally powerful piece.

    Like

    • Sandra says:

      I think onlookers feel so helpless and that sharpens their reactions inappropriately. People like to help, but the help that can be given by friends and families doesn’t come in the usual, practical form. Thanks for reading.

      Like

  29. Wow spot on Sandra! Very powerful.

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  30. Ellespeth says:

    How sad 😦 I can understand the frustration…this was so powerful and soft, Sandra.
    Ellespeth

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  31. Dee says:

    Great story Sandra, reminded me of Winston Churchill who was said to have suffered from depression and was thought by some to have been bi-polar.

    In a letter to his wife, after consulting a new doctor, he wrote ; “I think this man might be useful to me – if my black dog returns. He seems quite away from me now – it is such a relief. All the colours come back into the picture.”

    Like

    • Sandra says:

      I think that lack of colour in everything is the one thing I remember most clearly about my long-distant encounter with the black dog. Thanks for reading Dee, and adding to the topic.

      Like

  32. They’re so easily said, aren’t they, those words, ‘take a pill or something’, without thinking of the consequences. This is so beautifully written Sandra, and so tragic. Well done.

    Like

    • Sandra says:

      We’re all so used to providing solutions I suppose; this is, after all, the self-help age. We medicate ourselves, and we imagine that we can fix others too with our ready remedies. Thanks for reading Claire. Have a nice weekend.

      Like

  33. Indira says:

    The link helped a lot to understand your excellent story Sandra. Very nicely written.How much I’m learning from you friends. Thanks.

    Like

  34. On my first read through, I thought the black dog was some kind of muse that overwhelmed the father for a time. (Note I’ve just come out of three weeks of intense editing, so this was an understandable interpretation!) On further reading, while the two (my interpretation and your intended meaning) may overlap, your story is even more amazing when I read as you intended. Excellent work, Sandra. Profoundly moving.

    Like

  35. Chris says:

    Hi Sandra

    Excellent, but very sad, story. I’ve read a lot of the comments you’ve had this week, and it seems everyone connected in some way with your story. Nice one 🙂

    Like

    • Sandra says:

      Thanks Chris. Yes, I’ve been surprised at just how many have experienced similar episodes. The good thing is that people have felt free to talk about it. Thanks for reading.

      Like

  36. shanx says:

    The black dog returns be it a time wrong or right. And most of the time you just can’t shoo it away.Excellent post Sandra.

    Like

  37. Amy Reese says:

    It was a tough week. The world lost a very special person and it won’t be the same without him. Unfortunately, depression hangs around in wait, ready to nab the next vulnerable person. It can happen to anyone. Moving story, Sandra.

    Like

  38. Nan Falkner says:

    Dear Sandra, Depression has touched so many people and I am no exception. Robin Williams was only 2 years younger than me, but most of my adult life, I have laughed with him, and been happy. He was a delightful comedic human being. Sandra, your piece is so heartwarming. Personally, I have always thought people who commit suicide, are selfish. Darn it all – why don’t they understand the harm they do to the ones left behind? Your story was right on Sandra – right on! Thanks! Nan

    Like

    • Sandra says:

      I honestly believe Nan, that the personal distress some experience whilst in the deepest depths of depression can simply overwhelm all those considerations. Maybe they even rationalise that their loved ones will be better off without them? Whatever… thanks for reading, and I hope you are well now.

      Like

  39. K.Z. says:

    the story blew me away. sadly, i can relate to this one too. you probably know about my mother since i mentioned her in one of my earlier FF stories and like her, i’m very much prone to melancholy though i’m often embarrassed to admit it. like the character in your story, i, too, used to hate her for that but now that i’m an adult, i get it. an excellent piece and handled very well.

    Like

    • Sandra says:

      Sorry if this awoke some unhappy memories for you KZ. It seems that writers are particularly susceptible to depression, melancholia… however it’s described. Stay well and thanks for dropping by.

      Like

  40. subroto says:

    Looks like we had a similar theme this week Sandra, but you do it so well. I’ve been chased by that dog before but I keep it locked up and throw away the key. This was beautifully written.

    Like

  41. dianathrelfo says:

    Sandra, your story this week is particularly well-written and conveys so much in its 100 short words. The black dog has seldom asked me to play, for which I am forever grateful, but it loves the company of many in my family and circle of friends.

    Like

  42. mscwhite says:

    An incredibly moving story! Exceptionally well crafted!

    Like

  43. Pat says:

    Too many suffer silently or misunderstood with depression.
    I know.

    Black dogs, death angels, dark demons …. too many mysteries and all together so complex. No quick fixes or pills can alter what happens in the mind. It is one terribly difficult battle, and people need to be made aware – and be non judgmental, as with so many other things in life.

    Very powerful piece of writing Sandra. Strong, evocative and although silently sad, your little “twist” at the end is, imo, humorous too – darkly so; it holds interest and curiosity as I wander off to think about outcomes and possibilities.

    Like

  44. MythRider says:

    Oh oh. Sounds ominous and scary.

    Liked by 1 person

  45. wmqcolby says:

    So, in order to make up for the black dog’s absence, the dad pretended to be it, right? I’m asking because I feel there are deeper levels here (meaning, I’m probably reading a lot more into it than is there already).
    A really good piece of work this week, Sandra. Great!

    Like

  46. kestrel sparhawk says:

    Wow. that’s wonderful. I was especially struck at the “finally he did,” wondering what kind of pill he took: whether it was an anti-depressant (which presumably worked) or (more likely in my imagination) the failure to empathize on his family’s part led him to take an escape route. With that in mind, I loved the ending, which leaves hope alive.

    Thank you for the story.

    Like

  47. Wow, those graphics were riveting. Thanks for including that link with your on point story.

    Like

  48. Anita says:

    Black Dog day again as the door remains closed. Intriguing…

    Like

  49. rgayer55 says:

    Outstanding piece, Sandra. I touched by the sadness. It’s all so very real, especially this week.

    Like

  50. Blake says:

    “The shape in the corner rises, tongue lolling” is such an unflinching, dehumanised image – it captures the effect of the condition so well.

    Like

  51. Sarah Ann says:

    Such a sad and painful story – full of guilt. I hate that this family has inherited the black dog as well as the desk.
    The link you provided is a really useful and accessible one.

    Like

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