A tale that wags: Dog Man's legend grows
by Jeff Barr, Kalamazoo Gazette
Monday, November 03, 2008 -- If we are to believe the legend of Dog Man, my friends, then we must also acknowledge that danger runs deep in the Michigan woodlands.
For the most part, Dog Man appears to be the nonviolent sort, although there has been one reported act of aggression since his first alleged appearance in 1938. A frantic 9-1-1 call in 1987 by an SUV driver in Luther described a creature that resembled a large wolf.
The catch? The beast was ominously approaching on two legs.
When sheriff's deputies rushed to check on the incident, the vehicle was marked by what appeared to be animal chewing. There were large paw prints on the door, and the driver was never found.
A canine killer? The legend grew.
Books were written and songs composed as reports of the walking dog dude increased. We at the Kalamazoo Gazette, being the dogged newshounds that we are, are printing T-shirts for eyewitnesses and brave believers. Go to www.gazettestore.com to see for yourself.
Thirteen Dog Man sightings have been documented since Robert Fortney, 17 at the time, said he saw a blue-eyed dog standing upright and staring him down.
Fortney reported the event 49 years after it occurred, after he heard a song called "The Legend" on radio station WTCM in Traverse City. The tune, first penned as an April Fools Day joke, brought reports of sightings many years apart.
Perhaps Fortney's memory betrayed him, but he seemed pretty convinced when he spoke of his experience in Paris, Mich.: "What kind of dog has blue eyes? It may be that I was just scared, but I swear that dog was smiling at me."
The first encounter must have startled the Dog Man, too. He was not seen again for 29 years, when two fishermen in Manistee said they spotted him eyeing their catch. Eleven sightings have been reported since then, all but one in Michigan.
If Bigfoot can roam the Pacific Northwest and the Loch Ness Monster can dog paddle in Scotland, why can't a bi-ped mitten-state mutt join the annals of cryptozoology?
The Dog Man's tale waggled off course a bit when a sighting was reported in October of 2006 in southern Mississippi. Some legend lovers theorized there was a second curious canine creature. But because there has been just one encounter outside of Michigan, I don't think we should give up exclusive rights to our two-legged version of man's best friend.
Don't you figure it's more likely that our Dog Man strayed? After at least 68 years on the prowl, he probably figured he needed a vacation.
But if I were going to take a break from hopping on two legs around the woods for seven decades, I don't know that southern Mississippi would be my first choice. Maybe after betting on not getting captured by local woodsmen for so many years, Dog Man figured he'd do a little gambling in the casinos of Biloxi.
Foxborough, Mass., seems a more appropriate destination.
No one knows more about Dog Man than Linda Godfrey, who's furthered the legend in two books and will speak at 2 p.m. today at the Kalamazoo Public Library. Godfrey says the creature isn't a conventional werewolf that alternates between forms of wolf and man.
That suits me just fine. I'd hate to think our Dog Man was kenneled by convention.
Jeff Barr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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