Tag Archives: dog

Dog Fleas Proverb


My informant is my brother-in-law, who grew up in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas. He says he frequently heard his father tell him this, who would invoke the proverb to warn him against hanging out with the wrong crowd. He is of Western European descent and identifies as American.


This is a proverb, so the text remains largely the same with each iteration of speech. This proverb is used as a warning against associating with the wrong people.


“If you lie down with dogs, you’ll get fleas.”


As a proverb is supposed to convey some sort of wisdom or inherent truth, this proverb serves as a warning. It is common in English to hear a person refer to another person who is perceived as having a low moral character as a “dog.” This is likely due to dogs historically subsisting off of food scraps and scavenging in the cities and villages of human settlements. Dogs have a reputation of being dirty scavengers, and so the application to those with low moral standing is apparent. And, since dogs often have fleas, something that is unpleasant to be afflicted with, the proverb has both literal and metaphorical meaning. From here, it is easy to see how the proverb serves its warning: associating with those with low moral standing is likely to influence one’s own behavior.

The “dogs” might also refer to those of low socioeconomic standing, however, especially given the association with fleas. Fleas can be seen as a disease or affliction, and the proverb might also be meant to warn against associating with those with poor hygiene due to economic factors. On a larger societal level, this proverb might serve to maintain social boundaries based on class.

No Bones Day

Context: Informant uses a social media platform known as ‘TikTok’. Tiktok allows users to follow other members, and view other member’s videos.

Background Information: Informant uses TikTok mostly to look at cute animal videos and follow current trends. Although Informant does not take TikTok very seriously, they enjoy playing into it a little for amusement.

Informant: “So TikTok, there’s this guy who posts this videos of his pug, and i can’t remember the pug’s name, but I think it’s noodle, or, something? Anyways, I follow this guy and he posts these videos of his pug and this is the oldest pug in the world, like, this an 18 year old dog or something,, she’s a tired girl, or boy, i don’t actually know what gender this pug is. Ok, but, he will post these videos when he wakes up his pug in the morning, and he stands them up, and the pug will either fall back down or it will stand on its own. And it’s so cute, and people will be like, if the dog, like, stands up, then it’s a ‘Bones Day’, but if it falls down it’s a ‘No Bones Day’. So, people will base their day on this little, incredible old pug. Cause’, if its a bones day then that’s like, “gotta get up and go and be determined and, work hard” and, if it’s a no-bones day, then like, you’re able to flop and take a rest and self-care day basically. Anyways, he got really popular and all these people were following him, and for a long time, for a while, people would just base their whole day on this pug.”

Thoughts: This is incredibly humorous, I don’t think anyone necessarily truly believed that the pug was able to forecast the day, however I don’t think that is the point. Folklore is full of looking at the physical world for advice and information on the future. By having a large amount of people support the psychic powers of this pug, the notion gains a sort of validity. There are lots of things uncertain in life, and it can be difficult balancing healthy self-care with determined hard work. by relying on this pug, people have a (semi-valid?) way of ‘knowing’ that they are balancing their life every day. ‘Noodle’ the pug serves as a comfort for people to feel like they are handling their life correctly, in accordance to their own needs for balance as well as society’s demands.

North Dakotan German-Russian Proverb


“Always give the meanest dog two pieces of meat”


The country of Germany as we now know it is of course a relatively modern sovereign state. Prior to the unification of the German states in the late 19th century, Germany existed as a myriad of different “mini-states” all with their own governing bodies and economic models. Unfortunately, this led to many Germans becoming demoralized due to religious, economic, and political hardships, and many emigrated to Russia in the 18th and 19th century. To make try and make the historical background as succinct as possible, many of these Germans living in Russia were eventually forced to leave Russia, with many settling in the northern plains of the United States.

This was the case for my ancestors on my mom’s side of the family, with my great-great grandparents settling in North Dakota. In North Dakota, there’s a heavy concentration of German-Russians living within the state, who through a combination of their prior ethnic and national heritage, as well as an amalgamation of their new American life created a unique culture and folklore.

According to my informant, this proverb was spoken in her home mostly by her parents, but also by other family members and family friends on occasion. The proverb basically means that sometimes to avoid extra trouble, it’s pertinent to sacrifice a little bit. Growing up on a farm, my informant and her family were constantly working, with little time for excess leisure or rest. And thus, while it’s not always perhaps “fair,” it saves everybody the trouble of, for example, the youngest child screaming and becoming difficult if they don’t get an extra piece of chocolate, or an animal on the farm being unruly if not given special treatment. My informant remembers this proverb quite well, and it being used relatively often when she was a child, but mentioned that it was a proverb she didn’t utilize in her adult life very often.

My Analysis

My analysis of this particular proverb basically mirrors the analysis that my informant gave me of the proverb. Sometimes – even though it isn’t fair – it’s easier for everybody involved to abate an unruly dog by throwing him an extra piece of meat (to employ the proverb quite literally). I felt like the proverb itself was perhaps rather clunky in its delivery and cadence, and wondered if it were perhaps an English translation of a German-Russian proverb. However, my informant informed me that she had only heard the particular proverb expressed in English, though it were possibly the original proverb was said in German several generations back.

Dogs barking at night mean someone has died or is going to


D is a 20-year-old college student living in Los Angeles, California who was originally from the Philippines. 

This conversation took place in my room as a group of my friends were hanging out and I brought up if they knew any folklore or proverbs that they wanted to share. This superstition followed a couple of others that were thrown out by the informant and other friends but was the last from this particular informant.


D: They say if a dog barks at night, either someone already died or someone is going to die. If the dogs are like barking and howling at night… In the Philippines.

Me: Not in the US?

D: I don’t know haha. 


I thought this superstition was very interesting as it was a depiction of an animal as a way of informing people about something. I feel as if I have heard of similar superstitions but am not completely positive about what the details were. I think it’s also interesting that it is interchangeable between someone being dead or that someone is going to die. Typically, there is a separation between an omen and a superstition that is reporting the death of a person. It seems likely that this stems from a belief that dogs have a “sixth sense” that allows them to detect that someone is dead and therefore vocalize it because of their ties to humans. 

Coren, Stanley. “Can Dogs Sense When Someone Is about to Die?” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/canine-corner/200905/can-dogs-sense-when-someone-is-about-die.

Dog Guardian or God Watching over the House in the Form of a Dog While Family is on Vacation

Because this interview exchange took place with my sister, I was able to ask in-depth questions about the events and beliefs she discussed in her stories. I remember the day she describes in her interview. We had just gotten home from vacation and a little dusty white dog met us at our car. We don’t own a dog and thought the animal was a stray. I didn’t think much of that event, but this experience had a large impact on my sister, who believes this dog watched over our home while we were away on vacation.


My sister said that God works through people and animals, and that during a conversation with our neighbor, she learned that the animal has been seen wandering around our house in the time we were gone. Our parents feared that the house would get robbed while we were away. They prayed that God would keep the house safe and that no one in the community would notice we had left.

My sister described how our parents would hush us any time we mentioned that we were going on vacation. We couldn’t talk about it outdoors, and while packing, we always kept the car closed to avoid showing passers-by a trunk full of suitcases.

One time when my sister and mother were not on vacation but rather at school and at work, the house did get robbed. They arrived home to find the door swung open and an alarm blaring. My sister said that this was a very bad experience, and that at first she couldn’t believe that the house had been robbed. She thought someone had come home early or that someone had left the door unlocked.

My sister said that she was not sure whether the dog was God or a messenger, but she did say that she believed it watched over the house while we were gone, and that she hadn’t seen it since.

My sister also mentioned that she is training for Confirmation, a sacrament of initiation in the Catholic faith that allows high schoolers to reaffirm their belief in church principles. She said that she had not met any other animals or people that she believed had watched over her. She also said that this might be because she considers herself capable and that she wants to take care of herself.

She also said that she did not come to this conclusion right away. It was only years after this event that she came to believe the dog had offered protection. She was pleased to know that God had watched out for the house when the family was away.


I do not share my sister’s belief in Catholicism but I do believe in signs. I remember this event and know that the dog made us nervous at the time. It was strange that the dog went right up to our car, and I do believe I saw the animal around the neighborhood after that day. This is an example of religious folklore. There are cannon Bible stories where God talks through a donkey to get his message across, such as the story of Balaam, the donkey, and the Angel ( Numbers 22:21-39 of Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition Bible)

You can find a version of this story here:


This story also relates to conversations about whether animals have souls.

This conversation took place over the phone, and the recording is very bad quality. It is important to note that our house is visited by members of a feral cat colony and other wild animals like squirrels and raccoons. These animals were not mentioned in the interview. The house is also located less than 100 yards from a homeless encampment of about 20 people.

I find it interesting that this is the story that my sister wanted to tell me most. She knows quite a lot about folklore from playing Dungeons and Dragons (see, “How Not To Play Dungeons and Dragons” in the USC folklore archive”) but this is the first story she shared when I asked her to think of a story for this archive.