Do you believe in ghosts, haunted places or paranormal activity?
Do you think dogs feel or perceive something we can’t see but its lurking around? Are dogs capable of committing suicide? This story is part a dog behaviourist’s and part a ghost hunter’s case.
In West Dunbartonshire, Scotland, near the town of Dumbarton, there is a mansion that is believed to be haunted, the Overtoun House.
However, it is not the mansion at the center of mysterious dog suicide cases, it’s the Overtoun Bridge.
From this bridge leading to the mansion, in 50 years at least 50 dogs have leapt to their death falling down its 50 ft (15M approx.) height on the rocky bed below.
All dogs that jumped had something in common. They all jumped from the same side of the bridge and all dogs were of a long nose type.
It is believed that the ghost of dowager Lady Overtoun is behind all these mysterious occurrences.
Lady Overtoun was married to John White, 1st Baron Overtoun. After his death in 1908, it is said that his wife wondered the bridge griefing her husband. And it is believed she still wonders around the area and is behind these strange dog accident.
Some visitor said to have experienced a strange feeling while crossing the bridge. By the way, the bridge didn’t claim the life of dogs only.
In 1994, Kevin Moy threw his baby son off the bridge to his death as Mr Moy thought the baby was the antichrist and needed to be killed. Or else, he would have spread a disease around the world. Moy attempted to jump from the bridge himself after throwing his baby but was stopped by his wife. He then made another suicide attempt by cutting his wrists. The man was arrested and sentenced to be detained in a psychiatric hospital.
I believe the Kevin Moy story has more to do with mental instability than a haunted bridge. But, some people believe that evil spirits lurking around made him do it.
However, after the 1994 tragedy, a series of events where dogs unexpectedly jumped off the bridge, started to take place. After examining these events, it has been discovered that dogs started jumping off the bridge since the 1950s. It was reported that nearly a dog a month leapt from the bridge but of course not all accidents were fatal. Anyway, some dogs that have jumped and survived have jumped again straight after and unfortunately the second jump revealed fatal.
So, what causes these dog accidents? An evil ghost? Are these dog owners so boring that their dogs would rather die than spend their life with them?
Due to all accidents involving dogs, the bridge gained the name of ‘The Dog Suicide Bridge’. But, are dogs capable of suicide?
In general, depression can ultimately lead to suicide. However, depression is generally caused by concern and anxiety about future events that have yet to happen, or that have happened and the subject can no longer cope with the pain that he or she is living with. And therefore, the individual reaches the conclusion that dying is better than living.
To reach this conclusion, an individual must have a firm understanding of life and death. The average dog has a cognitive function of a two or three years old toddler. Kids of this age do not have a specific understanding of death and neither dogs do.
Sure, they may smell a dead animal and notice that it is dead. But a dog does not have the understanding that one day it will eventually die.
Still, a depressed dog may refuse food and let itself deteriorate over time. Yet, the animal sense of self-preservation is very strong. A dog will not jump off a bridge or run under a car with the pure intent of committing suicide.
If that was a normal dog behaviour, there would be other cases and other bridges from which dogs jump to end their life. Except this bridge seems to be the dogs’ favourite in the UK, if not in the world.
Thus, if not a ghost or a suicidal trend of local dogs, why so many dogs leapt from this bridge?
A more logical explanation has been given by canine expert Dr David Sands. After visiting the place Dr Sands pointed out that the environment is full of stimuli that may get the dog’s attention and curiosity.
Below the bridge, there’s a little stream of water and a waterfall, and sounds and smells may have caused the dog to check what’s on the other side of the parapet. Dr Sands also pointed out that dogs cannot see the surroundings from a human perspective as humans stand upright. People can see what is on the other side of the parapet but dogs cannot. As they are lower to the ground they are unable to see what’s on the other side. Driven by their curiosity of discovering what is that sound and smell, they jump off the parapet and by the time they realize there is a 50 ft (15 M approx.) drop, it’s already too late.
As nearly all dogs involved were of a long nose type, and consequently, possessing a stronger sense of smell compared to their short muzzle counterparts, Dr Sands performed another experiment using scents of the local fauna: mice, squirrels and minks.
He placed the three different scents in three different locations and let 10 different dogs of a long nose type follow their senses. Out of 10 dogs, 7 went straight for the mink scent, 1 dog went for the scent of squirrels and 2 dogs completely ignored all the scents.
The experiment suggested that the predatory instinct of dogs triggered by the scent of mink can be the cause of so many dogs leaping off the Overtoun Bridge.
Nonetheless, a local hunter that have lived in the area for the last 50 years, claimed with certainty that there are no minks in the area.
If there are no minks around, what pushes dogs to jump off this bridge? This story seems to be still covered by mystery.
Signs to warn visitors to keep their dogs on the lead have been placed by the bridge. And this is another situation explained in the article about park manners and etiquette where it is better to keep your dog on the lead even if your dog is well behaved.
Anyway, keep your dog on the lead on bridges and potentially hazardous places in general.
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Also, if you like the topic of dogs, please check my book ‘Before You Get A Dog’ by Simone Burani. You will find the essential knowledge written in simple language to have a great time with your pet.