Terrifying urban legend of a single woman who wonders why her guard dog starts acting so strangely.

The Coughing Dog – Our Story

Listen to storyteller Thomas E. Fuller narrate “The Coughing Dog”

Kristin had always been the “black sheep” of her family. She came from a rural and very conservative Middle Georgia clan, and had fought constantly with her parents since she was a child. Kristin wanted no part of the settled and routine life her parents had lead – she was an impulsive free-spirit who would travel to the far corners of the earth at a moment’s notice, sometimes not even knowing where she was headed, or why.

So it came as no surprise when, a few weeks shy of her 30th birthday, Kristin announced that she was leaving her high-paying job at a major corporation to fulfill her life’s dream – to become a professional sculptor. She sold her expensive suburban apartment and moved into an abandoned mill in one of the rougher areas of Atlanta. She planned on converting part of the space into a full-time studio and living area.

Her parents were horrified, especially when they learned that her studio was just a few miles down the road from the county jail. And Kristin didn’t see the need to rig her studio with an expensive alarm system, for her neighbors seemed nice enough. But like every other discussion Kristin had with her father, his words of warning went in one ear and out the other.

So on her 30th birthday, her father took matters into his own hands and bought Kristin a guard dog – a Doberman named Bishop from the local humane society. The dog had been abused by his former owners, and had become mean and distrustful of humans. But Kristin always had a strong love for animals, and she took the poor dog into her care. In a matter of weeks, Bishop became very attached to Kristin, and extremely protective whenever anyone else would approach her.

Rough Industrial Neighborhood Atlanta from Coughing Dog urban legend

One morning, Kristin came home from a trip to the hardware store to find Bishop lying in the middle of the floor, coughing and wheezing uncontrollably. She immediately rushed him to the local veterinarian, who performed a series of tests. After a while, the vet was satisfied that Bishop wasn’t dangerously sick, but he couldn’t figure out why the dog was still coughing.

“Don’t worry,” he told Kristin in his calm and soothing voice, “Bishop looks perfectly healthy. But I’d like to run some additional tests on him this afternoon. Why don’t you go home and I’ll call you when we know something. There’s no sense in sitting in the waiting room all day.”

So Kristin got back in her car, made a trip to the health food store, then returned home. As she walked through the door, she could hear the phone ringing in her bedroom. Loaded down with shopping bags, she decided to let her voice-mail catch the call. But no sooner had the phone stopped ringing then it started ringing again. Thinking it may be an emergency – or perhaps an annoying telemarketer who needed to be yelled at – Kristin dropped her bags and ran to the phone, catching it on its last ring.

“Hello?” she breathlessly answered.

She was surprised to find her veterinarian on the other end. “Kristin, we have some results on Bishop. We need you to come back to the office.”

“Okay. I’ll be there in an hour or so…”

“…No, Kristin,” interrupted the vet in a barely controlled voice. “We need you to come down now.”

Kristin was taken aback by the sound of his voice. She could hear the tension lurking behind his words. There was something he wasn’t telling her. “What’s wrong?” she asked. “Is Bishop okay?”

“We’ll talk about that when you get here,” answered the vet, his voice growing louder and more agitated. “Just get in the car now.”

“Why can’t you tell me over the phone?” asked Kristin.

The vet suddenly blurted out, “Are you in the house alone?”

A chill ran through Kristin’s blood. She slowly sat on her bed and replied, “Yes. Why?”

She could hear the vet taking a deep breath on the other end of the phone. Then, barely able to contain the tremor in his throat, he said in a hushed voice, “Listen to me carefully. We found out why Bishop was coughing.”

It was then that Kristin noticed her bedroom window. A hole had been punched through the glass, and it was unlocked.

“Kristin, are you there?”

“Yes,” Kristin answered, her voice starting to shake.

She then noticed drops of blood on her carpet. They stretched across the room and underneath her closet door. “I don’t know how to tell you this, but what we found in your dog’s throat were fingers. Human fingers.”

Broken Window in Rough Industrial Neighborhood, Atlanta, from Coughing Dog Urban Legend

As the vet spoke, Kristin sat frozen as she watched the closet door slowly creak open on its rusted hinges. “Did you hear what I said? He bit the fingers off somebody’s hand!”

Kristin still didn’t answer. In the darkness of the closet, she swore she could see the hand of a large man, blood dripping from where his fingers had been gnawed off. And on his arm was the orange sleeve of a prison uniform.

“There’s somebody here,” Kristin whispered into the phone.

“Get out of the house, Kristin! For God’s sake, GET OUT OF THE HOUSE!!!!!!!”

The phone line went dead.


Where Did The Coughing Dog Come From?

Have you ever heard one of these stories and thought it was true?

– A baby alligator is flushed down the toilet and grows into an adult in the city sewers.

– A carpet layer accidentally kills a homeowner’s pet bird while hammering down lumps in a rug.

– A college student is drugged during a one-night stand, then wakes up in a ice-filled bathtub with his kidneys missing.

– A psychopath with a hook on his hand escapes prison and terrorizes amorous couples on Lovers Lane.

There are hundreds of these “urban legends” floating around the world, and “The Coughing Dog” is based on one of them. The story resurfaced in newspapers around the country in 1981. The main storyline – a guard dog biting off the fingers of an intruder – is relatively consistent throughout the many different versions, but other elements were changed. Some people took the story as fact, only to hear later on about similar stories elsewhere.

This is the typical pattern of an urban legend – a story so ingrained in our society we accept it as fact. But they are in fact folktales, and not too far removed from the tales floating around rural America that some accept as fact. As is the case with rural folktales, many urban legends have an important lesson to teach – most often, to err on the side of caution!

The Coughing Dog – Story Credits

Adapted and Directed by Craig Dominey

Told by Thomas Fuller

Sound Design by Henry Howard

Photography by  Jon Kownacki


“The Coughing Dog” was one of the last stories told by the late Thomas Edward Fuller, who died on Novemver 21, 2002 at the age of 54. Thomas was a great friend to The Moonlit Road, and was the voice behind some of other stories like “The Hall Of Wonders” and “The Moonlit Road.”

Thomas was an award-winning author of numerous stage musicals and plays, audio dramas and novels, including the popular “Pirate Hunter” adventure book series. Besides The Moonlit Road, he also was a regular storyteller and actor for the Atlanta Radio Theater Company and live events such as the Tour of Southern Ghosts, held each Halloween at Stone Mountain, GA. He also released a great storytelling CD called “Warm and Blue-Green as Teal Blood,” which you can buy on the Atlanta Radio Theater Company website.

Please visit this site to learn more about Thomas’s accomplished career.

Leave a Reply

This Post Has 111 Comments

  1. unknown


  2. Izzie


  3. OMG If only she went back to the vet

  4. Anessva

    *cough he ded now RIP

  5. Treviom

    Wow! I didn’t see that coming good story

  6. Kaylee

    Who knows this story was so epic, I love it it was the best story ever. Now I want a Doberman so it can protect me.?

  7. Colin

    If this were real no it’s at the prison on fire and turn it into a cemetery as a punishment

  8. Colin

    If this was real I’d set the prison to fire and turn it to a cemetery as a punishment.

  9. Some child

    Guess the dog is ded now ‘\/(o-o)\/’

  10. Some child

    🙂 I like it! Very good (:

  11. james

    this story got even better and better

  12. Jayden

    I was scared what happen to the dog when it was in the closet.

  13. UNKOWN

    this was terrifying and absoultley spine chilling

  14. pee pee poo poo

    Its a fine story.

  15. person

    I WAS SO SCARED! This story is messed up. Like IS SHE DEAD??? AHHH I NEED TO KNOW MORE!

  16. Carson Baxter

    That was a scary story but I wish it kept going a little but the phone going dead was scary.

  17. EA.

    oh my gosh, that dog is SO loyal. reminds myself on what i would do for a dear friend.

  18. Damianna

    This is one of my favorite stories out of all the episodes. The story reminds me that dogs are loyal to the owner and not to mess with them! It also reminds me that if you can be kind and treat your dog right whether they have been hurt by other humans or not they will always defend you! btw I’m more of a cat person… But I love THIS story!

  19. dallas

    no i wish this kept going

  20. Ben

    i hate how the story ended

  21. Bob

    I think it was just a bit short

  22. Dumb 13 year old

    Kristin is such a pompous character not only leaving her high paying career to become something she has no past experience with, and she decides she’ll do it in an abandoned mill. Not only that but she kept questioning the vet when he told her to come to the clinic, what if the hospital calls you too come immediately are you going to question them as well? The fact of the matter is that Kristin really had it coming being such a rebellious character. Smh

  23. maybell


  24. Yaga

    That was a great story, I just wish it had a second part

  25. you got mail

    soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo scary i dont want to go to my closet

  26. Bob Ross


  27. Eggs.

    Not as scary as I thought, but still good job.


  28. Angel

    This was so cool and scary at the same time and if there was a book That had this I would definitely read it.! Really freaky!?

  29. Julius Barnes

    This is a scary story is weird.

  30. Cool

    The story should had a ending

  31. unknown

    it was scary it was creepy and the blood on the carpet i would have been fighting

  32. KAKU

    A chill ran down my spine while reading the last paragraph,
    It’s for the first time , don’t know why

  33. cnc

    I dont understand did kristin died or something?


  35. Angel

    That was scary but what happens next

  36. sean

    soooooooooooooo scary

  37. jonesee

    Me and a friend were listening to this on October 31,2012 , and at the end when the phone line went dead our screen went black. Scary thing is though its so close to Halloween now and she just moved to a bad are o the outskirts of Alanta.

  38. you mad bro?

    This was ScARy!! Although it needed a better ending. Is there a part two? I needs more of story!!!! I was really good although like I said before, it needs a better ending. Other than that,…. IT WAS REALLY REALLY GOOOD!!!!! (starts kissing computer LOL!) 8-| um… I wasn’t doing that…

  39. jillian

    It is not scary i dont getwhy all of you people say it is scary

  40. Mohommad

    This book is quite a interesting horrific story, i enjoyed it quite a bit it made me shiver below. That gard dog, oh how terrifying.

  41. Nancy Cobb

    That was awsome i love scary storys in tennessee

  42. Lyss

    I’ve always been a fan of urban legends and this one is so creepy that I get chills each time I hear this one. Please do more urban legend stories!

  43. marshall

    one of the best stories i ever heard!!!!!!

  44. maddi

    seriously, how many of you look for blood on your carpet every time you walk into you house?! it was a good story. thou i think there could have been a longer ending.

  45. daniel

    okay, this isn’t even scary. how didn’t she notice the broken glass/ bloody carpet immediately? and why didn’t she listen to the vet? she must have a room-temperature iq.

  46. Nightshade

    SushI you say that but you probably wet yourself

  47. SushI

    This story is not scary Even a single but was funny . This story looks as it is an uncomplete story . Also the people who say that this story is scary are full of fear

  48. olivia

    oh my gosh!!!!! that was soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

  49. naylee leeann

    Very good stories…they could be a little more scar tho……..i love the story green eyes.

  50. Bane

    Before this story: one pocket knife on my desk
    After: Three swords, two knives, and a bow and arrow.
    And thats just my bathroom

  51. isaac

    good bishop

  52. Owen

    Even in broad daylight this story had me looking over my shoulder. A truly chilling tale.

  53. lonelywolf13

    Same here bane… holy crap… now im scared somethings in my closet! i felt as if though my heart just… i dont know wut when the doctor called… O_o im scared… lol

  54. Bane

    I’m going to pretend for my sake that she got out alive

  55. JOJO123

    Yikess! That was scary! 😐

  56. Salvy503

    This is stupid because how can a dog eat human fingers? it will die! <:o
    i dont like this story its soo babyish its not evem scaryy 🙂 ohh well ByE

  57. ashley

    i know right we didnt know what happend and this is not realy scarry and it is stupid a dog cant bite off a finger from a human! <:0

  58. Salvy503

    this is not scary because we didnt get to know what happened with kristie? i think she died? Lol well byee!!! YEAA BUDDY

  59. ashley

    this is not scary i wanted to know what happend? 🙂
    i thin kristie died or something

  60. leo

    that was scary and funny at the same time and to think that i already had enough hard times with partialy closed closets

  61. Rachel

    OMG!! this story was ssssssssssoooooooooooo scary but what happen to the doggie!!! his he ok? did kristin die?? i sure hope not!!

  62. ChicaChilena

    now im terrified of opening my closet door…. i need a dog…

  63. So at the end, what happened to kristin? Was she killed or something? I am in a state of curious wonder, somebody please tell me!!

  64. Tracey

    the one I heard about One under the bed and say Human can licking as the dog can and she found her dog dead in the bathroom shower.

  65. Lilithe Vancopper

    Great story!

  66. ~rachel~

    although this story is based on an urban legend… it was still pretty awesome! i would hate to have my hand eaten off by a dog though… that would suck. 🙂

  67. CornDog

    I’ve heard this story before but a little differently it was still good though 🙂

  68. i just love puppies!!!!!!!!!!!!! Is the girl and dog dead!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  69. Funny story. Probably true, or at least I hope it is, the dog did its job. But I didn’t like the ending. If it was me, there would have been a second Doberman named “Knight” and if he didn’t get the job done then Mr. Prisoner would have met Mr. AK-47.

  70. Toby

    I need to get me a doberman!

  71. Lucy

    The kristen girl is so stupid. why would she keep questioning the docter after he told her to come. Why is she so dumb? My gosh…she kind of deserved it for not listening.

  72. Ashley

    they should of had a date of what year.

  73. jacker

    that story gave me chills espeially at the end when she see’s the hand in the closet and finds out that someone is at the there and i think she go killed or something

  74. Alycia

    Makes you want a follow up of the story…

  75. arleth

    that was the aswomest story

  76. mikeala

    But then what happens?why does the phone line go dead? It really needs a better ending. It was a good story though.

  77. alek

    dudes you are asome with this succesful website you rock not like a rock but like rock and roll that kind of rock you get me

  78. arleth quezada

    who knows what is going to happen without the gurad dog i was totally scared when they found the fingers

  79. Bridie

    That was so scary!!Selene:If you live near a prison with no lock on your door,and alone w/o any pets,you can be afraid.lol

  80. MAN THAT STORY ROCKED… it was scary especially when the lady saw the blood then the man was coming out of the closet… but it was kind of a cliff hanger (the phone went dead)

  81. Cool Guy who didn't read the story

    i read it omg it was sooo creepy!

  82. Death

    HAHAHAHA! That was so funny! The dog ate human fingers!! All i could do was laugh!! Hahaha that was awsome! 🙂

  83. bdog

    i have a dog thanks for creaping me out now i am scared that there is someone in my closet

  84. Aggie

    woOOOooowww… our dog did something like that to another dog who (unfortunatly) killed our guinea pig which our dog was very attached to. both dogs are fine… R.I.P. einstein!!!

  85. Hannah

    ohhh my gosh this story is so scary

  86. selene

    ….why is it always the closet! im already scared enought of pple hiding in my closet! no need to add more to my fear! TT-TT…i hear of one kinda like this except there is no dog and the friend is the one who tells the person who lives in the house that the killer is hiding under their bed…creepy!

  87. Alex


  88. Tabitha

    this was an awesome story, not really scary but still really good. i have a min-pin and full grown doberman but the min-pin is more aggressive than the full grown which is funny

  89. Amrita

    Sooo creepy. That guy in the creaking closet was the most scary part. Anyway Bishop was a real bodyguard

  90. Hannah

    OMG! THAT WAS SO SCARY! Bishop is a good dog thou.

  91. Rachel

    I heard a similar tale in Memphis back in the 80’s. In this case, the burgular was caught and the apartment dwellers were saved, though.

  92. why didn’t the guy just grab the dogs bottom jaw and pull down toward its chest. He could have saved his hand. Anyway, its still a cool story, mostly because it could really happen. There was a guy in prison, in burgaw n.c. , who mailed himself out of prison. they caught him in the post office. Thats funny:)

  93. tim

    well there are variations of the details where stuff similar to this happens but it was pretty darn creepy

  94. Michelle

    I didn’t find this story scary, I knew when her father bought her the dog where this story was going. This story is based on a well known urban legend about the choking doberman/ dog, so having heard that legend is a story spoiler. It’s still a good one though.

  95. Keke

    omg that was actually pretty scary. but that dog seemed so crazy he bit somebody fingers off, remind me enver to mess with a dog.

  96. That was so freaky!!!!!!!I was so scared.I sware my heart skipped a beat.That was so scary,I was so terrifed!Im glad that it wasn’t me.It was cool for Bishop tried to pretect Kristin!:)The guy still creeped me out.:(

  97. samantha bell

    yes oliver santos that is exactly what happened

  98. Oliver Santos

    now it’s ok! thanks for the explanation… but anyway, do u mean that there was a stranger (prisoner) who wants to hurt kristin… so in other word the dog saved kristin from the prisoner???….

  99. kiddkiid

    Wow this story was scary!!!

  100. c

    ok oliver santos the prisoner was trying to break in and the dog bit his fingers off to keep him from hurting kristin hence the fingers in his throat and the mans fingerless hand.

  101. Oliver Santos

    I cant understand… what’s the connection of the dog & the prisoner’s hand? I cant seriously get it!
    Can somebody explain it to me?

  102. c

    thats really creepy

  103. j

    oh my god this is the scariest story i’ve read on this site is it true?