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.

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This Post Has 109 Comments

  1. OMG If only she went back to the vet

  2. Anessva

    *cough he ded now RIP

  3. Treviom

    Wow! I didn’t see that coming good story

  4. 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.?

  5. Colin

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

  6. Colin

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

  7. Some child

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