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 109 Comments

  1. Some child

    🙂 I like it! Very good (:

  2. james

    this story got even better and better

  3. Jayden

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


    this was terrifying and absoultley spine chilling

  5. pee pee poo poo

    Its a fine story.

  6. person

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

  7. Carson Baxter

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

  8. EA.

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

  9. 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!

  10. dallas

    no i wish this kept going

  11. Ben

    i hate how the story ended

  12. Bob

    I think it was just a bit short

  13. 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

  14. maybell


  15. Yaga

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

  16. you got mail

    soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo scary i dont want to go to my closet

  17. Bob Ross


  18. Eggs.

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


  19. 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!?

  20. Julius Barnes

    This is a scary story is weird.

  21. Cool

    The story should had a ending

  22. unknown

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

  23. KAKU

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

  24. cnc

    I dont understand did kristin died or something?


  26. Angel

    That was scary but what happens next

  27. sean

    soooooooooooooo scary

  28. 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.

  29. 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…

  30. jillian

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

  31. 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.

  32. Nancy Cobb

    That was awsome i love scary storys in tennessee

  33. 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!

  34. marshall

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

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

  37. Nightshade

    SushI you say that but you probably wet yourself

  38. 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

  39. olivia

    oh my gosh!!!!! that was soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

  40. naylee leeann

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

  41. 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

  42. Owen

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

  43. 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

  44. Bane

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

  45. JOJO123

    Yikess! That was scary! 😐