A bridge near the River Clyde in Scotland not far from the village of Milton and the town of Dumbarton has been the scene of unexplained dog suicides for a number of years. The Overtoun bridge has become something of a local legend – or local horror story if your particular pooch takes a plummet and pancakes on the rocky bank of Overtoun Burn far, far below. More than fifty dogs have done the deed and nobody knows why.
'I was out walking with my partner and children when suddenly the dog just jumped. My daughter screamed, and I ran down the bank to where the dog lay and carried her up to safety.
'As I did so, her hair started to fall out. It must have been shock because when we got her home, she shook all night.
'Next day, thank goodness, she was fine. We were lucky because she landed on a moss bed which broke her fall.'
50 dogs in the last 50 years
Other dogs have not been as fortunate. In the past half-century, some 50 dogs have leapt to their deaths from the same historic bridge.
During one six-month period last year, five dogs jumped to their deaths.
All of the deaths have occurred at virtually the same spot, between the final two parapets on the right-hand side of the bridge, and almost all have been on clear, sunny days.
Furthermore, the dogs which have perished have all-been long-nosed breeds: labradors, collies and retrievers.
Dorren Graham, of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals calls the phenomenon a 'heartbreaking mystery'.
'There are lots of owners whose dogs have died and who are trying to find out why they jumped.'
Could dogs be deliberately committing suicide?
Built in 1895 by Calvinist Lord Overtoun, the ornate Victorian structure arches 50ft over Overtoun Burn, the stream which runs below.
A mystery indeed. Now there are lots and lots of theories. These include ghosts and hauntings, doggie depression, doggie telepathy and weird terrain features – read the whole article for the full range of, um, explanations that are circulating. But a few doughty scientists with far too much time on their hands may have unraveled the mystery.
Sexton, on the other hand, who laid bait in the undergrowth beneath the bridge, soon discovered that mice and mink resided there, while evidence of squirrel nests was also found in cannons embedded in the bridge's structure.
In order to narrow down which smell might be attracting the dogs, he distributed odour from all three species in a field and unleashed ten dogs – of the varieties which have died at the bridge – to see which one most interested them.
His findings were remarkable. Of the ten dogs tested, only two showed no interest in any of the scents while the overwhelming majority – 70 per cent – made straight for the mink.
Could a mink be the cause?
The mink's powerful anal glands leave marks wherever they go and the strong musty smell they emit is obviously proving irresistible to dogs.
It would also explain why the deaths have all occurred on sunny, dry days – relatively rare on the notoriously wet west coast – when the mink smell has not been diluted by the damp weather. Furthermore, the theory fits with the timeline of the deaths – single minks were introduced to Scotland in the Twenties but only started to breed in large numbers in the Fifties – which is when the mysterious dog deaths began occurring. But there are 26,000 mink in Scotland. Why are dogs in pursuit of them only jumping to their death from this particular bridge?
So, those of us who understand the cunning nature of the animal uprising and the evil nature of the plotters now know, without a doubt, who is to blame for the luring of the dogs to their doom. Because, of course, there are various factions within the ranks of the uprising.
It's the squirrels. They have long been known to have a rivalry with the minks. It is obviously a frame up. It's either that or the British Animal Liberation Front has been practicing for their jihad against Spanish spaniels.