The Howling Dog Story

Have you heard of the howling dog story? It’s not as well-known as other moral stories, but this one packs a good punch. There are different iterations but the essence is the same.

Here’s my retelling of it:

Tom just moved into a new neighborhood recently. He liked his house and his environment, but there was one thing he didn’t get.


His neighbor, Mr Tan, had a dog that kept howling non-stop. Literally. Day in, day out.

Howling Dog

“Auuuuuhhhh………. Aaaauhhhh……….”

Initially Tom thought the dog was just going through a phase, so he ignored the howls, thinking it would eventually stop.

But it didn’t. It continued howling.


1 day passed. Nothing changed. 2 days passed. Still howling. 3 days. 5 days. 1 week. 2 weeks. 1 month. Still howling, with no signs of stopping.

“Auuuhhh………….Oouuuuuhhhhh…….Au au auuhhhhh..”

Finally, Tom couldn’t stand it anymore. One fine day, he walked over to Mr Tan’s house to see what was going on.

Sure enough, there was the dog, sitting at the front porch, howling pitifully to whoever was walking by.

Howling Dog


“Auuuhhh…Ouuuhhh….Auuuuuuuuuuuuuu………Au au au auu au au auuuuhhhhh….”

On the other hand, Mr Tan was relaxing on his bench at the lawn, leisurely reading his newspapers and sipping a cup of coffee.

Wondering what was going on, Tom walked up to Mr Tan.

Tom: “Hi Mr Tan, is that your dog?”

Mr Tan: “Which dog?” He glanced around. “Oh that. Yep he’s mine.”

Tom: “Why does he keep howling?”

Mr Tan: “Oh, that’s cause he’s sitting on a nail.”

Tom: “Sitting on a nail?!?” Tom gave the dog a bewildered look.

“..Okay… so why doesn’t he just get away from the nail then??”

“Well, Tom………”, Mr Tan took a slow sip of his coffee before replying.

“…That’s because he doesn’t find it painful enough yet.”

All of us have nails in our lives that are poking us. Some of us have career nails. Jobs we don’t enjoy. Work that’s dragging us down and sucking our life away. Jobs that we complain about, day in day out, yet we don’t do anything about them. Managers and/or colleagues who stifle us. Recognition that’s overdue. Limited career developments. Unsatisfactory pay and benefits. Not having made a name for ourselves yet in our career.

Some of us have relationship nails. Not being able to find our special someone. Seeing people around us get attached/married while we remain single. Having someone but not sure if he/she is really “the one”. Having a partner who isn’t around enough. Having a partner who is around too much. Having a partner who is too domineering. Unsorted doubts and grievances.


Some of us have financial nails. Increasing expenditures that aren’t matched by our income. Increasing responsibilities we can’t handle. Savings that dip month after month. Increasing debt from credit cards. Not enough money to buy what we want. Making do by limiting our expenditures.

Some of us have study nails. Increasing backlog in homework that we need to catch up on. Upcoming exams we’ve not studied for. Pending projects and assessments that we’ve not completed yet. Revision that should have been completed long ago. Academic-related issues we have not sorted out with our professors/teachers.

Some of us have dream nails. Dreams that we really want to pursue but aren’t for some reason. Dreams that we have been thinking about for a while but haven’t acted on yet. Dreams we are scared to see unfulfilled when it’s too late for us to do anything.

And there are so many other nails. Health nails. Friendship nails. Spirituality nails. Family nails. Habit nails.

Each of us have different nails poking us. Some of us have a couple of big nails that pokes us every once in a while. Some of us have several small nails that poke on and off. Some of us have multiple big and small nails that poke repeatedly. Rather than take action, most of the times we just sit and howl. Cause the pokes aren’t painful enough.

Are there any nails in your life you are not addressing?

Why? Is it cause they are not painful enough yet?

What are you going to do about them?

Act immediately or do something when it’s too late to do anything?

Don’t wait until the nails really hurt before you take action. Because when that happens, that usually means it’s too late to do anything.


For more big-idea stories, read:

Image: Dog

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