1890 (pub.): The Milkman and the Black Dog
An old tale was recorded in 1890 that told of a man living near Aylesbury, England, who was accustomed to taking a shortcut through a gap in a hedge to go feed and milk his cows each morn and night. One night, however, he found this gap in the hedge blocked by a large black dog with fiery red eyes... which, as he examined it, seemed to grow both larger and fiercer. Having no doubt that he was in fact facing not just a dog but an ominous Black Dog, he choose to take a longer route to the fields his cows occupied. Each night after he found the gap occupied by the same fierce dog... and each night after he continued to take the longer route afterwards.
One night the man was traveling with a companion and, with the intent of chasing off the Black Dog once and for all if he encountered it, the man and his companion returned from the fields with the cows by way of the shortcut that led to the gap in the hedge. Sure enough the Black Dog was there, looking larger and fiercer than ever before; but with his companion watching him, the man worked up his courage. He put down the pails of milk he was carrying home and removed the yoke from them to use as a weapon and, stating "Now, you black fiend, I'll try what ye're made of!", the man struck at the snarling Black Dog with all his strength. Two things happened, simultaneously: the Black Dog simply vanished as ie it had never been there... and the man fell to the ground senseless. He was carried home, but remained speechless and paralytic for the rest of his life.
This account was taken from a section on "spectre-dog" legends in a collection of English tales gathered by Edwin Sydney Hartland in 1890. In his introduction to this chapter of his book, Hartland makes two things abundantly clear: that Black Dogs were always associated with evil doings, and that he absolutely didn't believe in them.