This may sound a bit kooky, but one of the big changes that happened in my life was overcoming my fear of dogs. I remember when it started. We had a neighbor who kept, what was to my 5 year old eyes, a massive dog of indeterminate breed. My mom pitied it and so from time to time she’d feed it scraps. One day I went with her, and the dog, overjoyed at the possibility of a snack broke through whatever was keeping it staked and pulled a Dino Flintstone on me.
“I’m going to die of rabies,” I told my pediatrician solemnly.
I had recently seen Old Yeller and what stuck was not the bittersweet story of a boy and his dog, but the idea that any time, when you least expect it, dogs can turn on you.
“Uh-huh,” he said.
He was used to my precocious babbling and to my mother’s nervous streak. This was the woman who brought me in every time I sniffled. Of course she’d want a scrape checked out (never mind that the scrape was caused by my tripping on the sidewalk – the dog itself didn’t harm me beyond subjecting me to its breath). The doctor assured us nothing was broken, I didn’t have rabies and that was that.
Except it wasn’t. From then on, the sight of any dog got me screaming. The sound of jingling keys sounded so much like dog tags to me that I’d actually flinch if I heard them. I didn’t learn to ride a bike because I was petrified I wouldn’t be able to pedal fast enough to escape any dogs that might be nearby.
“I have a phobia,” I later told my pediatrician.
I don’t know if he ever talked to my parents about dealing with it, but nothing really was done. I coped by becoming an indoors child, only going out if one of my parents was near me. By college I was OK if the dog was tiny and on a leash. But I’d still make an excuse to be elsewhere, fast.
College was where I met my husband, a terrific guy and an unapologetic dog lover. We discussed everything before getting married, our thoughts on religion, kids, finances – but we never discussed dogs. I should have realized this was going to be an issue. He’d get the same misty look over a puppy that some people get over babies. No dog would go un-scratched in his presence. So when he started asking about dogs, I let him know I’d rather have a root canal during labor. Not one to give up easily he’d bring it up regularly, wise enough to drop it if I was getting too twitchy, but always looking for a way to bring it up if he could.
“So…corgis are cute,” he said casually after watching an anime series featuring one.
“Uh-huh,” I said.
Well, they were kind of cute, with their little legs and fox-like appearance. I told him I might consider a corgi. But just because I thought they were cute as a cartoon didn’t mean I’d be OK with them in actuality. I reminded him I’d still be nervous. It didn’t matter. He took the small bone I threw him and began Campaign Corgi in earnest.
One day we happened to be driving by a dog rescue. He pleaded with me to go in to look. I told him that unless there was an actual corgi in there, I was going to turn around and go back to the car. So of course, there in a cage with a giant St Bernard, was a wee corgi puppy. Triumphantly, my husband walked over to the man coordinating things and asked to see the corgi. I’m still not exactly sure how it happened, but somehow they got me to sit down and put that tiny corgi in my lap. I remember still being nervous. The dog was trembling too, right up until the moment she was on my lap. And then she looked and me, I looked at her and we both stopped shaking.
In the almost 13 I’ve had Faye, she’s taught me a lot of things. One, I’m actually something of a nature lover when not terrified. I can’t imagine not being outside at least a little every day. Two, I’m a really dog person! Three, it’s sad when fear keeps you from being everything you could become. Four, love has a way of breaking fear.