Wednesday, February 05, 2014

D Is for Dogs

I have a complicated relationship with dogs.

When I was a child, I was afraid of dogs. They filled me with panic and terror. Just the sight of them anywhere near me made me irrational, and I have a number of stories of being chased--sometimes for miles--because I ran from a dog that was minding it's own business and just being a dog. I didn't realize for the longest time that running from dogs is just attracting their attention and begging to be chased.

Like a lot of my fears, this one goes back to before I can remember. I never understood why I was so afraid of dogs, until someone finally told me--when I was in high school--that my Mom had programmed me to be afraid of a dog. See, apparently when we lived at Fort Hood, Texas, when my Dad was stationed there, we had a neighbor with a big, mean dog. This is when I would have been 2 or 3, so I don't really have a ton of conscious memories of this period. But, being an early riser since birth--still to this day--I woke up before anyone else did, around six in the morning. And, apparently, I had a habit of sliding out of the low, open window and just walking around the house. This is absolutely the kind of silly thing I did as a child.

So, in an effort to keep me away from the neighbor's big, mean dog, my Mom used to warn me that going near the dog would get me killed. (I don't think she said it like that; part of the point of this is that I don't remember the programming.) I know my Mom meant well; she has similar anxiety to mine and worried about me getting attacked and hurt. (As an aside: I don't know if Mom was pregnant or not during this time... my sister was born at Fort Hood in 1979, so I can see her being more nervous about it because she wouldn't have been able to race after a wiry little kid while she was pregnant... never thought about that until just now.) She meant well, but in steering me clear of one dog, she accidentally programmed me to be afraid of all dogs.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not angrily blaming my mother for making me afraid of dogs. It was a mistake, but one that is still hard for me to get over simply because it's hard to break the habits of years and years and years. I always ran from dogs. I would embarrass myself trying to climb up cars, walls, playground equipment, fences, or--one time-- even a palm tree just to get away from these animals. When I was a kid, most people, including my family, found it hilarious. I think my Mom felt guilty, but my Dad would get exasperated about it. And it didn't stay with dogs, actually; it eventually transferred to most other animals. At some point, I developed a pathological fear of pain that made me worry a great deal about getting bitten.

My parents started taking me to a hypnotherapist for a while, but it never really worked. I've never been able to be hypnotized, maybe because I'm so anxious; as I've said before, I'm never truly relaxed. My parents got divorced when I was 12, and my Dad eventually got a dog. At first, I hid from it, but eventually I had to force myself to accept it, and for the first time ever, I found myself friends with a dog--Robin, a beagle. I eventually got comfortable with other dogs, and with cats (my cat Sam was one of the few really good things about my high school years, until he got taken away from me). And now I've had rabbits. But in all of those cases--even still today--I have a hard time being really, truly comfortable around animals. I guess it's just left over. It takes me a long time to feel okay around them.

For years now, I've been fantasizing about getting a dog. I think it would actually be good therapy, and I would like to be able to take care of one and have the companionship during the day. (Nothing against my darling rabbit, of course.) This is just in the realm of fantasy now for a number of hang-ups I have, but mainly because the apartment complex I live in doesn't allow dogs.

I chose this picture because I always picture myself with a bulldog, although I'm tentative to get one because I've heard so much about their health problems. I also think about corgis a lot. I just have this dream of, one day, when I live in a place that allows them, I could have a dog. It would seem like closure on yet another of the tributary issues that flow out of my fearfulness. I'd like to be able, particularly, to give a shelter animal a good, loving home. (Both of my rabbits have been adoptions from shelters.)

Maybe one day.

ABC Wednesday


Roger Owen Green said...

Dogs were often hostile to me when I was a kid, and I was in my 30s before I was comfortable with most canines

aspiritofsimplicity said...

I have always loved dogs and they can be great friends so I am sorry you are afraid of them. It is a fairly common fear. You have a wonderful picture of a couple of dogs though.

Leslie: said...

I do hope you'll be able to get a dog one day. They are usually the most loving companions ever. I now have my first English yellow Lab - they're smaller than American Labs - and I'm just in awe of how smart, loyal, and loving she is.

abcw team

Nathan said...

I was scared of dogs as a kid, and I don't think it can be traced to any one incident, although my parents were also uncomfortable with them. I always liked cats even before getting one, even though I think a cat actually did bite me when I was a kid, and a dog never did. When I first got together with Beth, she had dogs, so I learned to like them.