Just like Asparger’s, depression, or any of a million things the internet loves to diagnose itself with, phobia can only be diagnosed by a mental health professional. So I’m not gonna be a pompous asshole and say I know I have a phobia, but the definition is easy enough for laypeople to deal with. Not just a fear, but an irrational fear, and an irrational fear that interferes with day-to-day life.
Yep. Check, check, and check. That fear? Dogs.
Now, if we’re in your home, and you’ve got a cute, cuddly puppy that’s just licking people’s faces off, that’s one thing. I can pet the puppy and enjoy the puppy kisses. Or even a (slightly) bigger dog.
But pretty damn near any other situation with a dog has my fight-or-flight (usually the latter) instinct firing like crazy.
If somebody’s out walking their dog, and it’s not on a leash….I have to cross the street to walk on the other side. Even if it’s a dog I could in theory step on. Fuck, especially if it’s one of those little tiny bitches. But of course big dogs aren’t really a whole lot better.
And fuuuuuuuuck me if I’m out walking in a residential area and somebody’s dog starts barking at me. That scares the absolute shit out of me. I will turn around and walk the other direction and take a different route to get where I’m going.
And of course it’s all the more “fun” in the dark. Like tonight. I went out grocery shopping tonight (which was probably my first mistake, doing it after dark). The way to the market from my house involves this side street that’s maybe…..4 city blocks long. On the way there (e.g. without groceries weighing me down) it took maybe 10 minutes to walk through it.
As usual, I bought more at the market than I really meant to, and had a long, heavy walk ahead of me. I knew it would take an hour or longer to traverse that side street. I finally wound up dividing my groceries into 2 loads and taking one load, lying it down, then going back for the next and taking it some distance past the first, lather, rinse, repeat.
Worked fine until WOOFOOFWWOOFOOWFFFWOOOFFF!!!!!!!!!!
Out of fuckin’ nowhere. I know there are dogs that live in the houses on that street, but I guess I had forgotten since I didn’t encounter any on my walk through.
About two seconds after I first heard the barking, I saw two four-legged forms come running toward me.
I lost it.
I dropped everything I was carrying and hauled ass the opposite direction. And I mean Hauled. Ass. I was probably 2 1/2 blocks away by the time I stopped running. Probably wasn’t more than a few seconds’ worth of running either.
I meekly came back to the house/my food, to see that people had come out of the house. I squeaked out “Can you hold them please? I’m terrified of dogs, ‘specially in the dark.”
They didn’t say a word to me. They all (two humans and the two dogs) climbed into a car and drove off.
Well, I was still pretty fuckin’ on edge. Even now as I’m writing this I don’t think the adrenalin has completely worn off. I picked up my stuff (all of it, interestingly), and trudged probably a whole ‘nother block before my load started to feel heavy again.
And then off in front of another one of the houses were these two amorphous forms in the dark. They stayed put. Aaaaaaand you better believe so did I.
Eventually a candle or something came on, revealing that it was just two kids. I trudged on.
I made it home (obviously, as I’m writing this) and I started to remember the other times dogs have scared the crap out of me. It’s not a short list. There’s a bus stop near my house, and right by it is a fenced yard that houses an unruly dog. Many a time in waiting for a bus, I’ve walked to the next stop (further away from my house) just to get away from that yard.
I guess I’m lucky that doggy was inside tonight.
You know, I had a dog when I was a kid. It was the family’s, but it was mine. If your family have ever had a pet, you know how that goes. The cat was my sister’s (even though it was all of ours).
I loved that dog, and he loved me, but he was not a friendly dog. We lived in a pretty nice neighborhood, but you wouldn’t know it by the amount of ‘guard-dogging’ old Patches did. He barked day and night (small wonder he found time to sleep). He even barked at me sometimes when I walked home from school (did I mention he wasn’t that smart?). He once attacked my cousin for….reasons I can’t remember (I was really small when that happened). There was briefly talk that he’d have to be put down because of it, but he in fact lived until I was 18 (Mom & Dad got him when I was 3 or 4….I have no memories of life before him).
I still remember the day he died. He’d been coughing like crazy for weeks before hand (Dad later told us he was afraid to take him to the vet because he figured that there was nothing to be done for him….and in retrospect he was probably right on the money). Patches walked downstairs, in front of the front door, lay down….and did not get up again. My sister found him first, rather tactlessly calling from downstairs “Patches died!”
We all left the house through the back door, and Dad arranged for some of his friends to see to the body. I don’t know what they did with him, and I never want to find out. Seriously, it’s one of the reasons I’ve never adopted a pet in adulthood (that and I’ve never lived anywhere that would allow it, but even if I did, I wouldn’t). Does the local vet double as a coroner? Don’t tell me, I don’t want to know.
I don’t know, does this inform my current fear of dogs? I doubt it. Everybody has a childhood pet, and everybody’s childhood pet dies long before they do.
And that’s a thousand-plus words to take the jitters out of my fingers.