People hate people who hate dogs. Don’t tell people if you hate dogs.
I used to tell people that I hated dogs. Once, I even started a thread on Facebook asking others why they liked them. I was sincere; I wanted to know. But people got mad at me so I erased my posts. I learned my lesson. Apparently, I am missing something big.
I am afraid of dogs, yes, but I also just don’t like them. I don’t see the thing other people see–I realize this. Depending on the day, it makes me feel either like there is something wrong with me or with the world.
Sometimes, if I admit it, people say, “You must have been bitten.”
“Yes! I have been bitten!” I tell them. Two Rottweilers smelled my fear and jumped on me when I was in college. I had been coming back to the shop where I delivered pizza after the place had closed. The dogs jumped on my back and bit through my bra. My boyfriend at the time–one in a long line of a certain type of terrible–didn’t feel like driving me to the hospital, so I drove myself, leaning forward so my back would not touch the seat. I was looking to be taken care of then, and I had always loved doctors, so I waited patiently in the empty ER in upstate NY for the young on-call internist to touch my skin and slab ointment and alcohol and release me back to campus.
What I do not tell people is that I had disliked dogs long before this. When I was a child, there was a barking dog on the street next to mine, the street I had to walk down to get to a boy’s house, because it had an above ground swimming pool. The boy was strange, and the dog on the street barked at me. I was scared, but still I ran to swim in the above ground pool.
The second thing: I think dogs are dirty. No, people say, kissing their dogs on the lips, touching their dogs, sleeping with their dogs, eating things their dogs just licked. People always tell me they see something human in their dog’s eyes.
The point of this is this:
I have two children and I don’t want them to inherit my fear. I don’t want them to be like me in many ways, and in this one way, I have made it a point. Parents do one thing or the other: the opposite of what they have learned, or the same thing. In this, I am veering all the way in the other direction.
I hate dogs, so when we pass one on the street I point it out to my daughter, stop the stroller, ask the owner if it’s friendly, then let my daughter pet it. I ask the owner its name, tell her that my daughter loves dogs, and chat like a person who loves dogs too.
I now notice almost every dog on the street, but my daughter points to the dogs I miss. Her first word was “doggy.” My husband has even said, “If we ever get a dog…”
I will never get a dog, yet I take my daughter to the off-leash dog run in the morning at the park. I watch her toddle on the perilous fields where she has stepped in dog shit more than once. I let her throw the spit-riddled tennis balls back to the dogs who circle her, knocking her over, licking her face. I laugh and say nothing.
If you hate me for hating dogs, please note that I am doing the only thing I can do. I am not passing on my fear, my hatred, or even my avoidance. I am raising girls who love dogs, who will most likely one day own one.
One day, I will try not to flinch when one of my grown daughters answers the door, a dog behind her, jumping up to see who is there, thrilled by a visitor, sniffing, circling, barking, until she takes him by his collar, apologizes–“He’s just excited to see you”—before bringing him back into the dog-fumed house, where I will sit on the dog-shed couch. I will look at my grown daughter as the dog snuggles in beside her while she absentmindedly strokes the dog’s head, and for once, breathing in the dog-scented air, I will feel relief, knowing that at least I did one thing right.