In my first blog past I recalled my childhood fear of my uncles miniature dachshund. Its funny, because a miniature dachshund can’t do much more than tug on your pant leg. To my own surprise, I never overcame that fear. Even if I met a seemingly nice dog, I couldn’t shake it. To say that I was afraid doesn’t mean that I ran in fear or refused to be around dogs, I’d just really rather not. If I met your dog I might hesitantly pet it with my arm outstretched to maximize the distance between the dog and me. If I came into your house and your dog tried to jump on me, I was super uncomfortable and actively composing my excuses to never have to visit your house again.
That was the case with two of my friends back home. When I showed up at either of their doors, their dogs were the first to greet me with intimidating barking from behind the door, and then jumping and licking me the second I walked inside. When I would show up to my one friend’s house I always spent a few tense minutes trying to discreetly avoid her dogs’ affection in the living room. When the opportunity presented itself, I’d ask to hang out in her bedroom (where the dogs weren’t allowed) for the rest of the time.
At the other friends house, I remember her Halloween party last year where I spent the entire night trying to avoid her three giant dogs. I sat down in the living room and there one was with its big head resting on my thigh. I sat down at a table and my foot touched one laying under the table. I bent down to put my shoes on and there they all were, trying to lick me while I was down. I was so glad to go home to my cat.
To my surprise, as I warmed up to Charlie, I realized how he would never try to hurt me and that all his jumping and licking was a sign of affection and excitement. In a few months, I was no longer afraid of small dogs. When I took Charlie on a walk, I was fine with petting other people’s dogs and being in the house with my friends who had small dogs.
One day I was at my friend’s house and like clockwork, her three giant slobbery dogs were at the door eagerly awaiting as soon as I knocked. When I entered they all crowded around me, jumped up to me, trying to lick my face at any opportunity. But to my surprise, I wasn’t afraid of them like I used to be. They might be smelly and slobbery, but I wasn’t putting my hands out and backing into a corner hoping that my friend would pull them away and rescue me.
I now understand that Charlie taught me what dogs’ body language actually means, and that has allowed me to interact with all dogs who really just want to say hello, not maul me.
Now I’m that person who sees a dog the sidewalk and unabashedly asks if I can pet it.