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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The affecting effect of dogs...

...on people who don't like dogs.

This post is my submission to the 7th ADBC.

Sometimes, those of us who DO like dogs have a hard time understanding those who DON'T. What's not to like about the undivided attention our dogs give us (most of the time) ; their always-ecstatic-to-see-you greetings, whether you've left them for 5 minutes to walk out to get the mail, or you've been gone on another overtime work day; their curious way of sensing the world, knowing when laying a head on your knee is just the right thing to do; their joy in the moment--when you grab the leash and head out the door, they don't care where you are going, they are just happy to go. With you.

With you. Isn't that the best?

Sometimes, I find it hard not to be suspicious of those who DON'T. There's something wrong with that, I want to think.

And yet.

I find I must respect those who DON'T.

Perhaps a traumatic experience created a fear of dogs. Years ago, when my nephew was less than two years old, he was bitten in the face by a neighbor's dog. He developed a fear so severe he would not go outside to play if he even saw just a squirrel on his lawn.

We can understand that, can't we?

Perhaps an unpleasant experience somehow got associated with a "dog" and the very thought of a "dog" brings all kinds of suppressed feelings to the surface. When my father was a young boy, his father's bulldog would wake him up in the morning with a snorting, slobbering face wash. My father detests dogs. I wish I had a nickel for all the times I heard him say, "At least kids grow up and change their own diapers." Sometimes I wonder about my father's young life with a father who drank, a father who died when his son was only 17, My father left school in his senior year to get a job to help support the rest of his family. Later, he worked hard to care for his own family, which turned out to be seven kids! Dogs were an unnecessary expense and he could not/does not understand the attraction. I knew better to even ask for a dog when I was a child. Dad always said, "You can get a dog when you move out."

I guess I can understand that. To each his own.

My parents don't like dogs. 

There. I've said it.

Well. My dad doesn't like dogs. My mom, well, I think she's interested, but she lives with my dad. (Don't let her hear me say this!)

So this is what happened. I moved out. I got a dog. And then another dog, and another one after that. And 35 years later I have two dogs PLUS I raise puppies for Leader Dogs for the Blind.

Needless to say, this situation can sometimes be uncomfortable for me in my relationship with my parents. They don't like to visit, and now that we've moved so far away that a visit means: "overnight," I doubt they'll ever be back. (They came for one night last summer.)

I understand that my parents are getting older, and can't get around very well. My dad's back doctor told him he'd be in a wheelchair by the time he was 80. My dad will be 85 this June and still no wheelchair. My mom had her hip replaced in 2011. My dogs are big and a bump could mean a tumble. I take care to keep them out of harm's way. (My dogs, not my parents.)

I do NOT expect my dogs to be welcome at their house. If I visit for a few hours, I might bring the dogs to wait in the van. (They love coming with me, even if they are stuck in their "mobile" crate.") If I visit overnight, I come alone. My sweet husband, Andy, holds down the dog-fort back home.

And yet.

There's a curious thing.

(You know that "dog" spelled backwards is "god," don't you?)

My nephew grew up with my first dog. I lived around the block and "Aero" was less than six-weeks-old when I brought her home. The little black ball of fur won over his heart. Aero grew up to be a big strong dog (she was part Lab and Irish Setter, we think), and my nephew grew up to be mad about animals.

The dog did that.

Maybe 15 years ago, when my parents lived in Florida and we had a big house in the city, they came to visit. We only had one dog at the time, "Stoker," a small yellow Lab/beagle mix mutt who was an angel in disguise. Stoker's gift was making everyone feel that they were her best friends--even my parents! Andy and I came home after a long day of tending our business to find my mom and dad cuddled up on one of our oversized LazyBoy chairs. They were covered to the chin with an afghan my mom had knit for me as a high school graduation gift. Stoker was curled up on a corner of it at their feet. My mom was quite taken by her affection. My dad said, "She's alright. For a DOG."

The dog did that.

Now when I stop by with the dogs in the back of the van, my mom likes to come out to see them when I leave. Dad always follows. My old mutt, "Gypsy," howls and moans in greeting, like she knows that these people-who-don't-pet-her are "family" and part of her pack. I love to see my mom grin like a second-grader when Gypsy does this.

The dog did that.

My parents don't understand my love for dogs, but they accept me. And sometimes when we go out to eat I bring my Future Leader Dog puppy along. Mom is quick to tell everyone she sees, "That's my daughter. She raises puppies for Leader Dogs."

The puppy did that.

My mother and father snuggle on our love-seat during their visit last summer. FLD Gus was in his crate and you can just see the back end of Gypsy curled up in her bed on the floor.


  1. Wonderful post. Very thoughtful and beautifully written. What a journey.

    Sometimes I, too, struggle with understanding and not judging people who don't like dogs. I noticed, in my twenties, that I reacted to dogs the way many of my friends reacted to babies. When we'd see one, we'd want to go over and coo and ask questions and interact, and we fantasized about having our own. Only, I never had any interest in babies, and most of my friends had no interest in having dogs. Life with dogs is so completely different than life without.

    My parents do read my blog, but they don't read yours, so. . . . ;-)

    My father always loved animals, especially dogs, though we didn't have dogs or cats when I was a kid because most of my family was allergic. I wanted a dog desperately and finally prevailed when I was 12, and my brothers were soon off to college. Her name was Lady, and my dad was great with her.

    However, after Lady died at the very advanced age of 17 -- she had become my dad's dog after I left for college -- my dad was in so much grief (which I don't think he acknowledged), that for a long time he didn't want much to do with my SDs. At least, that is the only way I can make sense of his total lack of interest, even avoidance and sometimes harsh comments, about them.

    Gadget "converted" my mom when she came to stay with me, and she saw firsthand what a huge difference he made in my life as my assistant, as well as being sweet to her. Then I got Barnum, and he was irresistible as a puppy. Now they seem more positive and connected to my SDs/SDiTs.

    1. Thank you, Sharon, and what a wonderful reply! Thanks for sharing. (And I know what you mean about the babies...) ;)