When I was young (around 11), I had to pinch-hit and deliver newspapers for my older brothers who needed–seasonally–to be at sports practice. They each had huge paper routes of 200 customers, meaning ‘the load was heavy,’ so much so that my small shoulders couldn’t sustain the fully-loaded canvas bag. As a result, I pulled a red wagon along behind me, took out the paper, and carried it up to the customer who pretty much all lived in tenements or duplexes in our milltown community. It was the day when kids could do that kind of job without fear of harm from others.
Dogs were another thing.
They’d start barking as soon as their superior hearing told them ‘the paperboy (girl) was coming. And they all knew the sequence: I’d approach their territory, open the storm (or screen) door, and deposit the paper. If the heavier, interior door were open, I’d toss it in and quickly leave before Fido could attack.
Collection days were the worst. Then, I’d have to wait as the customer went for the money, while the dog greedily eyed me from the other side of the expanse. Sometimes they appeared ravenous, growling and pawing the carpet, intent on sinking their fangs into me, while I waited nervously for the owner’s return. Upon their coming back on the scene, they always said the same thing: “Oh, he won’t hurt you,” while I thought: “Tell that to the dog.”
One day, however, I got cornered when the mutt of the house got out, ran around to the front, and corralled me in a 3 foot-wide space of the stoop bordered by wrought-iron rails. He was a little dog exhibiting a nasty disposition (the medical community calls it ‘short man syndrome’ where little guys have to act mean and cocky) coming full at me, snarling and baring his teeth, his white hair standing on end.
Against all wisdom, I extended my hand (tender of affection?) and he bit. That action just heightened his desire, and just as he was poised to go in for the kill, his master came and harnessed the beast, apologizing for his bad temper.
Following this encounter, I feared the critters…especially the little ones. An even more distrubing reality? They knew it. And I recall reading that animals pick up on fear, and if they determine someone is nervous and frightened, they’re all the more likely to attack (must be like ‘bullying’ in school; they do it because they know they can.)
That episode left me with a fear of dogs–especially small, white ones that should never really strike fear in the heart of anyone….But that experience would be eclipsed in horror by a far grislier one involving me with a larger one still, a German shepherd, when I was 21.
But that’s a tale for another time……….So, fear of dogs….cynophobia (“What is fear of dogs called?” would make a great Jeopardy question)–a real concern for some, most likely rooted in a bad experience, earlier in life. Can one recover? Most certainly.
Today, I haven’t an overblown fear of dogs, but then again, too, I’m not that little papergirl collecting money on a stoop, trapped by a small white monster who thinks I’m the interloper and he’s guarding his turf.
Had a similar experience with a dog? Did you develop a phobia then (or still have one today?) Sink your teeth into the Comment section below and share how you deal with it (maybe just cut and run?) or how you overcame it…