Puppy Love

It finally happened.  I fell in love.  Not with a person, but with a dog.  My head is still spinning from all of this.  Ever since I was a little child, I have been afraid of dogs.  All dogs.  Their size did not matter.  I mean “shaking in my boots” afraid.  As it turns out, it seems dogs were always a part of my life whether I liked it or not.


It all began when I was little.  We had a dog named Barney and the moment I locked eyes with him I was frightened.  I had never been around animals, nor have I ever been in danger with an animal.  But there he was.  Everyone else in my family took to him readily, but I could not reach out to him due to this fear.  He was a medium-sized dog (I honestly do not remember the breed.  I am sure I was told at some point, but my fear overtook me and it never registered.).  All I could remember was that he loved to jump up on people and that is what scared me the most.  It would have been fine if he would have just lain at my feet – no problem.  But the jumping unsettled me. We didn’t have him too long (not my fault), so I never got acclimated to him.  Now that does not mean he did not make an impression on me.


I remember one day sitting at the top of the stairs and talking to Barney.  Mainly I was giving him instructions to stay down there, do not come up, and the like.  I was good with that arrangement and got up to go my separate way. The next thing I remember was falling down the stairs.  I was a klutz back then (okay, I still am).  Who would run to meet me at the bottom of the stairs?  None other than Barney.  My heart still races when I think of this.  I was so scared of him running at me that I could not understand he was just checking to see if I was okay.  Barney never meant to do me any harm.


Growing up my fear still remained, but I had another problem to face.  Dogs were always in my life at one point or another.  Either a good friend, a guy I liked or my family had a dog.  Being afraid and living around animals made this quite the challenge for me.  It determined where I took my walks (in fear of running into a stray dog) and my visits to friends and family members.  I had to decide what was more important to me.  Either I see the people I love (thus seeing their dogs) or I avoid everyone.  I had to see my family and friends and I had to keep my fear in check.


At every house I went to it seemed that the dog picked up on my fear and stayed close to me (I could feel them staring at me).  I felt cornered and uneasy, but over time I had started to get used to most of these dogs.  The real big ones still scared me, but I grew to accept the smaller ones (as long as they did not jump all over me).  I was definitely guilty of having strings attached during these bonding times.


Several dogs made quite the impression on me and slowly I found my fear starting to dwindle.  I said starting, not completely gone.  My one friend’s dog was a poodle who just wanted to be loved.  She would come around and I would melt whenever I saw those big warm eyes staring at me.  I just couldn’t be afraid of that!  I started to look forward to seeing her when I came over and I even snuck her some extra treats after much time had passed.  Then one day she was no longer around and I found a part of me was missing.  I missed her!


My brother (and his family) had several dogs at different times.  His first dog, that I remember, was big and scared me to death.  I remember one time staying there and dog-sitting (so not my thing, but since I was staying with him, I had to oblige) since the family had left for the Fourth of July holiday.  From my brother’s house I could hear the fireworks and they were loud.  The fireworks sounded like claps of thunder and it scared the dog tremendously.  I could not calm the dog down and she kept jumping at the door to my bedroom.  My heart was in my throat for the both of us.  Me, because she scared me, and her, because the fireworks terrified her.  It was a very, very long weekend.


Their next dog was very protective of my brother.  She loved to sleep by him and sit at his feet.  Occasionally she would sit by me and I started to slowly warm to her.  She never jumped on me, she just wanted to sit by me and have me show her some attention.  I found myself getting attached to her.  I even took the risk of petting her and talking with her.  When she looked at me, I felt she listened to what I was saying.  I felt she genuinely cared.  For me that was a big step.  As the years went by I could see that her health was failing and that saddened me.  I had grown to love Ginger and I liked seeing her whenever I came to visit.  One day she was no longer there – her body gave out.  I found myself crying over that.  I loved her.


It seemed after that a switch was flipped on inside of me.  All of a sudden I found myself loving dogs.  I could not explain it.  Maybe I had grown so accustomed to being around dogs my whole life that I now did not mind them.  I found the puppy in the toilet paper commercials absolutely adorable.  He looked so cuddly and loveable.  By chance I watched the dog competition on television one year and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Actually so much that I try to see it every year.  I guess standing in single file and then doing tricks with their masters piqued my interest.  I watched Marley and Me and fell in love with the dog.  I bawled like a baby at the ending of this movie (in case someone has not seen it, I did not give away the ending).


Was my brain now short-circuiting?  I may never know, but a change has occurred.  I opened my heart and let them in.  It was scary to do so, but it was so worth it.  All these dogs wanted were for someone to love them and give them a good home.  They wanted someone to play with, to sit with, and to listen with and that is the way it should be.  I cannot tell you what caused me to be so scared of dogs or that I am no longer scared.  I still get scared from time to time, but now it is the bark that scares me.  Once I calm down, get to know the dog, I start to feel comfortable.  A feeling washes over me that I matter and the dog matters to me.  A feeling that this was meant to be.  A feeling of love – puppy love.  They are after all man’s best friend and now my friend.

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