Updated: Jul 21
For as long as I can remember I have always been afraid of dogs. Small dogs scared me the most. They always wanted to smell or lick me, but I always thought they would bite me when they got close to me. I am not sure what started this fear but let me tell you it consumed my entire life for YEARS! I missed out on going to so many places and hanging out with folks because of this fear. Many people tried to help me get over the fear, and nothing worked. All it ever did was make me even more scared.
I have so many memories of sharing space with a dog and completely losing my mind.
When I was a little kid, we would go to my Godmother's house every Christmas. She always hosted a big party, and we would be there for hours. She had this little dog named Champagne. I was so scared of that little dog. The moment we would walk to the door, I could hear Champagne barking. I’d BEG my mom to let me just sit in the car. Of course, she always said “No!” My Godmother would put the dog in the crate until I walked in and went to her bedroom–where I would stay the entire night. I would poke my head out the room hoping someone would see me so I could ask for some food. I did not want to take the risk of the dog seeing me. Going to the bathroom was always hard. Not only did I have to make sure no one was using the bathroom, but I had to run out hoping the dog wouldn’t see me. I remember one time I messed up. I walked out the room thinking it was all clear and Champagne came charging for me. I screamed and cried because I knew the dog was coming to bite me. Everyone just laughed and said that the dog is not going to do anything to you. I hated that they laughed at me and dismissed my feelings. I didn’t care that the dog was small, I was still scared. As much as I loved my godmother I hated going to her house.
Have you ever walked down the street with a dog at the end of the block and refused to walk down the street? That was me ALL THE TIME! Family and friends would tell me to get over it or that the dog was not going to do anything to me, but I did not believe them. If the dog had teeth, it could bite me…and that was enough for me to stay away. I remember watching talk shows where they would hypnotize people to help them get over their fears and all I could remember was, “Man, I wish I was old enough to go on that show to get help.”
A day that has stayed in my head for years, keeping me away from dogs, was the day I was walking home from school to my dad’s house with his girlfriend’s children. We came across a pack of dogs that started to chase us down the street. We could not get to the house fast enough, so we had to jump on top of some folk’s cars. We sat up there for what felt like forever until the dogs finally left. I just knew we were all going to die that day. A bit extreme, but it’s exactly how I felt. After that day, I could not find myself getting near any dogs. I kept replaying that time in my head and from there on out I needed to stay away.
Years later, I had children and a husband…who of course loved dogs. The kids would beg for a dog and my answer was always no. There was no way I could be a prisoner in my own home. How could we have a dog if I was afraid? When my youngest son turned one, my stepmother at the time thought it would be a great idea to get my boys a dog (we were all living together for a while). We came home one evening and a dog came charging towards me. Don’t get me wrong, he was a cute little puppy, but the first thing I did was run to the kitchen and jump on the island. I was terrified and angry that my stepmother would do something like that without speaking to me first. My husband was elated because he loved dogs. He named the dog “Socks” because his paws were white like crew socks and the rest of his body was brown. In just a few short months, Socks went from a tiny pop to a full-blown adult sized dog (he was a pitbull). My husband tried to get me to play with Socks, but I couldn’t stand it. The fear controlled me. Socks was not allowed to be loose in the house when I was home because I just could not face him. A year later we were preparing to move and we could not take Socks with us to the new apartment. I feel bad writing this, but I was so happy. I could finally feel free in my own home again. I did not have to constantly check out the door before walking out. I felt free.
Flashback to the first time I was forced to face my fears: My dear friend asked me to dog sit her baby Pepsi. I was so scared. It was supposed to be a trial run for if/when we got a family dog. The first two nights I wanted nothing to do with the dog. I stayed in my room unless he was in one of my boys rooms. That afternoon I got home from work before the kids and my husband. Pepsi had been in the crate while we were out so when I got home he would not stop barking because he needed to go out. The barking made my nerves go into overdrive. I started crying and asked him to just wait but I knew it was not right. I knew I had to do something, so I took a deep breath, went to the crate, asked him to please not bite me and grabbed the leash. I opened the crate and he rushed out the crate, but just sat there waiting for me to put the leash on. I took him outside to do his business and all was good. He just followed me around the house until the boys came home. It was that moment that I knew I could possibly get around to the idea of having a family dog.
In 2019, I made a promise to my boys that we would get a dog. We had been going through so much and I knew it would mean the world to them to have a dog. I had stipulations behind getting one because I did not want to be afraid in my own home. I also did not want to pick up dog poop. This dog would be the boys’ and my husband’s. We went to so many shelters looking for a dog. I knew we needed a small dog that I could grow with if this was going to work. But of course, my husband wanted a large dog. So, we settled on getting a small dog that would grow to be a bigger dog. We searched for months until we came across a lady at Petco that had a new litter of pups–ready to go home with a family in a few months. November 2019 came around and it was time to bring a pup home. Up until then, I had never held a dog before and I was not looking forward to doing it anytime soon. When we went to Petco to see our new baby, the lady handed me our puppy and I fell in love. Everything changed. She was the only girl in her litter, and we instantly connected. She had one little white paw and was so snuggly. Don’t get too excited though, because once we brought her home I felt like it was over. She was so mean to me. She would bark at me constantly. She became very territorial over my husband. I could not take it. I felt like she had to go. My husband convinced me to put her in doggy training classes. We found an amazing board and care with a 6 week training program. During that time, we met with the trainer, and were taught all kinds of tricks to handle different behaviors with our dog. She came back home and would follow me around EVERYWHERE! Finally, we became best buddies!!!!
That’s the story of Dottie and learning to overcome fear. I miss my Dottie girl. Because of her I am not afraid of dogs anymore. I can be around dogs and not lose my cool. As a matter of fact, when I see dogs, I am quick to want to rub their heads or their little bellies. My head wants to get another dog, but my heart just won’t let me do it. Leaving my Dottie girl behind when we moved to Maryland was one of the hardest things I had to do. She was my girl. I loved that dog. She protected me when I did not feel safe. She showed me that I don’t have to be afraid anymore. She taught me that I can face my fears and be ok. I can’t imagine opening my heart to another dog. I feel like I would be betraying her. I know she is in a good home but man oh man, I miss her. I owe her everything.