I am a big animal lover, but, when I was a child, my family only had hamsters and bunnies, never cats or dogs.
So, once I became a homeowner, I got two kittens and smothered them with love. I haven’t ever had a dog, but two close family members have added four-legged friends to their lot and we have started talking about doing the same.
The big, glaring problem, aside from the obvious things everyone should consider before committing to a dog, is that my daughter, Joan, is terrified of most dogs.
I can’t remember how it all started, but I think I can pinpoint it to a friend’s Collie puppy jumping up on Joan when she was about three and scratching her.
The puppy was just enthusiastically chasing a new friend and didn’t mean to harm her, but it must have been the moment that impacted on Joan and affected her relationship with dogs.
Throughout the years, since she has blown hot and cold.
Sometimes, she approaches dogs with confidence and curiosity and wants to pet them. Other times, she begs me to pick her up and can often start crying when one is nearby.
But this last year, her fear has become debilitating and really difficult to deal with.
Recently, on a family trip, Joan was so afraid of my cousin’s new puppy that she refused to leave the bedroom.
When I did eventually coax her out, she would sit on high stools in the kitchen and if the dog moved, she practically scrambled to get on top of a counter.
No amount of talking to her and reassuring her by my cousin, worked.
He tried to tell her that the dog was just excited and was very gentle, but nothing we said calmed her.
It made for an exhausting visit and, on the morning we left, she nearly took the front door off its hinges in an attempt to leave and get away from the dog.
It broke my heart.
To make matters even worse, the following day, a friend visited our family cottage, bringing with them their massive Airedale Terrier, which was also a puppy and very excitable.
At one stage, my friend, her two children, my sister, and I were all in an upstairs bedroom, trying to convince Joan to come downstairs and join us.
It was utterly draining and I was frustrated that it was taking up so much of our time and energy, especially when my friend and her family had travelled for three hours to see us.
My friend was so kind and patient, in trying to comfort Joan, but she had gone beyond reason and was totally gripped by fear.
We were trying to get to the core of the problem.
Was it that the dog was free to run around?
Would Joan be okay if he was on a lead, or better if he was in the crate?
We were trying anything, just to get her down the stairs and free to play and enjoy herself.
After that incident, I made up my mind to get help for her and get it fast.
She needs to find her way out of the other side of this phobia.
It isn’t fair on her and she needs the skills to become comfortable around dogs and puppies, as they are everywhere!
Plus, I want her to enjoy their company, as there are so many many benefits to children learning how to live with animals and how to care for them.