Wednesday, April 6, 2011

More on Dogs and Kids

I'm trying not to rant here, friends.  Your comments are welcome.

Just for the record, I am not scared of dogs.
I'm disgusted by them.

If I've been to your house and you have a dog, it is out of my enormous respect for your friendship that I will even come inside.  I would no sooner want to sit down on the couch where a dog sleeps than I would want to sit down on a couch where a cow sleeps.  Eat with a dog at my feet?  How about a turkey?  Or a goat?  Or a whole petting zoo of domesticated animals?

But dogs are trainable, you argue.  Training an animal to sh*t in manner that makes it convenient for the owner to pick up does not elevate the animal's status in my eyes.  If dogs are trainable, why don't their owners train them not to stick their noses in people's crotches? 

Dogs, cats, hamsters, geckos....unless they serve a useful purpose,I just don't understand the point of having them around.  If we someday achieve our dream of owning a house on a dozen acres then we will likely have a guard dog.  And if we have a few out-buildings, I can imagine us having a cat to control the critter population.  But a pet dog or cat?  In the house?  Unimaginable.

Honestly, I'm struggling with whether or not it is OK for me to feel this way.  Am I being authentic?  Or am I just a snob?  If I am authentic about my preference to be away from dogs, can I let go of being responsible for offending a dog owner?

Recently a friend from my university days was visiting Toronto from Montreal and suggested we get together for a coffee--but when I responded that I would have to bring at least some of my children with me, the invitation quietly disappeared.  I get it that some people don't want to be around little kids:  Will dog owners get it that I don't want to be around their dogs?

On to my next issue:

It is inappropriate to expect kids to 'get comfortable' around dogs.

Children experience fear for a variety of reasons.  The most important reason why children experience fear is because they are genuinely scared.  I'm scared of some things too, like shopping malls at Christmas and being forced to wear a costume.  As an adult, I expect my fears to be accommodated if not validated.  I don't want to be coerced to 'face my fears' or deliberately put into situations where I am going to be scared.

Obviously children deserve the same respect.  Since Partner-Guy has no aversion to dogs (or other pets) he has many times encouraged his daughters to approach a dog while he petted it and while the owner held it by the leash or collar.  Occasionally the girls have responded favourably to this.  (Even I can appreciate the pure attractiveness of a well-groomed golden lab.)  But if they are not interested in approaching the animal, Partner-Guy doesn't cajole or coerce them.

I can see how being approached by an off-leash dog who weighs as much as they do is scary for a child.  I trust them.  If they don't want to be sniffed and licked by an animal, I am not going to coerce them to stand there and let the animal behave like an animal.  The words "He's friendly" are not an antidote to a child's fear and discomfort.  I'm friendly too, but would you want me to greet you by licking your face and sniffing your crotch?  If dog-owners are offended by my desire that they get their dogs away from my children, I can live with that.

I think fear is mostly normal.  I wouldn't teach my child to let a stranger caress them just to avoid offending the adult.  And I wouldn't try to coerce a vegetarian child into eating a hamburger.  How dare an adult tell a child In this situation you should NOT trust your instincts BUT in this OTHER situation you SHOULD trust your instinct.  I will trust my children's instincts. 

And they will grow up trusting their own instincts.  A skill more valuable than learning how to be around a dog.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't even read through the rest of your dog-related posts and I have to stop and comment because YES. And just, yes to everything you've said here. We live in the Seattle area and we are experiencing similar problems with the overwhelming dog population. My youngest son, 4, is very afraid of dogs and my oldest, 6, tolerates but is not crazy about them. And yet we often run into dog owners who can't seem to comprehend this. And my feelings about dogs are completely identical to yours, so I get you. I loved your thoughts on kids and fear. Loved.

    Anyway, I could go on, but I just had to quickly comment -- it just feels so good to read these entries and to not feel alone. Thank you for sharing!