About a week ago a friend of ours brought her gorgeous pit-bull puppy over to my in-laws house to go swimming with my dogs. The next-door neighbors were also invited over to go for a dip in the pool, but there was one little hang-up that we hadn’t known up until that point:
They’re all terrified of dogs. All eight of the kids, and the mother, were terrified of dogs.
That throws a big dampener on things for obvious reasons. We did our best to accommodate their fear by taking our dogs out of the pool area and walked around to the front of the house. The mere sight of our dogs was so frightening to these kids that we eventually had to lock them up in the garage for a time just so that they’d stop screaming.
Well, needless to say we were all rather annoyed. If you’ve ever met either of my boys, you’d know in a heartbeat that they are the most lovey-dovey set of lab-mixes out there. Violence just isn’t in their nature, like at all. Our friend’s dog has likewise been around children its whole life and is completely harmless. It’s quite frustrating to have to dance to the fiddle of those were are mindlessly frightened of something, especially when there’s so much propaganda out there with regards to certain larger breeds being prone to “random attacks” and the like. Now, this false information has been disproven time and time again; smaller breeds are on-average far more hostile than large breeds, but social/mass media outlets are powerful demons of persuasion at times.
Eventually, once all of the kids were “safely” enclosed in the fenced-in deck area to the side of the pool, we decided that it was fine to bring the dogs out of the garage if even so that they might just run around the yard for a bit of fetch n whatnot. Of course, this turned out to be a bit of an event.
One of the youngest little girls was walking around, and my friend’s dog, who absolutely loves everyone around him and only ever wants to play and lick your face, happened to walk too near to her in his running and playing with my boys.
She freakin screams bloody murder and starts running away like a chick in a Jason horror movie. Not cool dude. Not cool.
Now the dog is even more curious. "Why are you crying? What’s wrong? Let me comfort you!” You could see the gears turning in his head as he followed this screaming little child, never realizing that for whatever reason HE was in fact the reason for her discomfort. But, it’s not because of him, for this little girl and he have never before met. No, it’s entirely because of what she has been told; what she has been taught by her family and world around her. As the dog easily advanced on the girl running away in his compassion for her well-being, she began to strike him in the face. The situation was escalating. All he wanted to do was lick her and give her a hug, yet she punched his face in ignorance and fear. Let’s be straight here folks, if it truly was this pit-bull’s agenda to run up and eat your puny meatless human, it would have done so, easily. He just wanted to play, and you instead taught HIM violence. You are the dogs. Not him. And no, for all reading this, my friend’s pit made no aggressive act whatsoever. Despite being screamed at, lead on a chase, and repeatedly struck in the face for no apparent reason other than being cursed by God as a feared breed, he remained perfectly docile; wanting only her comfort.
This little girl, along with all the rest of her siblings, are the products of a fear-based paradigm. A paradigm that interests me to no end. Now, some might argue that there was perhaps an attack prior to this meeting with our dogs to cause such an enthused reaction to our innocent puppies. I suppose it is indeed quite possible that each and every member of this family has all been mauled by a pit-bull in the past. Perhaps it even broke into their house and went room to room, chomping down on each little body one by one just to instill a lasting dogmatic phobia to haunt them for the rest of their lives. Perhaps.
I, however, doubt it very much. I suspect that the family had literally no reason whatsoever beyond that which they perpetuate from hearsay. I suspect the mother is simply teaching her children to carry on her legacy of fear and cowardice with no substantial explanation, logic, or reasoning.
I know of people who have been bitten by dogs. Some of these bites were indeed quite destructive, even requiring plastic surgery in some cases, but none of these people hold fear and hatred for every other dog in the world because of their experiences. If a dog bit a member of that family in the past I see no logical reason why every single other dog in the world must now be feared because of it. There is no excuse for a mother to be holding her children behind her, walking backwards away from my precious puppy boys in fear, teaching her children that the world of the animal kingdom is something to be hated with such fervency. There is no excuse for the poisoning of so many minds with the limitation of mindless terror.
You see most people tend to have a phobia of some form of the animal kingdom. Some of these phobias are culturally acceptable to hold, and others arbitrarily aren’t. When I was a kid, I was pretty scared of bees and spiders. My brother and I would go all around the house with our water-guns hunting spiders, and whenever there was a bee in the room everything else stopped until it was dead. Where did this fear come from, though? Racking my brain, there is only one occasion I can recall to explain my childhood fear of bees, and absolutely no personal reason whatsoever to hold a grudge against any spider that ever crossed my path.
A long time ago my family lived on Sunderland Trail in Chili, NY. Out back beyond our yard was a pretty good chunk of woods that my brother and I would run around and play in. One day, we found a small mounded hill that looked like something built it there on purpose. Then, we found a hole on the side of it, where a near-constant stream of yellow-jackets were going in and out. One of them landed on my arm, and I remember playing with it; letting it walk around my hands and wrists. Then, my brother yelled at me to be careful around them because they can sting you, and they’ll die in the process. This made me sad, and I didn’t want them to sting anyone so that they wouldn't all die. I made an executive decision. I found a stick that was the right size to perfectly clog the entrance to their lair.
Clearly, 4-year-old Seth didn’t realize that such nests house thousands of yellow-jackets and contain an extensive network of other passages in and out of the mound. My brother and I were instantly swarmed for threatening the hive. We sprinted back to our house screaming bloody murder, much like the little girl in my story from last week. Our mom saw/heard us coming and had the door open waiting for us. It felt like the threshold to my house was a finish line in a marathon of running. The door was slammed behind us, but numerous yellow-jackets had made breach into the kitchen. Altogether my brother and I were each stung like nine times, and I never wanted to be anywhere close to anything that even looked like a bee again. But why?
My ignorance. My ignorance and fear. Had I simply maintained even a lick of respect for the capabilities and lifestyle of my fellow creature, none of that would have ever happened. I had no place shoving a damn stick into a yellow-jacket nest. I was an idiot.
Much like my friend’s pit last week, those yellow-jackets were simply going about their business as usual until I, an ignorant human, decided to interrupt them. They had no thought for me or my brother whatsoever. They were perfectly content buzzing in and out of the hive in their endless search for nectar and building materials. My friend’s pit was likewise perfectly content with his day of beautiful sunshine and playing with friends in the yard until an ignorant human came along and began treating him like a serial-killer. Thankfully the little girl was intercepted in time to keep her from frightening and harming the dog any more than she already had.
My point is that unless you are directly interfering with the life of a given critter out there, they literally couldn’t give a shit less about you. It is only the pompous nature of mankind that leads us to believe that everything out there in nature is really trying to "get us". Do we really think we’re that important, that we honestly believe that creatures would break all evolutionary traits they’ve developed just to go out of their way to do us harm? Laughable. We’re not that important. These creatures have been walking this planet longer than humanity has.
That dog, along with most breeds of domesticated dogs, has likely not tasted raw flesh in generations. It wouldn’t even know how to eat you. Likely, if it was released to the streets or in the wild, it would resort to a purely scavenger diet of knocking over garbage cans and the like. Most of them don’t even know how to be genuine predators anymore, and must be taught by man to hunt or attack anything larger than a field-mouse, rabbit, or squirrel. For a human to incur a bite from any dog is to incur a bite generated in fear. There are indeed exemptions in the animal kingdom, but by and large the only times violence is resorted to in any respect is because of fear. Fear is a powerful thing, and could easily turn a docile playful dog into the condemned perpetrator of a bite-wound if it is scared enough. Never would it have considered doing such a thing otherwise, because you are not on the menu. You are just the threat to its safety, and like all creatures it will defend itself when threatened. Such is why the smaller breeds are more hostile; they are the most scared.
When a spider crosses your path, or perhaps when it hangs down and lands upon your hand while you’re sitting on your deck at night, do you truly believe that it is the intent of the spider to cause you discomfort? Do you really believe that you are so special that this spider, who is really just trying to go about building its web to catch dinner for later, will waste its time just to come over and bite you? Of course not! You’re just in its way, not its target! The other day I was outside watering my garden when a fully pregnant black widow spider walked up and stood directly upon my bare foot. It was in that moment that I realized how close I was to reacting EXACTLY like that little girl over at my in-laws house. My immediate response was to flip the hell out; its a damn pregnant black widow for God’s sake, and I don’t know how much you know about animals, but generally speaking pregnant momma’s aren’t to be trifled with. But I remembered that little girl’s mindless fear of what was unknown to her. I remembered that, and I had to laugh at myself. I looked down at my new spider friend who had graced me with her beauty and wished her and her children well. She walked off. I felt I had been blessed by her presence.
When a bee is buzzing around your head outside, do you really believe that the bee is on a kamikaze mission towards you? Do you really think that you’re that important to the bee? Clearly there are those with allergies to such venom who have legitimate need to be wary, but the end-state remains the same: You are far more likely to incur injury from a critter by introducing the element of fear into the equation than if you simply recognize that your paths have crossed and that you should maintain a healthy respect towards it and its capabilities. There are those who say it is a divine blessing to be graced with the presence of various wild organisms. The spider is a totem, the bee is a totem, the dog, the bear, the bird, they all have their place and their own innate meaning in life. They're just kinda doin their thing, and you’re all over here makin assumptions about it being some kind of devil. Obviously when you react accordingly in such fear-based thought constructs, it will now experience the fear and feel threatened.
Don’t be the little girl running away in terror from a creature that intends you no harm. If you treat a thing like a criminal long enough, then it starts to act like one. Respect all, but fear never a one.