Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Big Dogs

I admit it. I'm afraid of big dogs. Well, not only big dogs. Medium-sized dogs can sometimes instill fear in me, too, depending on the circumstances. In fact, anything larger than miniature has the potential to set my pulse racing. I'm not sure when I developed this fear, but it was most likely back in 1995 when a rottweiler rushed me from behind a trash can in the Pere la Chaise cemetery in Paris, and bit my leg. It was actually more of a nip than a bite, but the whole experience left me pretty shaken. And they know it. We all know dogs can sense fear, so no matter how much of a front I try to put up; how sweetly I try to talk to them and how confidently I extend my hand for them to sniff, I tend to illicit a bit of aggression from most dogs. Once I even had a labrador retriever jump upon me, growling. The owner was clearly mortified as she pulled him off of me, expressing sincere regret and assuring me she's never seen her dog behave like this before. It's a pretty crappy feeling, really...dogs not liking me. Makes me feel like a bit of a freak. I should add that things usually go much better if I am properly introduced to a dog, and if I know the dog's owner well. Once I get to "know" most canines, a normal human-dog relationship typically follows. Although whether it's my size or the underlying unease, they still tend to behave a little dominantly around me.

So...not sure what I was thinking today when I decided to go catch some rays in the local dog park. I had come across it for the first time on a walk through a local neighborhood the other evening, and was taken in by the green grass, bountiful trees and soft, rolling hills. I also notice several people lounging about on the grass who were not accompanied by dogs; they were simply reading or enjoying picnic meals. So I decided that I would have to take advantage of this pretty location, and decided to do so today while the sun was shining and the temperature was a comfortable 72.

I found a nice, open spot on a hill and had just plunked down on my towel when a mid-sized, ballistic terrier of some kind rushed over from out of nowhere and proceeded to jump all over me, nipping at my hands and neck. His owner appeared then, and simply watched with amusement as I tried to hide my horror and spoke to the dog with what I hoped was friendly authority. "Good boy, that's a nice nice, now!" He was not being nice. He briefly quit jumping all over me long enough to grab my purse and shake it violently, spreading the contents of it all over the grass. Just as I reached for my purse, I felt a presence behind me, and the terrier was joined by a black lab, who merrily pounced on my 4' 10" frame, stepping all over me. His owner also just looked on with a smile. My immediate thought was, "What the hell, why aren't you people keeping your dogs in line?!". But it was quickly followed by the realization that this was a dog park, and I was just a pip-squeak, cat-loving sunbather, and that if I can't hang with the big dogs, I'd better just go. So I muttered, "Well, THIS was a bad idea" as I gathered up my belongings, and the owners smiled on, and the two dogs turned their attentions towards each other.

The picture above is where I ended up going afterwards...a grassy field next to the neighborhood synagogue. No dogs there, just several groups of elementary school students practicing Lacrosse. And thankfully, none of them jumped on me.

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