Thursday, November 10, 2011

Don't let's go to the dogs

I'm surprised that I've become that person who anxiously watches the results of our election on school board officials. But with my daughter in second grade now these things are important to me now.  There was a big one this election because one of the candidates wants to save money by closing at least one grade school, and since my daughter's (incredibly awesome) grade school is the one full of poor families and immigrant families it is always the first on the chopping block. Even though it is fully enrolled (with a waiting list) and has won awards.  But we live in a wealthy area (well, like being next door to the woods we are next door to the wealth) so they would never dream of trying to close the wealthy schools even though they have not won any awards recently and both are under enrolled.  It sounds crazy and like one of those "How can they do that?" things, but it is true. Anyway, the one who wanted to close schools has lost.  Yay!  I'm also anxiously awaiting results on the city council positions but they haven't been published so far.  These things matter more in a small town.  In Seattle when the city council was stupid it would just be awash in the crowdedness of a city that grew too fast and is bursting at the seams anyway.

This cold I have seems to be getting nastier by the day which is disconcerting.  Last night I could barely sleep because I kept coughing.  Not the tickle in one's throat cough but a "I can't breathe through this junk in my chest" cough.  Just as I'm trying to cut down on chemicals that I put in my body ... and cold medicine includes chemicals.  I'm thinking of going back to my old ways and just loading up on as much cold medicine as I can until this goes away. Bah.  The whole natural approach of saline rinse and humidifier during the night is not cutting it.

So dogs.  When we lived in Seattle we had one neighbor so phobic of our pitbull that her kids were not allowed to play anywhere near our house.  Here there are more people who are phobic of our pitbull but they seem to understand that they have a phobia - not that I have a vicious kid-eating dog.  My neighbor V.D. (who is from India - I've noticed most of my friends from India are scared of dogs) is terrified of the pitbull and said he has no desire to get over his phobia, but when I said, "Well, let me tell you a little bit about how to tell what a dog is thinking," he actually said that helped a lot - even if he still doesn't want to be around our dog.

My friend, D. is phobic of dogs too but has been showing signs of wanting to get past it.  She's from Nigeria but unlike my friend Laud who is from a neighboring country, Ghana, people in her life had pet dogs. Laud said in his area of Accra where he grew up people didn't have pet dogs unless they had pitbulls for attack dogs.  And they especially didn't let the dogs live in inside, let alone let them sleep under the comforter in their beds.  As Laud said, "You white people do weird things with your dogs." But D. said people had dogs, and the problem for her is that a family friend's dog attacked and bit her dad when she was a little girl.  She said it was a dog everyone knew and it just freaked out.  I explained that if you knew how to read dogs, there would be signs that the dog had the capacity to attack a human supposed unprovoked.  Because dogs, like people, don't just "snap" and become vicious.  That's like saying that because my good friend's husband seemed nice until suddenly it came out how horribly abuse he is, that he just snapped and became abusive.  But as the whole story comes out I'm seeing signs of abuse that were hidden from our little group of friends all along.  So just because my friend's husband is incredibly abusive doesn't mean that any day my husband is suddenly going to become abusive.  Especially because in our 16 years together he has not shown signs of being abusive.  It is the same way with dogs.  Our pitbull is not suddenly going to turn human-aggressive and snap.

Through all this I'm realizing that the best cure for a phobia for dogs is probably education *before* exposure.  I had a terrible phobia of spiders when I was younger and come to think of it the first thing I did to get over my phobia was start learning about spiders.  I now know way more than a non-entomologist should know about spiders.  But I wanted to learn which ones were safe and which ones weren't before I started exposing myself to them.  I'm wondering if I should start a little program for my neighbors on understanding dogs and reading their body language in order to help them get over their fears.  But then as I'm thinking about that I wonder if I would be able to teach them that because it's not something I consciously think about.  A lot like when I'm riding Girlfriend and someone says "How do you get her to stay so calm and walk so quietly because when I get on her she bolts."  I really don't have an answer for that because I'm not consciously doing anything, it's something that I learned by trial and error over the last four years and now do without thinking about it.  Since I've been around dogs since I came home from the hospital when I was about three days old, I think a lot of my reading them is just from growing up with them.

challenge for myself over the next few weeks (if I have time ...) is to attempt to write out how I can tell what dogs are feeling or doing.  Sometimes I just know though so I need to explore that further.  For instance I can tell that my dog is agitated by the way she holds her body and where her ears are and how she is moving, but knowing *why* she is agitated is a little harder to explain.

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