Angus has an extreme fear of dogs. Has so for a while now. I'm not entirely sure how it started. It might be to do with the extensive dog population in our area. Our neighbours on either side have dogs... and not just one, but 3 in one house, 4 in the other. They bark, they snarl, they snap. No doubt it is a bit overwhelming for a not quite 3 and a half year old. They overwhelm me at times. I grew up with dogs though, so I didn't have this type of fear at Angus' age. But it is his anguish and we acknowledge it. We comfort and reassure him and try not to make a big deal of his squeals and terrified pleas for us to pick him up, every. time. he sees a dog in the vicinity.
On Sunday, we had a rather odd encounter, while playing with the boys at a local park. A lady was walking a large black dog, off the leash. Angus preoccupied at first with our game of frisbee throwing. Until the large black dog made an excited, bounding, b-line straight for him. Angus realising the dog was heading in his direction, at pace, squealed and ran as fast as he could to me. Scott had already swooped Felix up from the grass, naturally wanting to avoid a collision between a 10 month old baby and a large dog.
The lady owner proceeded to instruct Angus not to be afraid of her dog. She continued by saying the worst thing a child can do is run from a dog, as it will make the dog chase them more. I am sure she wasn't aware that she was talking to a not quite 3 and a half year old child. Right? Right?? What amazed me about this situation was the lady persisted with her plight about how gentle and loving her dog was and that she used to tell her children the same thing when they were scared of dogs. Then repeatedly urged a clearly frightened Angus to go over and pat her dog. It was an awkward moment, as I smiled politely, consoling Angus in my arms. I honestly thought I might have to physically restrain Scott, who stood holding Felix, expressionless. I know my husband, he was not impressed.
The encounter started me thinking about crossing the line with other people's children. I felt this woman crossed the line with my child. I feel she had no right to lecture our little boy, particularly regarding a matter that was obviously disturbing to him. I met up with a friend of mine yesterday for a park play date and there was a dog in the park we were in. Within minutes, she had spoken to her little boy (also Angus' age) about not going near the dog, because it was a strange dog and we shouldn't go near strange dogs. Whether Angus' fear of dogs is unnatural or not, it is something for us to deal with, in our own time. My friend summed it up in one sentence, "I would rather the kids be more cautious, than trusting of dogs unfamiliar to them". My thoughts exactly.