‘Man’s best friend’, my sworn enemy

2015-06-24 06:00

“FEAR is the flesh, the gorgeous dress my skeleton wears,” wrote renowned Zimbabwean author and poet Dambudzo­ Marechera.

Clad in this garment and adding onto Marechera’s words in the presence of a canine regardless of its size - Chihuahua, pitbull, poodle or German Shepard - man’s best friend makes me feel like an impostor masked in a balaclava and armed with malicious intent, a weapon and an assortment of tools used by burglars.

Barks explode with terror as my knees tremble and instinct tells me to dash like the “Road Runner”, kicking up dust as my belongings and screams are flung into the air. Woof-woof and a nerve-induced Pistorious-like feminine­ shriek amuses onlookers.

“Do not run, do not run,” the laughing lot of liars try to convince me otherwise. However, within minutes I’m a stranger in someone’s living room shaking like a spooked child with a warm and itchy liquid trickling down my leg and gluing my pants to my flesh.

Yes, “fear is the flesh, the gorgeous dress my skeleton wears”, but to avoid embarrassment I do not refer to my fear of dogs as a fear, I prefer calling it a “dislike”. In instances when the pet looks like a predator in its prime I fake an allergy and sneeze profusely like a traditional healer about to divine.

I’ve been advised countless times - “never run, just stand still and don’t show you fear it”, or “act as if you are picking up a stone and it will turn and run”.

Once I tried the latter, but ended up hurling curses instead of stones as I sped towards a group of boys playing street soccer and ducked behind them as they let out a howling “guffaw” and shooed the beast away. I never should have listened to those amateur “dog whisperers”.

A few weeks ago I was forced to face my fears when one morning, while making my way to the taxi stop, I stumbled on a pack of dogs sprawled across the narrow path, enjoying the morning sun.

I carefully stepped back, making sure I did not startle them and disturb their morning peace and I opted for being 30 minutes late for work, hoping, all the way, that my editor will understand.

“She’ll understand,” I murmured to myself while shaking off the nerves like a furry creature shaking off dust.

My fear had me thinking the other day - it is my lack of knowledge about dogs, their behaviour and my refusal to change this that makes my fear of them have power over me, creating emotions of loathing and resentment of dogs.

I should give myself more time to try and learn more about canines so I can understand them and not fear them so much to the point where I hate them.

Just like us humans I suppose who need to give ourselves more time to learn about each other, our cultures and communities - local or foreign - so that we can better understand and tolerate each other so we can work together as best friends reconciled and united in the cause for building a better country


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