I am afraid of dogs. I know, we had Ky and my family and friends have dogs and I am not afraid of them, but the sad truth is: I am afraid of dogs. And I now live in a place where stray dogs are everywhere and no leash laws exist for the dogs that do have homes. As anyone who walked with me in Wisconsin knows, I was ruthless in chastising dog owners whose dogs were running wild because invariably the owner was carrying a leash, but just didn’t think that his or her darling needed to be restrained. No such luck here so I need to adjust my thinking.
At first, it wasn’t so bad because Matt and I were together and I could casually maneuver to put him between me and those canine teeth. Matt likes dogs, so he either didn’t notice or didn’t care. There were times where I would make us cross the street if the dog looked particularly scary to me, generally meaning it was big or had German shepherd or pitbull looks. I know, I know, Ky was a German Shepherd mix, but fear is not rationale (don’t get me started on clowns). Within a couple of weeks, I could recognize the dogs in the neighborhood: two black labs by the hardware store, the pitbull mix that trots around the neighborhood and is often by the little green space a few blocks away, the fluffy, little, curly-haired, mixed-breed siblings, the list goes on. These dogs pretty much ignore us and I managed to walk around them with only minor heart palpitations.
So I was feeling pretty good about my dog issues when Matt started school and I was on my own. I went for my walks and practiced yoga breathing and silent “nice doggie” mantras. At times, I likely looked drunk or incredibly confused as I would crisscross the street to avoid scary looking dogs. But I thought I had progressed well in conquering my phobia.
Then I set off on the best walk in the area, on the bike path to Otuzco. Matt and I had walked this route the prior weekend and I loved it. The paved path runs along a river and the road has little traffic. If it weren’t for all of the garbage in the river, the scenery would be breathtaking with the mountains, river and farms. It still is very picturesque and it is nice to walk without worrying about sudden holes or the amount of diesel in the air. The dog population didn’t appear greater in this area, so I had none beyond my usual worries as I walked along.
My goal was the bridge, which is about a 4-mile, round trip walk. On the way out I noticed a few excavating sites on the opposite side of the road and didn’t give them much thought. On the way back, a truck was backing out of one such site and a worker and a scrawny dog were on the path in front of me. I watched the truck, walked past the worker and dog, and YIP YIP YIP! SNARL SNARL! SNAP! The little shit bit me! Okay, it wasn’t really a bite, no skin was broken, but it was a nip that meant business. I screamed and looked at the guy who impassively stared at me and said nothing. Needless to say I scurried away, looking over my shoulder in fear of pursuit. I then decided that arming myself was necessary. Not sure how much that will help as I have no aim and can fit rocks slightly larger than pebbles in my hands. Score: Dog 1.
My confidence was shot, and I stuck to the diesel clogged Atahualpa path the rest of the week. But I vowed that I had to try the bike path at least once a week to conquer my tormentor. The additional downside was that I again feared every dog I saw, even the ones in my neighborhood who I had learned to … tolerate, and I set off on walks with my ammo.
So the next week I again set off down the bike path. I got a great aerobic workout because my heart was beating so fast the entire time that I thought I was going to puke. About 100 feet away from the site I was clutching my rocks, doing deep breathing and peaceful visualization when the dog raced to the top of a rock pile the edge of the site and started growling and barking at me. A worker yelled at the dog, but I was done and did a quick about face and hurried away. Score: Dog 2.
Week three I again faced the bike path. Same routine: rocks, deep breathing, positive vibes. I made a point to greet anyone I passed thinking that perhaps they would come to my aid in the event of an attack. About 200 feet from the site of doom I saw two women walking toward me. Heck, they looked just like me but Peruvian: my height, capris, sneakers, and baseball caps. I watched with interest how the mangy cur would react to them and …nothing. Emboldened (unless the dog was prejudiced and didn’t like Americans) I strode toward the site, looking out of the corner of my eye. No dog! The workers were there so I nodded and waved to one and carried on my way to the bridge. Of course, I had to walk back past the site and again, no dog. Score: Kerry 1 by forfeit.
So it is now week 4 and I have yet to get in my bike path walk. I have time… and rocks!
Note: Before my animal lover friends take me to task for the rocks, know that I don’t wish the dogs ill and don’t really want to throw rocks at them. But if my choice is throw rocks or get bit, I’m gonna throw the rocks. And don’t tell me you would do differently.