Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

An Irrational Fear

I’m afraid of dogs.  I can’t remember a time when I haven’t been, but I’m told it all started when I was three years old.  An incident with a very large dog and an owner, who thought that trying to force a screaming terrified child to hug her dog was a good idea, left me physically unhurt but not without scars.  To this day, man’s best friend is still capable of filling my heart with terror.

Things have got better over the years.  When I was little, I went through phases of having to be dragged out of the house, I was so afraid I might meet a dog.  My mother would put pepper dust onto the soles of my shoes, telling me that it would keep dogs away from me.  (I’m not sure that this was a wholly practical proposition but I believed it because my Mum had told me in no uncertain terms that it was true, and it gave me the confidence to walk to school on my own.)  In my teens, I’d avoid streets where I knew ‘monsters’ lived, and cross the road if I saw someone approaching me with a dog on a lead.

In my twenties, I made a breakthrough.  On a long train journey I fell into conversation with a couple who were blind, each of whom had a guide dog.  These beautiful, placid creatures didn’t seem so very bad to me, and after a while I gathered up the courage to ask if I might touch one of them.  They agreed, giving their dogs a command to sit still, so that I could reach out and stroke them.  I’ll always remember this couple, who so generously helped me face my fears and shared in my achievement.

And… it’s better now.  I walk wherever I please, and if I give dogs a wide berth, and sometimes jump when one takes notice of me, then so be it.  But here’s the thing.  It’s an irrational fear.  Annie O’Neil’s gorgeous, gentle Bernese Mountain Dog failed to scare me even slightly, even though I’m sure he was bigger than me!  Another friend has a Red Setter, whose main aim in life seems to be to knock visitors over and lick them to death, and I can deal with that.  I adore Kate Hardy’s and Lynne Marshall’s Facebook posts about their dogs, and have been known to reach out and stroke them on my computer screen.  But at times, even the tiniest dog can have me racing for cover, and I can’t be persuaded to approach it.

The only answer I have for loving owners who push their dogs towards me, telling me that I can’t possibly be afraid of their dog, is that yes actually, I can.  I have no idea why some dogs scare me and some don’t, but I’m always immeasurably grateful to those owners who allow me to keep my distance if I need to and approach their dog in my own time.

If I’ve learned one thing, it’s to respect other people’s fears.  To accept that it takes courage to face them, and and that everyone needs to be able to dictate what they can and can’t do.  In every other area of my life, I can assess risk and use logic to decide what I should and shouldn’t be afraid of.  I’ll pick up the biggest spider from the bathtub and carry it carefully out of the house, I know that flying is statistically a very safe form of transport… and so on.  But this is a fear I can’t explain, and if it doesn’t make much sense to anyone else I guess that’s the thing about irrational fear…

You’d think, wouldn’t you, that after all this I’d tell you that I don’t like dogs.  But strangely enough I love dogs.  I’ve always wanted one, even though I know it’s impossible.  Imagine me at a puppy training class 🙂  Or in the park, when another dog wanders innocently up to make friends with mine 🙂  But if anyone’s ever wondered why so many of my heroes and heroines have dogs of their own…  well they’re my dogs.  The ones I can’t have in real life, but can love and look after on the page.  Bruno, the retired rescue dog, who has the courage to save his master.  Trader, who’s at his mistresses side when she’s alone and frightened.  Jeff the faithful friend who’s been with his master through thick and thin, Maisie the mountain rescue dog, and Arthur the beagle puppy.  They all mean a great deal more to me than just four-legged characters in a story.

I have to admit that it’s taken a bit just to write about my irrational fear, and I’m not sure that I understand it any better.  Do you have an irrational fear?  I guess that everyone has something…  And can you explain it?  I’d love to hear what you think!


12 thoughts on “An Irrational Fear”

  1. I loathe frogs.Slimy, loud, green and nasty. I have never been “attacked” by one, but I hate them all the same. When we first moved to Florida, the house we rented had one of those photo murals of the summer woods on the back wall of our master bedroom. Combined with the green shag carpeting, it was a woodland paradise. Throw in the hundreds of one inch tree frogs outside of the windows that lived by the little lake 4 houses down and croaked all night long, it became mt biggest nightmare! I never saw a frog in the house, but I was glad our next, permanent home was far from water!

    1. Oh my goodness, Laurie! I’m not exactly sure how I feel about frogs, as they’re pretty few and far between here, and I’ve never encountered them en masse like that. Just goes to show how the most well intentioned decor can go horribly wrong. I’m glad you’re far away from your nightmare now! x

  2. Hi Annie

    I have a DIL who is scared of dogs cats rabbits so I know what is it like for people hugs for me such a silly thing but I do not like tradesman having to come to my house to fix anything plumber electrician I panic and most times I go out and leave my hubby at home to deal with it and I have no idea why but I have been this way since we moved into our home 39 years ago, so if something needs repairing I leave it as long as as I can before we ring someone weird I know but that is me 🙂

    Have Fun


    1. I guess all our fears might seem a little idiosyncratic to those who don’t share them, but the one thing I’m sure of is that that they’re never silly, Helen 🙂 How great that your hubby comes to the rescue, so that you can go out when the tradesmen come round. x

  3. Hey Annie – I was attacked by a German Shepherd when I was 7 and its left me with a life long mistrust of dogs. Dogs I dont know that is. WE had our own 2 dogs and all my friends dogs are okay too but if I have to go to someone’s place I dont know for some reason, the first question I always ask is, do you have a dog. I like to be mentally prepared because, yep, as soon as I hear a dog bark nearby, my adrenaline is pumping!

    1. It’s the unpredictability, isn’t it Amy? You’re right, being mentally prepared is the key 🙂

      How great that you’ve had your own dogs! I think that having animals of your own really does help, as does our instinct not to pass the fear on. Most of my bravest moments with dogs have been when I’m with children. x

      1. My daughter used to be terrified of dogs when she was little which meant *I* had to be the brave one around them!!!! Then we got our own and it changed overnight. From that moment on she’d go up to any dog, no matter how fierce looking and pat it. Still does!
        It was the most amazing thing!

        1. Oh bless her! How fantastic that your family dog helped your daughter overcome her fears! Oddly enough, I found that having a cat lessened my fears – I’m not sure how that works, but it did seem to 🙂

  4. I feel lucky that I don’t have any huge fears, but know it’s a very real thing, even when they don’t make sense. My husband’s cousin is terrified to fly, and no amount of therapy or working on it has fixed it. It’s truly sad for her, as right now her entire family (husband, kids, sisters and their families) are all being treated to a trip to Greece by her parents. Everyone is there having a wonderful experience, and she’s home because she can’t get the courage to get on a plane. She’s gotten a lot of criticism and lambasting for her intense fear, but obviously if she could just ‘get over it’ and not miss out, she would.

    Glad you’ve had a few positive experiences with gentle dogs over the years, Annie! Thanks for sharing xoxo

    1. Oh Robin, how sad for your husband’s cousin. I hope she finds herself some nice things to do while her family are away, it must have been such a disappointment for her not to be able to join them in Greece.

      And yes, the positive experiences are really the best way to overcome these fears 🙂 Criticism definitely doesn’t help! xx

  5. What a lovely blog, and thank you for being so honest. People who love dogs need to understand that not everyone does. There are usually reasons why – because there are many mean and terribly scary dogs out there!. I’ve had to rescue Milo from stray dogs on many a walk, and I don’t know what comes over me, but I go completely alpha when anyone I love is in danger. So Imagine me sternly yelling – get back! while holding Milo in my arms. I even kicked on dog in the chest (a Rottweiler!) because he would back off. He looked as surprised as I was after I put my foot to his chest and pushed him away.

    I have an irrational fear of bees. Though I love them and know the world needs them, and they make my garden complete. But please don’t fly anywhere near me, and NEVER let me hear your buzzing near my ears. I will freak out, even if I’m driving. Here’s the kicker, I’ve never been stung.

    Keep writing your dog heroes, I love them!

    1. Lynne you’re my heroine – and Milo’s too! The stray dogs are the worst, and you’re so brave to protect him from them. I love your pictures and posts about Milo on Facebook!

      Big hugs on the bees! It’s funny how this love / hate thing works – we know that something is valuable or worthy of our love, but we just can’t bring ourselves to do it. I know a few people who just can’t sit still when bees come anywhere near them. Irrationally enough it’s usually me who brushes them calmly away – I say irrationally because I have been stung a few times. It’s a conundrum :). xx

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