A kind of "hidden" fear

Discussion in 'I Have a Question...' started by Growing Pains, Dec 23, 2011.

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  1. Growing Pains

    Growing Pains Well-Known Member

    This was longer than I intended. So, if its "tl;dr", just skip to the last paragraph.

    This section does say it's for when we're "too embarrassed to seek advice"... so, it seems fitting that I'd post this here.

    A little background first. I'm a dog person. I always have been. For all my 20 years, it has been an integral part of who I am. My mom tells me that even as a kid, I wasn't afraid to approach dogs as long as I was told or I knew that the dog was friendly. I have very vague memories of a Chihuahua/Jack russell mix that I would walk every day after school. The dog wasn't even mine and I didn't even get paid to do it. I would just go to the persons house and ask if I could walk him and she'd let me (for those thinking "what a weird person", know that I was a pretty responsible kid with animals - goes back to dogs being an integral part of who I am). She ended up sending him to the pound. My mom tells me to this day that she tried to get him but by the time she called, he'd already been adopted by a senior lady. The point is - I love dogs. There's nothing about them that I don't like. I mean, yes, they can try my patience sometimes (like when my mothers Shetland sheepdog mix cocks his leg to my leg and pees or when I get home and realize I forgot to put the trash up and find that someone pulled out an empty dog food can again) and they can be messy, but everything else about them makes up for all the problem behaviors some of them come with and all the hours of training put into them. I've always had big dogs and small dogs. The biggest dog I've ever had was a 90 lb American bulldog mix. He was stockier than he was tall, but he still wasn't a little dog by any means. My dog that passed on earlier this year was a big dog, as well. My current biggest is a 35 lb American pit bull. (I would more or less call her "medium", however) So, obviously, it's not like I've never been around big dogs. But I'm rambling in order to get to my point so, the point -

    About two years ago (it will be two years in April of 2012), I was attacked by dogs. Saying "attacked" is putting it lightly. I was lucky to get away in one piece. I barely have any recollection of it. I just remember that I was more calm than my mother, that I had her call animal control while I found a ride to the hospital, and that it didn't hurt. The noises the dogs made were a lot scarier than the actual bites. I actually didn't really feel the wounds at all until much later. I, also, remember that the only person that didn't blame the dogs other than me was a very nice nurse that seemed to love dogs as much as I do. She agreed that the owners were at fault (in my case, they were) and didn't try to turn me against the dogs at all. The most I remember about the actual attack are the noises. I don't think I'll ever forget the freaking noises that dogs make when they're... like that. I've owned a lot of dogs, known a lot of dogs... and I'd never heard those noises until that day. At first, nothing changed. I was fine. I went through my set of rabies shots, dealt with our towns incompetent animal control (they never caught the dogs or the owners, I never expected them to actually "do" anything though), and life went on. I guess, as embarrassing as it is for me to admit as a dog lover, it affected me much more than I thought or want to think it did. I have no problem being around little dogs. That's fine. I can be around ten of them at one time and still feel comfortable. However, I can't much say the same for big dogs any more. I've been trying to ignore it for the past year and a half. I've been trying to tell myself it will go away on its own. Except, it hasn't. In the beginning, it was just an uncomfortable feeling around big dogs (40 lbs + usually... though, certain heights and jaw shapes will have the same effect) while they were off leash. I went to a friends house about three-six months after it (I have a really bad memory, so, excuse the large gap there) and the people in the neighborhood had apparently never heard of kennels or leashes. I was instantly greeted by a fairly large dog (at least 80 lbs) and I instantly felt uncomfortable. My friend, seeing this, assured me that he was friendly and offered to let me pet him (wasn't her dog, but she took care of him because his owners were... well, jerks). I did, but I still felt uneasy the entire time I was there. I refused to go outside without her or her husband with me. That was the first instance. Over a period of months, it grew increasingly worse. There's this Akita in my neighborhood. Beautiful dog. He's the "American" kind, so pretty big. (I'd say he's at least 110 lbs). He's a big ol' friendly lug. I know this, but I've even felt uncomfortable around him. Then, there's this Rottweiler that some friends of my family have. He's a big ol' friendly lug, as well. Doesn't do much but lie at peoples feet, follow his owner everywhere, and sleep. Once again, the feeling of being uncomfortable has crept its way into me around him, as well. It's not getting better, not like I hoped it would. I haven't told anyone (outside of this post on a forum of people I do not know in real life), as I am pretty embarrassed about it. A dog lover admitting that certain dogs make them feel uncomfortable? Just the very idea sounds like an oxymoron. Especially considering that, logically, I know the attack went right back to the owners (these were really bad owners... neglectful and abusive to boot - but like I said, our animal control is horrible so they pretty much got away with everything) and logically, I know that not every dog over 40 lbs is going to bite me.

    Still, I'm sitting in my sisters house right now because I come here quite frequently (might move in eventually) and I can't sleep. Not for the normal insomniac reasons like usual this time, but because her boyfriends big dog is sleeping in the kitchen and I'm too afraid to sleep. It took me thirty minutes to finally get the courage to even get up to use the bathroom. I can't even sleep knowing that there's a dog that big only a room away - with no door separating him from me. This fear (I admit that it might be one) is killing me. I love big dogs. I love Rottweilers, and I love Collies, and I love Saint Benards. I love small dogs, too, but I've always vowed to have at least one big dog within petting distance. Now that my one "big dog" has passed away, I'm afraid I might not ever be able to do so again. I've told myself that it would be different if it were my own dog - a dog I raised from puppy hood because I don't think adoption would work, I'd be too afraid of the newly adopted adult big dog - but I'm not entirely convinced. And I'm afraid to tell anyone I know about this because I'm afraid of them laughing or not taking me seriously because they know I'm a dog person (the latter is the most likely scenario, but the former isn't too farfetched for some of the people I know). I'm not exactly sure what I'm asking. I'd kind of like reassurance that this is a normal reaction considering what happened. Even if I don't remember much of that day, I know it happened so I know there's some part of me that does remember. I was, also, wondering if anyone had any experience with therapy for the same fear or any fear in general? I've kind of been toying with the idea. I'm still in the process of searching for therapy in general as I can't afford most of it, but it's still something to consider while I'm searching. Also, I'd like to know/hear if/that it's possible to get over such fears. I love Chihuahuas, and Yorkies, and Corgis... but I'm not sure I'd be content owning nothing but small dogs for the rest of my life. It's gotten to a point where I'm afraid to even leave my house because the owners here are pretty bad. There's a big dog that runs around the neighborhood, two aggressive and freakishly large dogs on chains that look like they're about to bust, and a group of dogs owned by owners that just don't care that run around all over the place. And animal control does nothing about it, so I just stay inside.
  2. texaskitty

    texaskitty SF Cat Lady Staff Member Safety & Support SF Supporter

    Hello, this post touched me so.

    It seems to me you are suffering from PTSD regarding larger dogs. I have PTSD too, although a different variety.

    If you are already aware, forgive me for assuming otherwise.

    It is so tough to be stuck indoors because of these fears. I don't think you should be embarassed at all.

    You went through traumatic event that has injured your mind so to speak.

    This is a legitimate problem, and nothing to be ashamed of.

  3. Growing Pains

    Growing Pains Well-Known Member

    I'm not aware. I actually never thought of that as a possibility. Must admit, kind of scary knowing that it is.

    It does get tough, and I know I probably shouldn't be embarrassed, but I feel like (at this point) that I can't help it/overcome it. Thanks for letting me know it's nothing to be ashamed of and thanks for the post. :hug:
  4. Sadeyes

    Sadeyes Staff Alumni

    I had a similar reaction when I was attacked by a neighbor's shephard (I have raised and trained shepards) whose leash was under the leg of a ladder and he came loose and went after my arm...what I did was volunteer at a rescue kennel...it is like PTSD, the sounds, the feelings, and until you allow yourself to feel what happened then, you will have to deal with the aftermath...I had to feel how scared and what pain I was in, in order to get more comfortable again...I can still feel my gut go if there are strange large dogs on the street...and please do not feel ashamed, this is an understandable reaction to a traumatic event!
  5. Growing Pains

    Growing Pains Well-Known Member

    It makes sense. I'm afraid of the idea of having to feel what I did then, but it definitely makes sense. I'm not sure that feeling in my gut will ever go away, but as long as there's a chance that I can become semi-comfortable, I suppose that's okay. Thanks for the advice. And I try hard not to feel ashamed, but it's hard not to.
  6. Nothing at all to be ashamed of. Sounds completely normal and reasonable to me.

    Maybe developing a bond with the dog might help? I'm not an expert or anything, but the dog may end up loving you and wanting to be by your side.

    I think you should talk with them about your feelings. She's your sister and you should be able to tell her anything.

    There's NOTHING wrong with you at all about the way you're feeling.
  7. Growing Pains

    Growing Pains Well-Known Member

    Normal and reasonable is reassuring. I've thought about that, but I'm not sure I'm ready yet. Maybe that's the fear speaking rather than me myself, though.

    I know I probably should talk to at least her about them (not sure I'm comfortable enough with him yet), but I don't know. My siblings and I have kind of a weird relationship. While I know we should be able to tell each other anything, we've never been able to. I'll try to bring it up eventually, regardless.
  8. prakash

    prakash Well-Known Member

    i hate dogs. i would be afraid of a dog also if he was sleeping close to me. Talk to your sister. Your feelings are normal.
  9. Tmacster1

    Tmacster1 Well-Known Member

    I'm more of a dog fan than a cat fan myself. It seems like your feelings are normal. I usually stay cautious around stray dogs. Other than that I have 2 boxer/pitbulls who are awesome. I tend to take then on moderate walks to keep them active. At least my dad is taking good care of them though.

  10. Growing Pains

    Growing Pains Well-Known Member

    Eh, I've kind of... well, I wouldn't say gotten used to the dog (as I'm still nervous around him)... but I am slightly less nervous now? I didn't exactly talk to her about it, but did realize that she understands regardless. I think she may have noticed the way I eye him sometimes and walk away when he gets too close. He's a pretty sweet dog, I'm learning. Still doesn't change the fact that certain things that he does triggers memories of what happened. (The way they jumped at me and the sounds and etc, etc) Even despite this fear of larger dogs, I'm still more of a dog person than anything. For now, I'm surrounded by mostly small dogs. Probably how it will be for a while.
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