Motherhood has amplified some of my more irrational fears. When I bend over to put Spencer in his car seat, I feel really exposed and do it as quickly as safely possible because I convinced someone is going to come up behind me, bonk me on the head and steal my baby. I classify this as possible, but extremely unlikely even when factoring in the cuteness of my baby. I also fear that I will wake up one day and he’ll be grown and on his way out the door, but that one is classified as inevitable.

There is one fear, though, that I have always had that was amplified today: strange dogs, especially large black dogs. I think this stems from my childhood when I used to always walk a few houses up the street to play at a friend’s house and in between there was this green house with a huge, black dog that would charge their fence and bark at me. It was terrifying to my eight-year-old self and may be why I have some dog issues to this day. I don’t dislike dogs, I fear dogs. Once I meet the dog I am ok. It is just the proximity to other people’s dogs, on the street, at the park or in their yard that freaks me out.

My neighbor’s have dogs that they let sit in their unfenced front yard, mostly while they are in the garage or in the front yard. This bugs me, not that these dogs are scary, but I still don’t like it when they come up to Spencer’s stroller when I am walking by their house. And the neighbor, not walking over, just calling out, “Oh, he’s friendly” doesn’t cut it. I have a baby, control your dog. (Full disclosure, part of me can’t stand these dogs or neighbors because they let their dogs poop in my yard and my elderly neighbor’s yard. And don’t ever clean it up.) But those dogs aren’t the issue. Today.

I walked to the grocery store today, pushing Spencer in his stroller. I brought my own bag. I was doing my best to be an eco-friendly suburbanite. I went in the afternoon, which is not our usual time for walks. I don’t always like walking in the afternoons because our sidewalks are a little more crowded and I am a bit of a passive-aggressive yielder. I’ll yield every time, but I will resent you for it. I also took a new route. It is pretty much a grid, so all that means is that I went down a new street. Actually it wasn’t even a new street, just a new side of the street. This was on the way home. And there is was. My nightmare come to life. A huge, black dog sitting in the middle of an unfenced front yard.

I didn’t see it in enough time to cross the street because it was half hidden by a car in the driveway. The owner was in his open garage staring at me as I walked by. The dog moved just enough to freak me the hell out. A slow stroll in the direction of my stroller. The owner made no move from the garage, didn’t call the dog over, didn’t yell out, he’s friendly. I’m sure the look on my face was uncomfortable to say the least. I just kept walking and kept my pace. I’m not sure whether the advice don’t run applies to dog attacks or bear attacks, but it seemed like sound advice.

And nothing happened. It was fine, but I freaked out. If it had happened on the way to the store I would have turned around. I don’t want to be an entitled parent, but an acknowledgement would have been nice. It made me wish I took my husband up on his offer to get me a taser for my birthday.  And I won’t walk on the side of the street again.

And here is the point where I feel compelled to discuss privilege. Yes, I live in a neighborhood with sidewalks, with a park; I live in a house; the neighborhood is safe for walking during the day and (mostly) during the evening. And I live in the suburbs in Southern California. That said, I don’t think I need to be scared of the neighbors’ pets while I am walking my privileged ass around the neighborhood.

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