Black Dog Syndrome

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I have a history with big, black dogs.

When I was just a toddler, my parents had a dog, Buttons. It was a pinscher-mix-type mutt, their “before kids” kid. And it hadn’t ever shown aggression to anyone.


The story goes that my parents were feeding the dog Cheez-Its. I crawled up, and they gave me a Cheez-It, too. And then the dog attacked me, nearly ripping my little ear off. They loved me more than the dog, so they got rid of it (or put him down – I don’t remember).

So I spent a few weeks looking like this. I have no memory of any of this at all, but I’ve never liked big dogs.


Then, when I was in eighth grade, it snowed. It snowed enough for us to be out of school for three weeks. My mom had pretty recently gone back to work, at least part-time, and after all these snow days in a row – we had a TON of snow for central Virginia – she needed to work. I was plenty old to take care of my sister, who was in fifth grade.

But I was tired of playing in the snow. One day my sister went outside with our next-door neighbor. She tried to pet their dog, a black Lab who was chained behind their house. And the dog attacked my sister, tearing a gash into her arm.

What I remember is calling my mom at work, hysterical. Our neighbor taking us to the hospital in his work van. How Ashley’s coat wasn’t torn even though her arm was. But somewhere in there, apparently I tightly wrapped the wound and elevated her arm, they say. My babysitter brain kicked in even though I have no memory of it doing so.

So see, I am kind of biased against big, black dogs. (And by the way, you are BIASED. You have a BIAS. There’s your grammar lesson for today.)

And then God saw to it to put us on a campus full of them. When we moved here, we lived next door to a man with an elderly black lab called Bio. Bio was absolutely the sweetest, most gentle dog I’ve ever met. When we moved to another dorm, Bio and his owner moved with us. And in the apartment on the floor between our two apartments lived two MORE big black dogs.

Is the universe trying to tell me something?

My boys love dogs. Their exposure has been mostly to these big old ebony-furred friends. Little by little, my defenses against such animals is wearing down. Maybe someday I’ll be able to approach a black Lab without any fear at all.


{Apparently Black Dog Syndrome is an actual thing, according to Wikipedia. Who knew? My prejudice does come from real life and not TV and movies.}

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