DEAR READERS: Every year during this time I step away from my column to work on other creative projects. I hope you enjoy these “Best Of” Q&A from 10 years ago. Today’s topic is: “Dog Gone.”
I also invite readers to subscribe to my weekly “Asking Amy” newsletter, at Amydickinson.substack.com, where I post advice, as well as commentary about what I’m reading, watching, and listening to.
I’ll be back with fresh Q&As next week.
DEAR AMY: My brother is getting married outdoors and has invited his friends to bring their dogs to his wedding. His own dog, a coyote-pit bull mix, will be part of the ceremony. My 4-year-old, who is also part of the ceremony, is frightened of dogs (I am sure this is partly my own doing). I am afraid of big dogs, and his dog really scares me. I don’t want my kids to be afraid of dogs, yet I am afraid of them and I am sure the dogs can sense that. How should I handle this?
DEAR FRIGHTENED: I shared your letter with Julie Klam, author of “Love at First Bark: How Saving a Dog Can Sometimes Help You Save Yourself” (2011, Riverhead Books). She reports that, as a child, she was bitten by a dog, but she has overcome her fears and now has three dogs in her household — and an 8-year-old child.
Klam says, “Find a friend or relative with a small, low-key dog (not a puppy, they’re too hyper) and arrange to go and visit a few times. Take it super slow. I’ve had kids who are afraid to come to meet my dogs and they are really anxious at first, but then, when the dogs are calm and aren’t jumpy, they feel a little braver and sometimes may even pet them. When kids get through it, they feel so proud of themselves that they frequently want to go further.”
I agree with this advice to acquaint yourselves in advance with dogs you know are good with kids. The more successful encounters you all have with dogs, the easier this will be, but you should also coach your children to NEVER touch a dog without the owner’s permission.
If the child is not able to handle it at this point, she/he should be excused from the wedding party; realistically, you have no way of knowing how all of these canine guests will interact at this event.
DEAR AMY: My son lives two houses away from us. He has two big dogs that are in our front yard all the time. We have small dogs that stay in the house. When my son’s dogs are in our yard, our dogs start barking at them and leaping at the windows. I hate to tell my son to keep his dogs inside or turn him in. There is a leash law here, but they don’t enforce it. What do I do to keep from getting mad? This barking is driving me crazy. The leaping at the windows is destructive to my windows, the curtains and to me.
DEAR MOM: Your son is violating the local leash law, the unspoken law of respect between neighbors and — hello — the most important law of all, which is to be nice to your mother. You should tell your son that this is driving you and your dogs crazy. Ask him to respect the neighborhood and keep his dogs contained or on a leash. If his dogs are running around the neighborhood, they could also damage neighborhood property, injure people or other pets, or get hit by a car. But you don’t have to point out any of this. You just have to ask him to please keep the dogs confined on his property.
DEAR AMY: I’ve enjoyed the letters in your column about losing pets. I inherited two cats from my niece when she had her first baby. I looked after them as my niece had her second and then third child. Years later, after the cats had finally died, my sister asked me if I would get another. I told her no — I didn’t want to feel the pain when the cat died. My sister said not to worry — I’d be dead long before the cat died. That reminded me to update my will.
DEAR UNCLE: An uncle who takes in and loves two cats is the very definition of a “great” uncle.