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Long Island

This mom’s fear of dogs has a Happy ending

Last year, I rode up to the country with my wife, Bobby, one of our daughters and two dogs.

I sat in the back seat armed with goodies for the dogs in order to make certain that they would not bother one particular occupant of the car — my wife.

The trip reminded me of another about 50 years ago when our three children were very little. My wife’s fear of dogs was being transferred to them to the point where they would cross a street to avoid going near a dog, even if the dog were leashed.

Bobby, one of the great mothers of all time, recognized that this was not a good situation. She thought that perhaps we should adopt a dog. Wow, I thought! This is wonderful!

Fortuitously, a friend had a year-old cocker spaniel named Happy which she wanted to give away. Perfect!

It looked like a match, but first we had to interview Happy to make certain that he was “safe.” So all five of us piled into our station wagon and drove the 30 minutes to the interview.

The interview went as well as it could go with three children fearfully approaching the lovely little blonde gentleman and withdrawing as soon as he tried to befriend them. But despite this little problem, he showed off his tricks and exuded his joy at meeting new people, and he passed the interview with flying colors.

The die was cast. He would be returning with us with his little bowl for water and another for his food, and a tiny squeak toy. With little fuss, he jumped into the rear portion of our station wagon, with the kids in the seat in front of him. Bobby and I occupied the front seat.

Happy seemed content as we started off. Little did we know that he had never ridden in a car before. Just as we passed a firehouse the alarm went off. We continued driving, and within what seemed like seconds, the huge fire engines blasted past us with their horns and sirens blaring. Their whistles shrieked and their huge engines provided the bass to their frantic song. Our little cocker spaniel became agitated, and started howling and jumping around putting the car into instant pandemonium.

Now the kids became agitated and started to jump around, terrified of the monstrous threat in the far back of the vehicle. As if this were not sufficient, their mom, became alarmed and her old fears surfaced. She insisted I stop the car. In fact, she had her hand on the door handle threatening to jump out if I did not stop. So I swerved into the first place I could pull over, Bobby jumped out of her side of the car, and opened my door before I could even get out of my seat.

She decided that she was going to drive after I maneuvered the three kids into the front seat. (There were no seat belts then.) With those four all huddled together and apparently safe from the monster in the rear. I then climbed into the rear of the car leaving the back seat as a buffer. I held the poor animal who was shaking with fear himself, and we started for home.

The remainder of the trip was uneventful, and Happy moved into our home where he became a loving member of our family. He stayed with us for 16 years, adored and pampered by our kids, and though Bobby never loved him, they lived in peaceful coexistence. Our children were freed from their fears and became lovers of all dogs. Today they each have two of their own.

It was an adventure.

Mark Smoller


YOUR STORY Letters and essays for MY TURN are original works by readers that have never appeared in print or online. Share special memories, traditions, friendships, life-changing decisions, observations of life, or unforgettable moments for possible publication. Email, or write to Act 2 Editor, Newsday Newsroom, 235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville, NY 11747. Include name, address and phone numbers. Photos if available.

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