Are you afraid of flying? Spiders? Clowns? Most of us are afraid of something or other. Let’s say spiders, like Ron in Harry Potter. So if you were afraid of spiders, would you be happy to find Aragog the spider in your living room if someone said helpfully that “he won’t hurt you”? Of course not: whether or not he’ll hurt you isn’t the point. You aren’t afraid that a spider might hurt you, you’re afraid of spiders.
So let me tell you about the family who live up my road. I don’t know them – they’re a fair bit further up my road than leads to casual conversation. But since my operation I’ve been walking up and down the road a fair bit, because it’s half a mile to the bench and a mile to the Garden Centre, so I often get in my daily steps by walking either to the bench or to the garden centre and back.
The other day I walked past the house, and the kids were doing something or other in the front garden with their dad. And their big goofy labrador was sitting just inside the gate watching the world go by, and the gate wasn’t shut.
Now I’m not phobic about dogs, but I’ve never had one and I’m not terrifically comfortable around them. And I had abdominal surgery and I am (and I think legitimately) terrified of a big friendly dog jumping up and putting its weight on my scars. So when big goofy dog saw me coming and wanted to make friends (and he was out of the minute gap between the gate and the fence in a flash) I froze. He lolloped up to me… and the kids and dad all yelled “No Igor!” (or possibly Ivor) and the dad was out of the gate almost as fast as Igor/Ivor, collared him and firmly escorted him back inside the fence. And shut the gate. And said sorry.
See, that’s what you do if your dog is friendly to someone you don’t know. You don’t let him have his moment and say “he won’t hurt you”. Because it’s not up to you to judge what constitutes “hurt” for someone else. You don’t know if the person is just a bit nervous around strange dogs, or has just had abdominal surgery, or feels about dogs like Ron Weasley did about Aragog. That’s not within your control, or your responsibility. Whereas your dog, is. Thank you, thoughtful neighbours, and responsible pet owners everywhere.