Beyond Human True Tales
"Making a Strange Friend"
I was walking a few blocks from the Fort Harrison Hotel on a HOT August
day on my way to my prenatal appointment. I was walking slowly because I
was 8 months pregnant but you cannot walk fast in the Florida heat trying to
push limbs through the thick humid air even UN-pregnant.
I came to the corner of Fort Harrison and Chestnut and I heard a dog barking
in the distance but coming closer. As I walked there was a rundown house
attached to a junk yard. (It was exactly where the HESS station is now) I
realized the dog was in that junk yard and looked to see if the gate was shut.
Alas, it was not. Before I could even think the angry barking dog came into
view and shot out that gate towards me. I was the only person walking on
the street but if you've been through a Clearwater summer you'd know why.
This dog charged me and I stopped walking. I stood PERFECTLY still
because my legs wouldn't move and I didn't know what to do.
This was the filthiest biggest Doberman Pincher I'd ever seen. He barked
and barked that kind of snarly, full mouth of teeth exposed kind of bark while
snapping and flashing teeth. He was a dreaded JUNK YARD DOG. As he
barked he jumped higher and higher because he was so agitated. With
each jump his snarling mouth came inches from my very pregnant belly.
I was "frozen" with fear and could not think so I turned to a car which was at
the stop light and ridiculously asked the young people in the car if the dog
belonged to them. They gawked at what was happening, shook their heads
slowly and sped off as soon as the light changed.
I was as still as I could possibly manage but this dog was not flagging in his
ardor to rend me. In fact I'd say he was winding himself up for the attack
despite my immobility. I was terrified.
Then I remembered somewhere in my childhood my mother had said that
dogs can sense your fear and that this gets them to attack. I was definitely
feeling fear and he was winding up for an attack.
I began to think that if I could just lessen my fear I could calm him down. I
thought that I should talk to him but I could not seem to be able to get my
mouth to work and "What to say?".
Finally I decided that I needed to find SOMETHING I could like about this dog
to help me stop being so afraid. So I began to talk to him. I thought that if he
were my dog I'd kiss his nose but his was mud-crusted to the extreme.
Nonetheless I said, "You know, if you were my dog I'd kiss your nose. I'd rub
you and hug you and I'd kiss your nose ALLLLLL the time." I kept rambling
nonsense about his nose which I was surprisingly beginning to like. I was
actually raising my AFFINITY* for him and lowering my fear at the same
I was soooo busy creating something to talk to him about I nearly didn't notice
that he was not jumping while he barked anymore and then with my
continued talking he began to bark less and less. After a while (perhaps 5
minutes) he wasn't barking anymore and was just standing there looking up
at me. I didn't know what to make of it. It seemed as if he was feeling
friendlier but how could I take that chance. I continued talking nonsense and
admiring him more. After about 3 minutes more I decided that I was not
feeling any ANGER coming from him. In fact I seemed to feel some
AFFINITY, I thought, coming from him.
I finally said to him, "Look, I've got to go. I need to get to my appointment.
It's up this street about 3 blocks or so. In order to do that I need to start
walking. Now I don't want to alarm you or anything but I'm going to start
walking. It's okay with me if you want to walk with me but I really have to go
now, okay?" I'm now thinking that I'm NUTS. This dog is not understanding
a thing I've said to him. I'm going to slide my foot forward and he's going to
tear me to shreds. Nevertheless I picked up my left foot in preparation to
As soon as I lifted my foot slightly he jumped to the side, turned and ran
down the street in the direction I'd been headed! That froze me to the spot.
He galloped back to where I was and ran ahead again. "It almost looks like
he is playing with me" I thought, "but that's crazy!" He ran back to me and
ran behind me. He nudged me forward with his nose. I GOT it!! He WAS
playing with me. It was okay for me to walk.
I walked down the street, a bit shaky, and all the while he kept running to the
far corner and running back to run along side me. When I got to that far
corner he crossed the street with me and ran the NEXT block with me and
the next. I now needed to cross Fort Harrison. I was concerned for my
"friend". I realised that he'd understood when I said he could come with me
and so he did. Now I was confident that he would understand when I said, "I
have to go across the street and inside. You cannot go with me so you
need to go back home. When I'm finished I'll come back by your place and
we can play again."
He turned and ran back to the corner. Before he crossed he turned to look
back at me. He then ran the next block and paused to look back. When I
was confident that he was truly going home I went in to my appointment.
When I came back he was nowhere to be seen. As I approached his
"house" I heard him barking and baying dolefully in the distance. I noticed
as I passed that someone had finally locked the gate this time and more than
likely he was chained up back there somewhere too or my friend would at
least have been at the fence, I was sure. I whispered that I was glad to have
met him and sent him some good wishes as I passed. Of course I never saw
my friend again but that experience taught me that AFFINITY and
UNDERSTANDING are paramount and can get through to ANYTHING and
anyone human or not!! This datum has helped me greatly in the 25 years
since this story happened and I often think of that dog and thank him for what
he helped me learn.
By Deborah Dunham. Also by Deborah:
"Thing About Moms and Food" by Deborah Dunham
*Affinity-liking, willingness to be close to
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Page created 7/11/09