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The Day My Son Petted a Dog

The Day My Son Petted a Dog

I don't have to pass my fears and imperfections on to my children.


Like most monumental events, the day my son petted a dog started out like any other. It was 90 degrees outside and we were sitting on the front porch reading a book when a man walked past us. He was walking a medium sized black dog with a rather sweet face, albeit large teeth.

My son called out, “Look it’s a dog,” and the man stopped in front of my porch steps and asked my son if he would like to pet it. My son looked at me and I nodded encouragingly.

We started making our way down the steps and my son stopped, scared. The man started walking away and my son called out, “No, no, I do want to pet it.”

The man came back and again my son had a false start. The man started walking away again and my son said, “Wait, I’m really going to do it!” Holding my hand, he walked up to the dog and gave the shiny black fur a nice long pat. The man smiled and walked away and in that seemingly innocuous moment I experienced a sense of great personal liberation.

Kids petting dogs happens all the time, everywhere, but it never happened in my home. I have a huge, long-standing fear of dogs that was lovingly passed on to me by my older sister who, according to the legends, was chased by a dog when she was younger. This fear has been reinforced by lack of exposure to animals over the years as well as a fair amount of avoidance. Since most people I know don’t have dogs, this fear has not impacted me enough to do anything about it. But I don’t want to pass my fears to my kids. I want them to have the joy of petting a dog and not being afraid.

So my son petting a dog is a big deal. It didn’t liberate me from my own fear of dogs but it did liberate me from a greater fear, the fear that I need to pass my flaws and imperfections on to my children. That moment was a clear demonstration that I don’t have to limit my children through my own limitations.

I don’t have to limit my children through my own limitations.

Like most people, I have many imperfections and flaws. I’m scared of dogs. I can get impatient. I sweat the small stuff. I don’t always prioritize the way I should. The list goes on. And I don’t want to pass my struggles on to my kids. They will have plenty of their own challenges and I don’t want them to be limited by mine.

I have been fortunate to learn from many people I’ve encountered that children do not to be constrained by their parents’ struggles. Like the girl who grew up watching her parents fight for years and is constantly going to classes and working with her husband to have good communication in her marriage. Like the woman whose mother was always too busy to talk and makes an effort to spend quality time with each of her children. Like the young mother who grew up without any toys or games or fun and makes sure she sits on the floor and plays a silly game with her kids each day.

And like me, in a small way, on the day my son petted a dog. And, who knows, maybe next time, I’ll even pet the dog along with him.

August 26, 2017

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Visitor Comments: 5

(3) Anonymous, September 4, 2017 12:03 AM

Let the dog sniff the back of your hand first

Apparently in a dog's world, it is considered "good manners" if you hold out the back of your hand first for the dog to sniff, while kindly talking to the dog and getting acquainted, before patting it. That way the risk of being bitten is apparently greatly reduced and changed into a nice experience for both dog and human.

It also goes without saying that children that are shouting and screaming or sometimes even talking loudly, can also make a dog nervous and increase the risk of biting, so calm down and speak like you're talking to someone special - since they indeed are special little creatures.

When I see somebody walking their dog, I make an effort to socialize with both the dog and its owner and thus far all dogs have accept my patting after being able to sniff my hand first.

According to a friend who is a dog trainer, people underestimate the intelligence of dogs and their ability to understand. Apparently most dogs have the level of understanding that a child of 3-5 years would have. So slow down, lower your voice and speak in simple language and a friendly tone of voice, similar to having a friendly conversation with a small child.

Hope it helps! :-)

(2) Alaine Apap Bologna, September 3, 2017 8:43 PM

Your son is a clever chap

Shalom! Dogs, at least the well-cared-for ones, behave as though they are interested in you and you need to respond accordingly. A good scratch UNDER the head is most welcome ( a pat ON the head is an insult). There is no better companion for a child than a dog. They speak the 'same language' and they teach each other the meaning of responsability. Masaltov!

(1) Lawrence Cohen, September 3, 2017 5:44 PM

Chasidim ONLY are afraid for some dumb reason

MOST Jews (Modern Orthodox and others) own a dog or some other pet in their home. I found that twice a year, when I rent a motel room in Lakewood so I can walk to shul, when I walk my dog around the block, some kids come right up to pet him, while grown ADULTS clear out of the way, total BUG-EYED FEAR...from a 30 pound BEAGLE!!!! You can't get cuter or more friendly than a BEAGLE! SNOOPY was a beagle!!! These people have GOT to be kidding!!!

Leslie, September 3, 2017 9:16 PM


I LOVE Beagles. I grew up with them. I would lovingly pet your Beagle anytime.

Tova Saul, September 7, 2017 8:19 AM

Oh, yes. I'm all too familiar with that reaction

Every school should have volunteer or paid teachers come with dogs every so often to schools so we can rid the next generation of this preposterous irrational fear. Such fearful people cannot every help an injured or sick homeless animal due to their fear.

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