In general, I like to think I’m a pretty fearless person.
I relocate or kill spiders with ease, and my hesitation around snakes disappeared when I was 6 years old and my neighbor shoved a garden snake in my face with the intent to scare me. I’m not afraid of thunderstorms, tight spaces or even public speaking.
But there is one thing that makes my heart rate jump and my palms sweaty as I look for an exit. That one thing is tiny dogs.
I don’t quite know why, but I have an aversion to tiny dogs that borders on mikrocynophobia. I hate everything about them — their tiny, spindly legs, their large, bulging eyes, how they’re always quivering. Ugh, I’m getting the shivers right now just thinking about them.
This fear, like most phobias, likely has its roots deep in the well of childhood trauma. Growing up, at least three neighbors — one on either side, and then one either across the street or to the back — had tiny dogs all at once. And they were all mean. There was a horrible little teacup poodle whose personal mission, I am convinced, was to follow me around all day and bark and lunge at my spindly legs. There was also some kind of minuscule husky that never grew larger than a small housecat that would constantly yip and nip at my heels. Come to think of it, all of the seemingly endless parade of “purse rats” tended to be rather bitey.
I’m not afraid of all dogs, mind you. I had a fat retriever mix that I adored, and despite being jumped upon, barked at or even bitten by several larger dogs, I have no problem with reasonably sized models — from Great Dane to terrier. Smaller than a terrier, and I start to have problems. (I also strongly dislike hamsters, but that is an entirely different story altogether.)
It’s true that you can’t judge a book by its cover, and I try to implement that even when it comes to tiny dogs. For example, my cousin has a nice Chihuahua that I absolutely tolerate, and once I even volunteered to dog-sit him while my cousin went on vacation. There could also be some nice tiny dogs that I don’t know about. But most of the rest of them, experience has taught me, are small, quivering vessels of Satan.
My fear of tiny dogs is such that it spawns associated, secondary fears. For example, I try not to think about the possibility that I’d meet a really great guy and fall completely head-over-heels, only to go home to “meet the parents” and find out that his mother is an ardent fan of the ridiculously sized canines, and that their house is overrun with the mutts. It might sound harsh, but I think that might be a deal-breaker.
They say that dogs can smell fear, so maybe my initial dislike caused tiny dogs to be a bit meaner to me, which caused a deepening aversion, which then made them become more vicious, and the whole thing has just been a spiraling, bottomless pit of terror and razor-sharp teeth. Or perhaps their doggy version of a Napoleon Complex is just abnormally threatened by my height and human-sized features for some reason.
Whatever the cause, I feel tiny dogs have as much of a problem with me as I do with them. Whenever I go with other people to a house where tiny dogs live, they seem to bark especially loudly and savagely when I approach, and I swear they mostly jump on me, no matter who else I’ve come with. Despite my personal feelings, I try to be friendly — gently (if gingerly) pat their heads and comment about how cute they are — but usually only get nipped or bitten for my troubles. The response elicited by my efforts hardly encourages any sort of behavior modification or cognitive remodeling.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m not calling for any sort of “death to all tiny dogs” campaign. I would never intentionally hurt any animal, even if it was a tiny dog. I suppose what I’m really doing is asking why we propagate such an unholy abomination. I mean, we have dogs, and we have rats — why interbreed the two?
Let’s not tamper with nature. That’s all I’m saying. I know I’d certainly sleep better at night.