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Three-Legged Dogs

Last night, Tina and I were out driving in German Village, and as I was gazing out the window, Tina said, "Aww, it's a three-legged dog!"

I looked where she was pointing, and sure enough, there was a three-legged dog on a leash, being walked by two men. "They get around well, don't they, with those three legs?" I asked. Tina gave a non-committal response, and I continued. "My grandmother used to have a dog with three legs. I was terrified of that dog."


"I'm not really sure. He guarded the chicken coop. She had a lot of dogs, though. She'd take them in every time they showed up, and probably had between ten and fifteen chained up around the farm. I was afraid of nearly all of them, honestly."

"She had one in the basement who I was absolutely terrified of, and I believe that in the whole time I visited her, I was only down there once because of that dog. Another lived in the barn, and as much as I liked to hang out in the barn, I couldn't get anywhere near the area that dog was chained up."

"I gave all the dogs a wide berth. I still don't know why."

As I was thinking about it this morning, I think that I spent my childhood being afraid of most dogs, but I was certainly not afraid of all dogs. My other grandmother had a dog named Betsy (actually, she was my grandfather's dog), a sheepdog who would occasionally help herd the sheep and lambs. I loved that dog quite a bit, and she loved me.

Betsy's sister, Chrissy, though, didn't like me for most of her life, and (I understand) with good reason. Apparently, when I was about 3 and she was about 2, I used to try to ride her like a horse. I imagine that I wasn't all that delicate with her. My parents and my uncle never told me I was rough with her, or that I hurt her, but I suspect I must have.

For years, she would snap at me and growl and basically do anything she could to scare me off. It really wasn't anything that she did to me, personally, but she apparently associated her fear with my size. When I grew up to be about teenager-sized, she stopped snapping at me.

I remember one incident in particular, when I'd gone out to climb my favourite tree. I imagine I was about ten years old at the time. The tree was only about 30 feet from the house, along the windbreak line to the east. I was up about six feet (high for me at the time), when Betsy and Chrissy showed up at the foot of the tree.

The thing you have to understand about Betsy and Chrissy is that they looked exactly alike to a ten year old. I might have managed to get down on Betsy's side if I could have figured out which one she was and made the run to the house, but without knowing which girl was which, I couldn't manage it. I was terrified, and (though I don't remember) I probably shouted until my parents came out to "save" me.

The image in my mind, I admit, is still a bit frightening. But the funny thing is that my vision of it is terribly un-frightening. Both dogs are at the foot of the tree, wagging tails, playing a bit with each other, and generally having fun. I can't help but think that all they wanted to do was play, and I was terrified where I clung to the tree. Honestly, I think that Chrissy couldn't see my size from where I was; she wasn't interested in growling at me because she didn't know how small I was.

I was once walking to my friend Louie's house, about an eighth of a mile from my house. On the way, I came around the corner of a house (I was a typical kid and felt that I owned the neighborhood, and anything that wasn't actually the inside of a house was public property), and came face to face with the ugliest boxer I'd ever seen. Well, he was ugly to me, but with his tongue hanging out and his dull eyes, I can't imagine that he was actually dangerous. But he scared the heck out of me, no question. I backed up, and took a wide route around three more houses before turning north again. It's possible, though I don't remember, that I was actually in tears when I got to Louie's house.

Thinking about this made me think about fear as I see it today, too. I admit to feeling some fear, and it sometimes becomes overwhelming. The problem is that I don't have any idea what the fear is of. I can't say I have something specific that scares me. . . There's just a feeling of dread. I remember a time when tentacly things didn't even frighten me, and logically I know that there's nothing to fear that you can't banish with laughter. If it works for Cthulhu, it'll work for anything.

I'm not entirely sure what to do about that. I think I just need to restore faith in my laughter. It's a hard thing to do.


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