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“If you think dogs can’t count, try putting three dog biscuits in your pocket and then give Fido only two of them.” – Phil Pastoret

I picked the above quote because it made me laugh. It made me laugh because it reminded me of how ridiculous I was as a child. I spent my childhood scared to death of ALL animals, especially dogs.

If there was a dog on one side of the street, I would walk to the other side. My mom used to tell me that animals could smell my fear and would approach me. My neighbor had a cat, and I stayed on the other side of the room or would not go into the house. The cat would jump onto my lap when I would go into the house and sit down. I would jump up, and the cat would fall to the ground and run off. My mom and my neighbor laughed hysterically.

When I was young, my parents wanted me to have a pet; I did not want one. They got my brother and me water turtles. Periodically, my brother would like to hold his turtle (Freddie), and my parents took Freddie out of the water for a few minutes. My brother would talk to him and enjoy his short time with him. I wanted nothing to do with it. My parents would like me to interact with my turtle (Judy), and once I tried, she bit me. It was the last time I held her. My brother spent time with both turtles.

In 6th grade, my father bought a large breed German Shepard home for my brother's birthday. She was only six weeks and was a tiny thing. I was scared of her. I tried to pet her but was frightened and backed off. As a family, we spent hours trying to name her. We finally decided on the name Candy. As she grew, I became more comfortable with her and eventually loved her and wanted to spend time with her.

Because of Candy, I lost my fear of dogs and animals. I began house and animal sitting and loved taking care of the animals. I did house sit in one house that had numerous animals. I liked the four dogs and three cats. I did not like the snake and the rats. I checked the aquarium several times daily to ensure that all the snakes were still there. Fortunately, they were all there. In this family’s sideyard were15 ducks, many chickens, and a rooster (this family lived in the city); I was scared when I fed them. I would go into the sideyard with food, the ducks would run to me, and one nipped at my leg. The chickens did come over to the food but did not attack. The Rooster could have cared less!

For a while, I had two cats and loved them both. Toby was not a friendly cat; sometimes, I was scared of him and would not pick him up. I had a friend who would pet sit when I traveled, and she would hold a pillow between her and Toby because he would swipe at her and draw blood. DeeDee was a small and kind cat; she loved to sit on my lap. I am glad I had them, but now that they have passed, I will not be getting more animals.

Most fear of animals starts in Childhood. There are things to do in working with our children on this issue.

10 Steps to Help Your Child's Fear of Animals

1. Recognize that it's normal. Fear is “a very appropriate emotion to have” when it comes to kids interacting with animals, says Ollendick.

2. Decide whether to intervene.

3. Hear them out.

4. Validate their fears.

5. Empower your child.

6. Break it down.

7. Reinforce success.

8. Make it exciting.

9. Get informed.

10. Ask for help.

Today, I encourage you to spend time with your pets!

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