Tuesday, January 10, 2012


I have a problem and I need some help with it.  It's about our dog.

I know I've blogged and facebooked about this before.  The thing is, I've always joked about this in the past, but it's no laughing matter.

Lately I've been watching episodes of Monk on Netflix.  My kids have watched it with me sometimes.  One day, after hearing me complain about the dog, my daughter said, "Dad, you're just like Mr. Monk.  You're afraid of dog germs."

The thing is, it's true.  More and more I see it in myself.  And I know that the problem isn't the dog.  It's me.  And it's straining my relationship with my daughter.

Here's the lowdown:

Sometimes I pet the dog when I leave the house in the morning.  Just a pat on the head.  When the weather's cold this is easy because I put my gloves on first.  If it's warm outside or I haven't got gloves on yet I usually just don't pet him.  If I do, because his sad face makes me feel guilty, I usually wash my hands immediately afterwards.

Sometimes I challenge myself to pet him with my bare hands and not wash them.  I can sort-of deal with it because if I'm going to work anyway my hands are going to get covered with grease, scrubbed, and covered with grease again several times throughout the day.  But I can't bear to leave my hands unwashed if I'm staying home.  In fact I swear I can feel the residue from his fur on my hands for hours afterwards and I'm very conscious about what I touch.  It just about drives me crazy.

It gets worse.  The dog likes to happily roll around on our living room rug.  It literally turns my stomach to watch him do this, snorting and shuffling and slobbering all over.  Usually my feet are the only part of me that touches that rug.  If I sit down on the floor to play a game with the kids I wash my hands afterwards and my clothes usually go in the laundry.

The dog also sits on one of our couches regularly, so I never sit on that couch except when the home teachers come over.  While they are visiting with us, I feel acutely conscious of my body position and the parts of my body that touch the area where the dog likes to sit.  I don't dwell on this too much and it doesn't nag at me for very long, but It's definitely outside my comfort zone.

If I feed the dog, touch his food or food bowls, touch the doorknob to the room where his food is kept, or if heaven forbid his wet nose or snout ever touches my skin, it goes without saying that I immediately wash my hands.

I know that this is irrational.  I know that he isn't toxic and that living with a dog is not dangerous to me.  But I can't stop feeling this way.  I've even prayed about it some.  I've tried to train myself to be nicer and more affectionate with him.  The best I've been able to do is coexist without too much vocal complaining.  My daughter made a deal with me that I owe her a dollar every time she hears me complain, so I've kept my mouth shut lately.

A couple of months ago I had a serious talk with the kids and I tried to explain this problem to them in at way they'd understand.  I told them that we had to sell the dog because he deserved to be with someone who could be affectionate with him and play with him.  There was weepingandwailingandgnashingofteeth.  I backed down.

Since then my daugher has been extra affectionate with Midnight.  She is constantly hugging and nuzzling and petting him.  She really loves him.  This morning as she was leaving for school she came to give me a hug (after just hugging the dog) and inside I kind-of cringed.  I hugged her anyway, but it wasn't easy.

After she left I sat and thought about this problem.  It comes down to this:  Either I get over this phobia or I damage my relationship with my daughter.  I don't know how to do this.  So I'm sending a request into the vast ocean of stupidity we call the blogosphere.  Somebody help me please.


The Calders said...

Well, the first thing you did very well, was identify it as a problem. I tell people that a problem is a problem if it is affecting your daily life, which this is.

So some background. Does this behavior occur with any things else. Other animals, people, things, situations?

2. Do you ever recall being told or experiencing some ill effects from touching a dog?

3. Behaviorally, you can journal all the possible problems and worse case scenario's, with touching the dog, and then consciously going through the process of dismissing them, if they have no basis.

3a. You are utilizing the technique of differential reinforcement, when you are trying to pet the dog and then not wash your hands. It will take some time, probably weeks, to get to the point where you can expand upon that. Utilize the time frames, so go 5 minutes then expand that to 10. I know you have utilized these principles in other areas of your life.

After you identify the first things I cited, it may make your interactions more real, and less based on an irrational fear.

You and I have talked about PDD and the possibilities that you also fall somewhere in that spectrum. That being said, you have so many positive attributes that fall into this spectrum. The attention to detail, etc that makes your business successful.

You can overcome this behavior. Not to say your going to be kissing the dog, but you can come to a point where you are more comfortable.


Ashley Thalman said...

I have struggled with a lot of similar problems and you know what helped me? The same conclusions you are reaching. I started doing all of the behaviors and actions that I hated and I realized after a while that I was okay. Nothing was going to happen if I let my house go. Embracing my friendships and focusing on what matters helps. I hope it helps you.

Frederick Reeves said...

whatever you struggle with
embrace it and let it go as
love congquers fear and
since dog is god spelled backwards
because they give unconditional love

the child gets it knowing no fear
you reject out of fear

learn from the child
learn from the embrace