A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down.
I can already feel people won’t like this post. Before you start calling me names, I hope you read the whole post before unleashing your fury in the comments section.
Last month, a few friends asked me if I was more of a cat or dog person. I timidly said, “Well, I’m not really much of an animal person…”
A small silence followed my statement. I nervously waited for them to out me as a freak.
Why? Because Americans are obsessed with their pets. In some circles, outing myself as a non-animal person could cost me friendships (luckily, it hasn’t yet). Americans just love animals in general, especially when they’re fried or cooked medium well. Sorry, sorry, I’m not going to get into our society’s bizarre methods of determining which animals are okay to snuggle with and which are okay to snuggle between two hamburger buns. I’ll leave that discussion for PETA, the FDA, and the shady restaurant around the corner.
Anyways, back to the story. Lucky for me, I didn’t face much backlash from my friends. Perhaps they already knew. Or perhaps they waited until I was gone. Maybe even now they’re planning some sort of intervention. Nevertheless, the simple question got me thinking. How did I get to be a zero-pet person? I realized 3 major moments in my life led me to this decision.
Here we go, from longest to shortest:
1) I was once chased by a pack of dogs.
I think this is the moment where it all began. My grandfather had a lot of dogs on his ranch. One particular day, and one particular dog, stand out in my memory. My parents and I had dropped by for a short visit. My aunts and my grandparents told me that one of my cousins had just bought a new dog. They warned that the dog was mean and unpredictable. He had already bitten someone, and he was pretty good at keeping unwanted people off the property.
I don’t know how old I was when this happened. I’d like to say 7 or 8, but most of my childhood memories feel like they happened when I was 7 or 8, so who knows. I know I was young enough to be bored at whatever the grownups were talking about and easily forget the big, mean dog outside.
Being the proactive youngin that I was, I decided to walk to my cousin’s house on my own. First wrong decision of the day. And classic example why Dora the Explorer can only exist as a figment of our imaginations.
Soon after I left the safety of my grandparent’s house, I heard a loud bark. ¡Guau! ¡Guau! (Spanish for “Woof! Woof!,” alternatively “Ruff, ruff!” or in Korean 멍멍 ‘mung, mung’. My Korean consultant tells me 컹컹’keong keong’ is also a fitting translation since this was an instance of “harsh barking.” I apologize; cross-linguistic comparisons of onomatopoeia are to me what squirrels are to dogs. Oh, right! Dogs!)
About 40 yards away from me (sorry international readers, I measure distances in American football fields), I saw a dog half my size growling at me. I knew immediately that this was the infamous new monster. Suddenly, the dog charges towards me, clearly labeling me as an “unwanted person on the property.”
So, I run. Second wrong decision of the day.
I run as fast as I can. The rest of the dogs on the ranch then decided to join in on the fun. So there I was, running for my life with at least ten dogs at my heels. It. was. ABSOLUTELY. TERRIFYING. I imagine the moment looked a little cartoonish: a halo of sweat drops; head thrown back; mouth wide open, releasing a loud scream; and my legs replaced by a dust cloud and speed lines.
When I finally made it to the house, I started banging on the door like a madwoman (madgirl?). My grandfather had watched the whole scene unfold from his window and rushed out to help. The dogs immediately stopped when they saw him, and they even looked a little sheepish when he yelled at them. But it was too late. The damage was already done. I was officially traumatized. For years after that incident, I was uncomfortable around all dogs, even chihuahuas (actually, I’m still not very fond of chihuahuas. The resemblance to rats is too uncanny).
Eventually, I grew out of it and learned that not all dogs want to bite my face off. Some are even quite friendly. Unfortunately, I never acquired proper dog social skills. You know those people who just melt at the sight of a dog and immediately start playing with them? Yeah, that’s not me. When I see a dog, I extend out my arm and say very properly, “How do you do?” If that doesn’t work, I pet the dog in a robotic fashion and in a monotone voice say: “Nice. Doggy. Nice. Doggy.”
Most canine behavior goes completely over my head:
Hannaaaaahhhhhh your dog is sniffing my crotch!!!
2) A bee attempted to give me the kiss of death.
On to my next traumatic experience with the animal kingdom: bees.
I must’ve been 7 or 8. My family went out camping by a lake with a couple other families. As I enjoyed a refreshing can of Squirt, I briefly left my soda on a picnic table to go do whatever it is 7 or 8 year olds do. When I came back, I reached for the can without thinking twice.
Instant pain. I froze with the can still touching my lips. My body reacted before my mind realized what had happened. A bee had crawled into the soda can. A bee who decided to valiantly die fighting rather than succumb to the wills of my digestive system. Meaning, the bee stung the inside of my upper lip before I could swallow it. My mind finally caught up to my body as I lowered the can and realized the bee was still attached to my mouth. That’s when the panic set in. And we all know what I do when I panic. I run.
Thus, I started running in circles around the campsite, bawling and wishing doom upon all bees. Certain images stick with you even long after the waves of time have washed over your memory. For me, one of those images is that of my older brother, laughing his head off as I cried out in pain. I forgave him long ago, but the soul remembers.
Anyways, this is also why I now drink diet soda when I go out camping; even bees know it’s not the real thing.
3) I had to say goodbye to my pet bunny much too soon.
I’ve left the most heartbreaking story for last. I think I was in either first or second grade.
Her name was Trixie. She was my pet bunny. I loved watching her run around our backyard. She was the closest I ever got to experiencing that magical connection everyone else seems to have with their furry best friends. To my dismay, our love was simply not meant to be. Like this story, her life came to a swift, yet painful end.
We kept Trixie in a big cage outside. She even had her own bed, which she enjoyed pooping on (ahh sweet memories). Then one day, some vicious animal ate her. Bird or beast, whatever ate Trixie was kind enough to leave some chunks behind so that we could identify her.*
Trixie was the victim of a heinous, nonsensical crime. What’s particularly strange is that the cage was still closed and intact when my dad found her. So no one really knows what killed her. The case has gone cold.
Don’t misunderstand. I still have a deep appreciation for animals. I’ve had the privilege of snorkeling in Hawaii with sea turtles, going horseback riding in Patagonia, and seeing monkeys out in the jungle. I love white tigers, and I have nothing but respect for honey badgers. Someone even thought I was a dolphin whisperer once (except that had more to do with them thinking my linguistics major was a lot cooler than it actually is. You, on the other hand, know it’s mostly good for classifying onomatopoeic animal sounds across various languages).
However, the three stories above have left me deeply scarred, and that’s not even taking into account the hundreds of fish deaths over the years and a potential cat allergy. I have no desire to experience anymore physical or emotional pain. The burden is already heavy enough.
By the way, the Hannah mentioned under Reason #1 is a real person (she can attest to her dog pouncing on me when I visited her home). She is also a fellow blogger! She runs a brilliant blog, Yon Bean Field, that is much more eloquent and introspective than mine. If we were to compare our blogs, hers feels like fine dining with a glass of wine, whereas mine is more like “Well, let’s just do Carl’s Jr. because it’s the only thing open at the moment.” Speaking of eating, here’s a post she wrote about cannibalism.
*Update* An earlier version of this post read, “Then one day, a random predatory bird ripped through her cage and ate her. The bird was kind enough to leave some chunks behind so that we could identify her.” After this post went live, my credibility was questioned (see comments below), so I had to interview half the family to prove my story. I was mostly right. Something DID eat her, but it’s not clear what. It’s also more haunting to know that whatever it was, didn’t even need to break open the cage…. It picked at her through the bars, so who knows how long that took 😭😭😭
As far as I know, the criminal is still at large.
*Update on Trixie* 1/17/17 Read new post for more details on the Trixie case. Follow-Up: What REALLY Happened to Trixie the Bunny