Pull Up a Chair

May 23, 2014

With Audrey
When our daughters landed on U.S. soil, they were terrified of dogs — which is not a fun problem to have in our neighborhood, since canines are everywhere. S quite literally panics and crawls up my leg if a dog so much as looks at her, and H’s reaction isn’t far from that. I constantly point out that most dogs are friendly, that dogs bark because it’s how they talk, and that dogs on leashes can’t get away, but my daughters’ reactions are visceral.

I get it. In Ethiopia, dogs are rarely domesticated; they’re wild or feral and travel in packs around cities and town centers. In fact, when we were in Addis Ababa, to celebrate our last night as a childless couple before we took custody of the girls, we left our guest house to have dinner at a nearby restaurant. It was dark, and as we walked out into the alley toward the main street, we heard a lot of barking and snarling and spotted a pack of scary-looking dogs up ahead. A man walking in front of us, who was closer to them, ran to get away from them. That was our cue to turn around fast and head back to our room to enjoy date night over some MRE’s and dried fruit. Rabies is common there, and we did everything we could to avoid dogs.

Additionally, some dogs look a bit like hyenas, and hyenas were in abundance where our daughters lived. With no secure doors or windows to protect them, a hyena’s hungry growls — right outside their walls as they tried to sleep — would have been no picnic. I suspect dogs bring to mind some of that.

Over the past 19 months, H and S have become a little more tolerant — especially of the dogs belonging to friends of ours whom they see a lot – but it’s still a struggle. The other day, I took them with me into a realtor’s office, and a dog rushed to the door as we came in. The proprietor took the dog to the back, and then my daughters spotted a large cat sitting on a desk. They immediately wanted to go over to it, and the next thing you know, they were petting it and talking about it with the guys in the office. I was surprised they were so enthralled by this giant cat, who tolerated their petting and fascination quite well. Much to my husband’s disappointment — a big-time dog lover — we might just have two cat lovers on our hands.

I have no proper segue to introduce our Friday drink today — certainly nothing that reminds me of dogs or cats — so without further ado, I suggest we just grab a strawberry smash cocktail (from Cookie+Kate). Strawberries are coming into season here, and that always means summer is right around the corner! Here’s my high and low this week:

High: This is a biggie: One of my brothers and his lovely wife and son are moving here this summer! It hasn’t quite sunk in yet, but to say we’re beyond excited to have family close by is an understatement. I’m helping with their house hunt, which definitely makes it feel more real!

Low: That fender-bender I was in last week, where I rear-ended a guy in traffic but there didn’t seem to be any damage to his car? $2,675.65! That’s the estimate from the shop. I was so hoping to pay out-of-pocket and avoid any penalties on our insurance. Sigh.

Bonus question: Are you a cat or dog person? (Or maybe your prefer birds?) None of the above. I very much like animals and could totally bond with one, but I’m not a big house-pet person, probably because I grew up with only outdoor animals. B, on the other hand, was raised with dogs who were the closest thing he had to siblings. We’ll see what our girls end up getting as a first pet. (They recently requested a rabbit.)

It’s a long weekend here in the U.S., and we’re planning to head out tomorrow morning for a mini family vacation. Hope to share some highlights with you next week! Happy Memorial Day weekend to my American readers, and I’ll see you all back here Monday (or maybe Tuesday)!

Image: B and the girls with Audrey, one of the sweetest dogs in the world

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1 Alex@life May 23, 2014 at 9:56 am

A lovely picture, Zoe. I do hope your girls get over their suspicion of dogs, though it completely understand it. I have a (some would say) irrational fear of horses and when you look at the scale, dog to toddler and horse to adult is about the same, I reckon.

I am definitely a dog person as is my husband- we have four of them at home. We also have two cats and love them too, just differently. Our cats were feral kittens and are firmly outside pets (they don’t actually want to come in the house and live in our very big garden) while our dogs our inside/outside dogs as suits them…

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2 Christine N. May 23, 2014 at 10:56 am

Hi Zoe,
I was bitten by a dog as a child (right on the mouth), which as you can imagine was pretty traumatic. I did have a fear of dogs after that (I didn’t grow up with dogs), but over the years the fear has slowly evaporated. I even like to think that if I came across a scary dog, I would not be running the other way, but staring that dog down (the exception of course might be wild dogs in Ethiopia.) So hopefully the girls will eventually lose their fear too. If you desire to speed up the process, one idea is to seek out a great, easy-going dog and try to have regular encounters with him or her.

I admit it, I am a real animal lover. We have one dog, 3 cats, 1 rabbit and 14 chickens and they are all awesome for different reasons. (By the way, of those 4, cats are the easiest and cheapest to take care of.) Having animals around has been so great for my kids.

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3 Therese May 23, 2014 at 2:28 pm

We are dog people, definitely, and just got a new puppy, little brother for our big yellow lab. We also have a pet turtle, which I recommend for ease in a pet, and a Betta fish, which is almost as easy. This year we also adopted a baby lizard that we found in an industrial park (not as bad as taking one from the wild, perhaps?) and a feral kitten and her mother, who were living in the ivy behind our house. When I say “adopted,” I mean that cat started meowing so loud I had to go outside every morning to feed her, worried about her in the rain and when we had a cold snap, and even lowered a basket with warm towels in it off our back balcony (we are on the second floor) to try to entice them to nest more comfortably. Yes, I am a complete geek! I won’t say it turned me into a cat person, but I have been joking that I feel like an urban farmer, feeding all of the animals and taking care of the crops (potted vegetables on the porch), too. And perhaps I am having even more fun than the kids with all of this chaos, so I can’t entirely pretend that it is for them. :-)

Dogs abroad can certainly be scary and I don’t blame your girls one bit for their obvious fear! Hopefully it will fade with time. Sorry about the fender bender consequences; hope that you have a great weekend vacation!

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4 Anna May 23, 2014 at 3:44 pm

Even without the cultural background of scary street dogs, a lot of my friends’ small children are scared out of their wits by our gentle, friendly 40 lb. dog. The terror seems to be visceral and so intense there’s no reasoning with it. But given that it’s so common, I suspect plenty of those kids could still grow up to be dog people rather than cat people, so don’t despair.

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5 Erica and Charlie May 23, 2014 at 11:37 pm

The girls can come visit Audrey any time!! Thanks for thinking she is one of the sweetest dogs in the world – we were so excited to see she made slowmama as she is almost 13 and slowing down quite a bit!!

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