I walked into the Verizon store yesterday and was met with a ferocious-looking Pit Bull. I like dogs, a lot, but I am still wary of them, especially those bred to kill.
Not wanting to be rude, knowing that to dog owners who know their dog is gentle being afraid is like wrongly convicting them of a crime, I was cautious.
"Um, sorry?!" I said as I tried to make my way past Cujo to the counter.
She was nice, not snippy like some dog owners would be. She understood. "He's a sweetie..." she said.
"I'm sure. I love dogs. I've just had a few lunge at me lately so I'm a little gun-shy," I said.
We chatted a bit, the dog owner, the guy behind the counter and I. We bonded over what a better Verizon store this one was than some others, began talking fast and furiously about who knows what. The dog kept looking at me, barking, trying--it seemed--to lick me, to play. Or maybe he wanted to hurt me? It was hard to tell.
As the dog owner left, I posited this to her: "Do you think he likes me or hates me?"
"Oh, he likes you," she said, "he wanted to jump on you and play!" And with that, she was off.
I turned to the guy behind the counter, a helpful sort, a young film student, energetic and sweet.
"It's funny, some dogs will stop on the street and look at you, and some aren't interested at all," I said. "I guess they're like people."
He nodded. "I don't look at dogs because I'm afraid they see into my soul, and that they won't like what they see..."
I died. I had already given him a gold star for his willingness to help me with my complicated cell phone problem, but this would normally have been the perfect moment.
"That is hilarious!" I said. "But, why are you so self-loathing? I'm sure some dogs would like you. You're nice!"
"We're all self-loathing, aren't we?" he said.
I had to think about it. I guess the answer is yes, but some more than others. Or maybe it's not only about self-loathing, it's about willingness to bare your soul to another, to let on all those secrets that shame you.
I was brought back to a conversation a while ago with a friend who I was telling about a short story I had read, Nikolai Gogol's Diary of a Madman. I told him how, in it, the narrator imagines that his boss's dog is sharing letters with another dog about the boss's daughter, who he loves, telling all kinds of secrets of the things the dog has been told by his owners. I posited how funny it is that people share things with their dogs they might not say to anotoher human.
My friend had shook his head. "Oh, no, I would never talk to the dog. I'd be afraid of what they'd think of me..."
Wow. I had laughed then like I had laughed at this young kid. Man, who knew we all had so much to hide. Apparently, the dogs.