I met this really great person and I am seriously interested in them. I’ll keep gender and orientation out of the conversation and call this person “Pat.” The problem is that Pat learned on the first date that I have a dog. My dog, “Dojo,” and I have been through a lot together, and I love my dog. Pat was once bitten by a dog and now fears all dogs. Pat never really liked dogs to begin with, but this sealed the deal. I think I may love Pat, but Pat has told me that it is either Pat or Dojo — and Pat is not even willing to come over to my home as long as Dojo is there. Pat has never even met Dojo and won’t. I can see myself building a life with Pat, but that would mean getting rid of Dojo and never having another dog. Pat says that people are more important than dogs and that I am being childish even thinking about it. Abby, I feel this is a question that you are uniquely qualified to answer — would you give up your master for their chance at happiness? What should I do?
Dreaming in Dover
Dear Dense in Dover,
Pat has issues, but you knew that. You may be wearing what my dad calls “love goggles,” and you cannot see just how serious Pat’s problem is. Let’s break this down.
Pat has decided that (ugh, I’m just a dog and even I have issues with this pronoun thing) Pat hates all dogs. An entire SPECIES. Pat bases this on an encounter with one dog. One.
An ENTIRE species based on one encounter. That’s a phobia. And you know what phobias are? Mom looked this up for me, “A persistent, abnormal, and irrational fear of a specific thing or situation that compels one to avoid it, despite the awareness and reassurance that it is not dangerous.” In other words, Pat has a mental disorder and Pat needs help.
Let’s take it one step further. I was once bitten by a Chihuahua. Because of this encounter, I can be a little shy around smaller dogs, but I will still give them a chance. I did not decide to hate ALL DOGS — that would be silly, because then I would hate myself, too.
I did not decide to hate ALL SMALL DOGS. I mean, that Chihuahua did not represent all dogs anymore than it represented all dogs of a certain size.
I did not even decide to hate ALL CHIHUAHUAS. Again, that one poorly trained and aggressive Chihuahua did not represent its entire breed.
You know what? I did not even decide to hate THAT Chihuahua. That Chihuahua had already decided to hate me, so he’s not my problem. I have better things to worry about.
Now, this is an example of someone maintaining their sanity through a violent encounter, but let’s look at Pat’s philosophy a little closer.
If Pat can hate an ENTIRE SPECIES based on one encounter with one member of that species, then what happens if Pat has a bad encounter with a gay black woman? By Pat’s logic, Pat would have to immediately and permanently hate ALL HUMAN BEINGS. Now, Pat could pick and choose and decide to hate all blacks or all gays or all women, I mean, if Pat wanted to narrow it down a bit. But can you see how absolutely insane that is?
Why does society think that racism against each other is horrific, but the same illogical, baseless, prejudicial feeling applied to other ENTIRE SPEICIES is perfectly all right? It’s not. It is a mental disorder.
Now, if Pat wants to seek help for Pat’s phobia and learn how to become a contributing member of society, then bully for Pat. I would give Pat a chance. Dojo might even be part of Pat’s therapy.
I would not bow down to Pat’s crazy demands, though, because where would it stop? What happens if Pat has a bad experience with one of your parents? Will Pat be prejudice against all mothers or fathers and thereby demand that you avoid your own parents and never become parents yourself?
Kibble for thought…