An Old Dog's New Tricks

Gentle Pooch Helped a Hasidic Girl Overcome Fear of Dogs

Lisa Anchin

By Judy Brown (Eishes Chayil)

Published February 04, 2013, issue of February 08, 2013.
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(page 5 of 7)

Finally, I gave up. It wasn’t my fault that Sammy did not bare his teeth, that he refused to bark ferociously. It wasn’t my fault that he was stubborn, that he would never have bitten a Jew in the Holocaust. Most other dogs were evil, I reassured myself — German dogs, dirty dogs, all dogs who weren’t Sammy.

So nearly every day, I played with Sammy when Diana came by on her walk. Except for the time when I had a friend from school over. When Diana walked by, she smiled, expecting me to come. But I ignored her, as if I did not know her or the dog.

Inside, I felt terrible about it. But I also felt terrible about feeling terrible about it. It was prohibited to feel anything for a dog or his owner. I was so confused, I decided to stop thinking about it altogether.

The next day, Diana passed by as if nothing had ever happened. I petted Sammy and scratched the back of his neck, just the way I did nearly every afternoon.

Then came the day in June when my family and I went up to the Catskills, like we did each summer. There, along with thousands of ultra-Orthodox children, I spent my days climbing trees, attending day camp and inventing secret clubs. It was there, on the back road of the bungalow colony, at a meeting with my friends about one of these exclusive secret clubs, that a dog bounced right out from the thicket — suddenly, abruptly, seemingly out of nowhere.

I don’t remember seeing the dog at all, only that my friends, screaming in terror, began to run, and that instinctively I ran with them. I looked back and saw a dog happily chasing us; but I kept running.

You see, I had no choice. There was no way they could find out that I wasn’t petrified of the dog. There was no way I could allow them to realize that I was different from them. So together we ran. And the faster we ran, the faster the dog chased us around the dirt road of the bungalow colony.


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