Hiram College is home to the Terriers. I never even thought of the possible irony when I first arrived on campus, not until I told a friend and their jaw dropped in utter shock. I mean yeah, I’m afraid of dogs, and there are multiple dogs on campus at all times. But that doesn’t mean I live constantly in fear for my life. So let me clear some things up for me and other cynophobics out there:

I don’t scream or run away every time I see a dog. This is not Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers. Typically, I see a dog and think, “Hey, look. A dog.” Especially when it’s far away. I do, however, have a split-second of panic whenever I hear the jangle of their collar, and that’s just because I’m expecting them to be right behind me. Personally, though, if I feel anything, it's just a quick thump of the heart.

I don’t hate dogs. How can you even think that. Dogs are one of the two most common house pets in America, and also happen to be pretty cute. I mean, they’re not my favorite animal, but I still love them! Fear can cause hate, but it does not equal hate.

I’m fine with most dogs. This one’s a surprise for me, too. Dogs, especially on leashes, are fair game. I’ll be reluctant to pet it, and maybe even purposefully distance myself, but after a few minutes with the dog, I’m usually okay. Almost every dog I’ve seen on campus has been big, fluffy, and very calm. Dogs running, jumping, and barking still scare me, which is dumb - that’s their nature, they’re just playing. But even when I am too uncomfortable to approach a dog, I’ll take another path to avoid it, or ask a friend to stand in between us (usually this friend is an avid dog-lover, so it’s a win-win).

I’m getting over it. I never thought this would be possible. I’ve been afraid of dogs since I was little, after a few small maulings, and so it’s become a part of my life. But I’m more comfortable with dogs than I’ve ever been. Most of this is because I’m being confronted with canines almost every day - you know, facing your fears and shit.

The best thing you can do is be mindful of someone else's fears. One of the best things I’ve ever been asked is, “Are you afraid of dogs?” while in the presence of a puppy - it helps for other people to be aware so that they can tell if a dog’s being too jumpy, or if the person’s getting upset. And not just dogs: most other animals have phobias connected to them, as do things like airplanes and illnesses, so respect is the key word here.

For example, if I tell you I’m afraid of dogs, please don’t say that your Great Dane is “fine” while also picking him up and physically chucking him at my face.

Overall, my personal fear of dogs is like a child in a dark room: I know there aren’t monsters under my bed, nor in my closet. I know that dog’s not gonna chase me down and eat my nose off. But there’s still that distant thought of, “What if?” that drives the fear. But, like most obstacles, this fear can be conquered.