My daughter has developed a fear of dogs. I don’t know why: I adore dogs, and the day care where she spent a glorious, happy year had two wonderful pups she would hug and pat with joy. But even the smallest strange dog on the street makes her stiffen with terror and, more often than not, leap up into my arms with a grunt of alarm.
This, however, doesn’t stop people from announcing that their often off-leash dogs are “totally friendly” and allowing them to leap upon my children without warning.
Which is why I was gratified to read a great blog post from dog walker Jessica Dolce about "MDIFs," and why it’s a bad idea to sic them on other dogs -- and, I’d like to add, children.
What's a MDIF, you ask?
"MDIF" is an acronym for "My Dog Is Friendly," the rallying cry of people who don’t respect boundaries and don’t teach their dogs to respect them, either. Of course, these are big-hearted folk who love their dogs, who know their dogs mean well, and who only mean well themselves, and I don’t mean to suggest otherwise.
Except that a stubborn refusal to respect a boundary kind of kicks you out of the category of "kind-hearted, but obtuse" and into the category of "willfully ignorant to the point of being a total passive-aggressive butthat."
Or, as this blog poster more eloquently puts it, "You’re robbing me of my right to choose whether we interact with your dog. Not cool."
Like, for instance, the woman who stood there and watched her hyperactive white terrier hurl himself into my kid’s stroller, leaving scratch-marks on her chest (through her clothes!), and vanished in the time it took me to check on my kid. That's irresponsible, crappy, and not helping the cause of the pit-bull lovers, lady.
There are always people who say things like "If you’re so scared of dogs, you should stay home," or "Be more aware when you’re out in the world, so you can avoid things that frighten you." Okay. Sure. I’ll stay home as much as possible. But if I’m hoping to show my kid (or my dog) that the world isn’t a terrible, frightening place, and ease her way toward normalcy, we have to leave the house sometime.
Also, if you find yourself saying something like that? You’re kind of a schmuck.
Of course, there are plenty of "MKIFs" out there, too, as in "My Kid Is Friendly!" These are typically people who let their kids get in your baby’s face -- or who do it themselves -- without respecting that kid’s boundaries. I saw this happen at a party recently: My own teenage stepson, who prides himself on being able to connect with kids, tried to engage an awkward 8-year-old, possibly on the spectrum, who rudely asked him to leave him alone. He grumbled about this "bratty kid" for days, and I couldn’t get him to understand the kid needed space, asked for it badly, but still deserved to have his boundaries respected. (Which is something I need to remember with my own kid, too.)
So, let’s review: If you let your dog scare someone, and you think you’re fixing it when you brightly announce, "My dog is friendly," you’re a MDIF. This is not good.
If you have a dog who is in need of space, this is a Dog In Need Of Space, or a DINOS. And I feel for you.
And if you, like me, have a Kid In Need Of Space, well, that’s a KINOS. So far, my strategy in dealing with my KINOS has been to spot a dog ahead of us, tell my daughter calmly that "a nice-looking dog is coming, and he looks okay, but we’ll make sure, okay?" This has done a lot to calm her down, and the dog-owners have taken the hint and allowed us enough space to say hello without getting a face-full of paw.
In conclusion, don’t be a MDIF or a MKIF.
Do you have a KINOS? Have you run into a MDIF -- or a MKIF? How do you handle it?
Photo courtesy of Purblind/Flickr