Joanna Vs. The Hounds of the Baskervilles

There are really only two things in this world that overcome me with debilitating terror. The first one is flying and the second one is dogs. Anyone that knows me knows that I am not a fan of dogs. It doesn't matter if they're big or small, or if they are fluffy or cute. I don't like dogs. When I was little my parents had a beagle named Ringo. They had Ringo before I was born so when cute little Joanna came along Ringo became a jealous doggie. When cute little Joanna was around two or three, she remembers getting bit by Ringo a few times. I'm pretty sure it wasn't because I was too rough with her. Actually, I'm pretty convinced that she was just jealous of me. So that brings us to four decades later where I am still terrified of dogs. I even refuse to go to people's homes that have dogs because I am so scared.

Now, this is the first summer in years where I have been able to get outside and be active to do the things that I really love to do and not regret it the next day. One of those things is going on a daily walk with my husband. Since he is working from home and I am no longer working we have set a goal to get out every day that it's nice and walk for at least two miles. I haven’t been able to do this in about seven years. I could barely stand up, more or less walk. Even going grocery shopping was a project for me. My max time at the grocery store was half an hour and I would have to lean on the cart the whole time to support my body. Even after half an hour I would usually leave the grocery store in tears because I would be in so much pain. Needless to say, that being able to go outside every day and go for a walk has been a huge treat, especially since I get to hang out with my husband, who is my biggest champion and I love very much!

We live in a condo association where there are bylaws for just about everything. I'm pretty sure one of those bylaws includes leaving your dogs tied up unattended out in your front yard. For some reason, people have a hard time following that. I get that people want to let their dogs out and let them have a little bit of freedom. If I were a dog owner, I don’t think I would leave my dog unattended because I would be too afraid that something would happen. Years ago, my husband had a dog named Petey who was a little Chihuahua, toy fox terrier mix. My husband was outside with Petey and he still managed to get unleashed and bite our neighbor girl. He was a little dog, and my husband was always afraid that a Hawk would come and take him away so Petey was never out by himself.

Anyway, we've been walking, we live in a condo association, and there are dogs left unattended. Some days that doesn't bode well for me. There's one dog at a corner house where people leave him out all the time and he barks at anything and everything that goes by. Not just bark, I mean he's ready to attack. You would think by now that I would realize and be prepared that this dog is going to be out all the time, but I'm not. A couple of weeks ago, one Saturday morning, we were on a walk and the dog was outside and started barking at us. For some reason, it caught me off guard and I screamed bloody murder and I was virtually in tears. My husband did his best to console me, but it was of no use. The whole time while we were walking, I couldn't shake the fear that this dog had brought upon me. When we got home, I ended up taking a four-hour nap because I was so distraught and upset by my experience of fear and trepidation. Looking back on it, I feel like it was practice for what was to come four days later.

We live in the suburbs, right? We live in a condo complex, right? It's considered a safe neighborhood. It's safe if you're not coming up on Cujo, unexpectedly, while you're on a walk. So, Matt and I are walking, enjoying ourselves without a care in the world, until we look up and we see this big huge black dog walking toward us. It had a collar on so it must have gotten away from one of the neighbors’ homes. The dog crosses the street keeps walking towards us and stops to make some quick tinkles on the side of the road. With my fear of dogs, my husband calmly tells me to just slowly turn around and walk away. We both do that with great success. I tell you what! As soon as we rounded that corner and couldn't see that dog anymore, I took off like a bat out of hell, leaving my husband in the dust. I looked like Forrest Gump when he was running down the dirt road and took a corner and was chasing after the car. Good thing I was feeling good because otherwise it probably would have gotten really ugly, for me, not the dog.

I finally stopped running and my husband catches up to me and we continue on our nice, leisurely, relaxing walk. We come around from another corner and we look to our right and lo and behold what do we see? Yes! The big black dog! Luckily, he doesn't see us. This time can we walk past a couple of homes, out of his eyesight. It is at that time that Joanna makes her transformation into super Forrest Gump again and takes off running. My poor husband is left behind waving his hand saying “I love you. Don't leave me to the dogs”. Just kidding, that's not really how that went. He ran too.

By now we should probably have called it quits and went home, but we didn't. We continued our walk and went around a couple of cul-de-sacs and dead ends. As we're walking around our last cul-de-sac out of the corner of my eye I see my husband turn around and heard him gasp. I quickly turned around to see what was going on. Instead of a big black dog, now there is this big white dog charging at us full steam ahead and barking and ready to attack. Are you serious?! If it wasn't bad enough having some stray dog to worry about, now there's this big white dog that is literally going to attack us and there's nothing that we can do! And that's when it happened.

Time stopped. The whole world stopped. And I screamed. I screamed like I was being attacked by Freddy Krueger! I screamed louder than any other human has ever screamed in their entire life! You could hear the dog’s owner yelling if everybody was OK while he was coming around from the other side of the house. I think he was afraid that his dog had hurt somebody. My husband had always said that if we got attacked by a dog that he would protect me. And I believe he would. I know he would. Luckily, by the grace of God and my lungs which are powerful enough to blow up a hot air balloon, he didn't have to. I screamed so loud that this big, white, gnarling dog stopped in its tracks and took off running back where it came from with its tail in between its legs.

I'm not sure who was scared more, the dog or me, by the time the whole incident was over. I could hear the neighbor in the background asking repeatedly if everyone was OK and apologizing that his dog got away from him. My husband kept telling him that I was scared of dogs and I had been bitten when I was little. Basically, I let my husband do all the talking, while I did all the running. Yes, Joanna put on her Forrest Gump cape and took off.

Thankfully, we were able to finish up our four-mile walk without further incident and not have to cut everything short. We didn't see the black dog again. My neighborhood isn't dangerous, per se, but I think I might have to invest in some pepper spray to protect myself from the wildlife. Thank God for fibro remission and the ability to run.

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