I’ve never thought of myself as a dog person. I was chased by a dog in my youth and another one later. I’ve held my breath trying to quell panic through dog-owners insisting that their pets are harmless babies, that I shouldn’t worry and that anybody who hates dogs is horrible.
I like cats. I always have. Because they don’t paw me. Because they allow for long eye contact and measured steps before they come close. Despite what people say about them, I’ve never found cats cold. No one who understands that trust needs to be earned, can be cold.
I was assaulted, first as a child and then as an adult by people I was told I could trust. Sudden proximity sounds like a threat, not affection to me. People pressurising me to like it, is just as familiar and re-establishes that story. I’ve swallowed my panic and gone through the motions of handshakes and hugs and big body language. I’ve tolerated breath and sweat and people smells while coaxing my heart to stop pounding. At least with animals, I don’t have to.
Recently, I’ve met people who consider the politics of touch more than they actually effect touch. They have made it possible for me to explore my feelings about this. Some of them have animals. I feel safer around these animals than before. I like two of their dogs.
This one ran up to me in a shop. And I looked back and said hello. She rolled over onto her back and I knew she was asking to be petted. Asking, not demanding, not imposing. So when I patted her, she offered up a little more affection. And she coaxed a laugh out of me. Her name is Laado.
I am laughing silly these days. I’m smiling with the deep dimples I’ve had since I was born but which haven’t been noticed in two decades. It feels easier to do this. When boundaries are respected, one doesn’t have to put up fortresses.
If you’re an animal or human parent, be a responsible one. It’s your job to teach your child consent. Not mine to survive its violation.
If you need space & time, you have the right to it. No matter who tries to violate it. Someday someone will offer love without violation.