There are many unusual phobias that affect people, often in a debilitating way.
Personally, I have no fear of spiders but I do act like I’ve stepped on hot coals if I spot a sneaky mouse trotting across the floor.
I know a neighbour who can’t look a strawberry in its eye, and a cousin who freaks out at the very thought of buttons.
Children are particularly prone to phobias and they are sometimes of the strangest order.
A friend’s daughter can’t bear anyone wearing a motorbike helmet.
And my own youngest child hates yoghurt and stickers, although not necessarily at the same time.
This stems from the time at school when a friend whipped off her yoghurt pot lid and smatters of milky blobs landed on her school cardigan.
And stickers? Well, who knows. I just know that when I needed some time without her clinging to me when she was a toddler, all I had to do was adorn myself with stickers and she kept her distance. Result!
The downside, of course, is that at every opportunity people like to give small children stickers, either as rewards or as an indication that they have paid to get into a farm.
Being a young child, although fun in many ways, has its downsides, particularly since they tend to be a bit on the short side.
This causes issues when faced with certain phobias such as those related to dogs.
It is easy for us adults to forget that to a child whose nose barely reaches halfway up your thigh, a dog (even of the small, yappy variety) can appear terrifying.
Add into the mix that the dog may be somewhat exuberant/yappy/slobbery and this can be the start of a lifelong distrust of man’s best friend.
Many of my friends’ children cower when they pass a dog, or one leaps up at them unexpectedly.
I often see mothers pulling their child away from dogs as they walk past them in the street.
Nothing wrong with that. Except that the dog owners, almost invariably, comment: ‘They won’t hurt you. They are just being friendly’.
This really riles me. The dogs may well be ‘friendly’ and not the biting kind, but who’s to say that I, or my child who is on the same eye level with the hound, wants some dribbling canine licking my face or sniffing my crotch?
Another comment that I have often heard is ‘Rover loves children’, as if that will make it all right that the dog in question appears to be trying to push the poor child off his feet with this ‘affection’.
Or am I misinterpreting it – does he love children for his tea?
I am sure that most dog owners feel that they have their hounds under control and are certain that no harm will come to their fellow pavement users.
But please, if your dog takes an interest in a stranger’s unwilling child, just apologise and move swiftly on.
Don’t try and insist that the quivering child strokes the dog, or tickles it behind the ears to show off just how friendly this particular canine is. It’s just not worth it. And whilst I’m at it, please pick up your dog poo and dispose of it.