Like most sane people in their twenties who don’t get married out of high school and start families before they’re allowed to buy beer, I maintain a healthy dislike of children. Oh, I recognize the need for children on a purely biological level, certainly; I’m just glad it’s not me having to lug screaming miniature idiots around to restaurants and supermarkets just so I can keep my bloodline in the gene race. Children: they’re cute at first, sure, but they’re also loud, destructive, not very bright and frankly horrible conversationalists. I don’t adopt retarded, violent midgets and invite them into my home for decades at a time, either, and I fail to see the difference in principle.
The only time I get face-time with children, then, has been at family reunions; and since my cousins have all since grown up into adults, I’m in a comfortable little child-free pocket of time until one of them gets married and decides to breed. (Jason, if you’re reading this, have you considered recent advances in vasectomies? All the cool twenty-somethings are getting them.)
Even though I work hard to keep any meet-and-greets with the under-ten set brief and infrequent, whenever I meet children I tend to get a reliable litmus test for whatever the country’s most terrified of this month, based on what they’ve scared the hell out of their kids into believing. (Ten years ago, for instance, I gathered that anti-smoking paranoia had hit its stride in America’s public schools when a child ripped up my cigarettes in front of me and told me I had cancer. What an adorable rascal.) Based on what I’ve noticed since becoming a dog owner, then, I’m convinced that children today are being taught that all dogs, regardless of their size, temperament or breed, are vicious, fanged killing machines who will dive through their chests and feed on their still-beating hearts as soon as look at them.
It sounds like I’m exaggerating—and, of course, for comic effect I am—but truly, you’d think I was walking around with a four-legged bomb on a leash the way the kids melodramatically dive for cover in my neighborhood. I saw one little girl flatten herself against the wall in mute, wide-eyed terror as I walked my dog past, unable to move until we were safely past the block. Another little girl just last week actually ran into traffic to avoid getting within ten feet of my dog.
Childen accompanied by parents are even worse: the kid’ll look up at Mom and Dad and ask if they can pet my dog, and—without conferring with me or even acknowledging my existence—the parents will loudly scold them into silence at such a ludicrous suggestion, explaining that I’m most likely a pervert who feeds my dog human steaks through a cage. This morning I witnessed a mother accidentally (and hilariously) bean her child off a lamp post in her flailing efforts to prevent her darling from getting his hand licked by a puppy. When I walk my dog in the park, I’m accosted now by roving packs of eight-year-olds who want to pet my dog, surreptiously asked in the same hushed, guilty tones they might use to score weed. Apparently Playing With an Adorable Puppy is the new Climbing on Abandoned Construction Vehicles for childhood rebellion.
Keep in mind, I’m not for a second suggesting the parents and teachers are in error here: it’s not like children can be trusted to use their own judgment on a case-by-case basis, since they’re idiots and don’t have any. If you want little Taylor to understand he can’t put his arm in the mouth of a foaming, rabid Rottweiler chained to a rusted-out Buick in the junkyard, you’re going to have to make a blanket rule that the little moron can’t go near any dogs at all. And you’ll probably want to make up a bunch of ridiculous lies to instill fear in the kid too, because God knows common sense is going to sail right over his dirty little skull.
No, I’m merely pointing out the effects of this strategy: that children are running into the paths of cars and getting headbutted into poles to avoid ravenous, flesh-hungry beasts like my dog:
Frightening just looking at him, isn’t he? Those are the black eyes of a killer.
Perhaps I’m just out of date, and there’s been a recent scourge of puppy attacks on children lately. Based on how kids play with my dog at the park, I believe it. (Yes, I let my dog play with kids at the park. Kids are in better shape than I am, and my dog needs exercise. When an angry parent approaches, looking like she’s about to chew me out, I usually fake a cell phone call and talk into a dead receiver while beating a hasty exit.) Typically the kids will approach my dog with fear, which as I’m sure you can imagine, puts him at ease immediately. There’s nothing like having three complete strangers encircle you while stage-creeping around with their arms out to put you at your ease.
Once the kids are satisfied that my dog’s not going to kill him, they’ll terrorize him, because—I hope I’ve made this clear by now—children are dim, evil-minded little bastards. They’ll chase him around, usually while holding tree branches or other threatening-looking implements, screaming at the top of their lungs like the sticks are swords and they’re the loudest, stupidest ninjas ever. My dog’s tail will immediately tuck between his legs and he’ll hide behind me, looking up at me imploringly as if to say, “I don’t know if these are friends of yours or what, but this needs to stop.”
One of the kids, swinging his tree branch experimentally, will puzzle this new information out for a bit, and say, “I think he’s scared.” The others will flatly refute this, on the grounds that it’s a dog and they love it when you attack them with sticks. If I wasn’t there for my dog to hide behind, I’m sure at some point he would have bitten them. I know I was close to committing some form of violence—but then one of their mothers showed up, red-faced and fat, and I hurriedly faked a cell phone call while walking swiftly in the other direction.