A neighbor said that to me yesterday afternoon. She was working in her garden; three big bags of soil were stacked by the bushes in front of her house. She has a dog—a dalmatian, I think—and Charlie always checks to see if the front door is open and if the dog is standing in it. If it is, he makes a concerted dash across the street. Yesterday I didn't see or hear the dog myself but Charlie must have as one moment he was walking and looking towards the house's door, the next he was running, really really fast.
I jogged after and got within a couple of feet of him, and on we walked. Our neighbor's comment kept playing over and over in my head.
Having observed Charlie around (if you count up all the walks over all the years in all the different parks, suburbs, city streets, and other places) a couple hundred dogs, I would say that he's very fascinated and even curious about them. His is, 'tis true, a fascination closely coupled with intense fear. Sometimes I think Charlie's ever on the lookout for dogs not so much to steer clear of them, as to actually see them and see what they're up to—and then he's terrified and makes a run for it.
When Charlie was about 5, he was not only very interested in dogs, he was quite interested in stroking and petting them. But a couple of years later, whenever we encountered a dog (and this happened fairly frequently, as those were the days when we took Charlie on long walks in New York City), he would run to Jim and me saying "up, up!". It wasn't too long before I for one could not carry Charlie and neither of us thought carrying the best response anyways, and praised Charlie for holding our hands and not, as it were, freaking out.
And then came a new dog problem. Jim and Charlie would be out riding bikes and a dog would run after them. Or, a dog on a leash out walking with its owner might bark at Charlie, who would then, on some occasions, abandon his bike, even in the middle of the street, and go running. (Mind you, Charlie was always careful to set the bike straight and on its kickstand before running stage-down-the-street-as-fast-as-could, with Jim in pursuit and slowed down by the fact that he had to take Charlie's bike with him, while still riding his bike—it would have been even harder to get Charlie to go back for his bike).
For awhile, Jim and I thought it was the barking of dogs that most irked our sound-sensitive boy, but so many (as you may have noticed from my photos), a lot of sounds (most sounds, it often seems) really bother Charlie, who is more likely to walk around with his hands over his ears these days than not.
In the past couple of months, if a dog is on a leash, Charlie moves off the sidewalk (to a neighbor's lawn), but doesn't entirely run away: A little bit of progress.
On the other hand, if Charlie sees a dog without a leash—-in a field or on the beach (wide open spaces where animals couped up in small yards or apartments or other domestic spaces can move to their heart's content)—he is overcome with anxiety and a sort of fight-or-flight response sets in, and off goes Charlie (and he is a very fast runner now—graceful to behold, but very fast).
But it's not exactly "hate" that Charlie has towards dogs. Certainly, fear. But also something like—curiosity?
A kind of healthy respect so that he's careful of stepping into their space?
The likelihood of us getting a dog remains as unlikely as ever. I do know that therapy dogs occasionally visit Charlie's school and I think that would be a good way for him to have some more "up and close" reactions with our canine friends. In the meantime, rather than having any strained interactions with dog owners (we've had more than a few, puzzled that Charlie shows such an extreme—?—response to human's best friend), my new strategy is to be easy smiles and "hi, hi," when the owners and I pass each other.
Charlie, of course, is already quite far ahead, shooting me a glance over his shoulder to hurry up, please, 'tis time for walking.