About Me

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Mumbai, India
I'm a landrace dog fancier, birder and amateur arachnologist. Founder of the INDog Project (www.indog.co.in) and the INDog Club. Before that, worked with urban free-ranging dogs of Mumbai from 1993-2007. Also a wildlife conservationist working in the tiger reserves of central India with Satpuda Foundation.

This blog is for aboriginal breed enthusiasts. It is part of the INDog Project www.indog.co.in. Only INDogs (Indian Pariah) and INDog-mix mongrels are featured here. The two are NOT the same, do please read the text on the right to understand the difference. Our aim: to create awareness about the primitive natural breed called the Indian Pariah Dog/INDog. I sometimes feature other landrace breeds too.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Cynophobia

Cynophobia = an abnormal or persistent fear of dogs. Derived from Greek kyon (dog) + phobos (fear).

I believe a large number of urban Indians suffer from some degree of cynophobia, though of course not all are extreme.

I am
not referring to people who have a rational fear of dogs. I do myself under certain circumstances; and those who are not dog lovers would naturally be more scared than I am. I believe it's normal to step aside when an unknown dog passes you, specially if it is of formidable appearance. I also believe it's normal to feel nervous when walking past a pack of fighting snarling dogs. It's normal to feel alarmed if an unknown dog jumps on you. It's normal to be scared of dogs if you have ever been attacked or bitten by a dog, specially if you don't know why it happened.

But it is a phobia if you scream or jump at the sight of a dog that is not bothering you in any way. Or if you go to unnatural lengths to avoid proximity to dogs, OR if you go to extreme lengths to have perfectly inoffensive dogs removed from your neighbourhood.

I'm not trying to ridicule cynophobes here. I myself suffer from an irrational fear of some creepy-crawlies whose only fault is that they are ugly to the human eye. I know exactly how a phobia feels, and I sympathize. I have a few friends and acquaintances (just a few) who are cynophobic and freely admit it. They know and accept that most dogs may be harmless and that the problem is in their own mind. I like and respect these people for their honesty.

My complaint is against the kind of cynophobe who does not admit that she/he has a kind of disorder. Such people feel that their fear is rational. Worst of all, they very often try to justify their fear of a specific dog or dogs, by inventing stories of attacks and aggression. It's mostly men who do this, no doubt because they feel admitting to any kind of irrational fear would make them appear effeminate. (The same kind of men stamp on lizards and spiders, because they are deeply afraid of them...)

This kind of fear of dogs is so common in urban India that it isn't seen as abnormal at all. The dogs can't defend themselves against false accusations or exaggerations. So cynophobia claims many canine victims.

You'll rarely find a cynophobe in rural India though. Here's a picture of two Nagaon ladies who regularly walk on the beach. They probably pass this pack of dogs every day and pay no attention to them at all. They looked alarmed one evening when my Kimaya ran towards them, but they soon realized she was playing and smiled and went on their way.



My second complaint against most cynophobes is that they don't make any attempt to cure the problem. How can you cure a problem if you won't even admit it exists?

Coming back to my phobia, I'm the conservative type and I think dramatic displays inappropriate in a woman of my age. When the insect I fear buzzes into view, I can now control myself to the extent that I won't make a scene in public. Though I'll definitely remove myself discreetly from its presence at the earliest opportunity!

It took me time and effort to reach this level of self-control. Why can't others make the same effort to overcome their fear of dogs, mice, snakes, bats, lizards, owls, cats...? I have some of my neighbours in mind as I write this: elderly women who scream, jump up and down flailing their arms and generally behave like caricatures if they happen to be in the elevator when I try to enter with my dogs. My nickname for them is "the screamers."

Needless to say, the lift men, all of rural origin, hide big grins when these circuses take place. And I politely wait for the next elevator.

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