Black Tounge Alert

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She was a young girl, probably six or seven, and one could guess by her long, purple, puppy-embroidered socks that she was obviously intrigued by animals. I came strolling up the Oakwell Farms gravel trail, holding him closely and assuming the innocent girl on the bike ride with her mother would want to visit with my friend. I could see the girls’ eyes brighten as she acknowledged who I had with me. They rode closer. About three yards away now, the girl turned to her mom, her lopsided sparkly helmet sliding down her cheek as she did so, and asked in almost a whisper if she could pet my dog.

“Are you crazy?!” her mom retorted harshly. “That dog is a Chow Chow! Are you oblivious to its black tongue? That dog will rip you apart!”

With that, the girl’s mother changed the course of their bike ride. The small girl’s head and my dog’s wagging tail slowly dropped in disappointment.

I was taken aback at the gall of the woman—let alone embarrassed for hurting the little girl’s feelings. The sharp rejection of the daughter’s simple request caught me off guard. Was the girl’s letdown my fault because of the breed of dog my family chose to adopt? Was I, an animal-loving Snow White nature figure, thought of as a danger-breeding offender? Feelings of rage surged though my arm and connected with my dog’s leash. I thought back to other similar instances. I only needed to allow my dog the pleasure of chasing a squirrel for him to be labeled a killer. I simply had to tighten my grip on his leash for passerby to shoot me looks of pure fear or disgust. Unfair, this problem was not new.
My dog is indeed a Chow Chow, with a black tongue, pointed ears, and rust colored out-of-control hair to prove it. Because of his uncharacteristic appearance, strangers tense up and quickly shuffle their children across the street, all the while instinctively stepping in front of their young ones to shield them from the savage attack they are nervously anticipating. It is made obvious by all surrounding people that they feel threatened by my dog, Chuckie. Simply stretching his legs, Chuckie pursues exercise, not a lunchtime snack of passerby. Yes, Chow Chows are known as a more aggressive type of dog, but is the fact that Chuckie is a Chow Chow enough to distinguish him as vicious and harmful? It almost seems racist.

The people I seem to scare the most are other people with dogs - Labs, Beatles, Collies- the other “harmless breeds”. Some will not even make eye contact with me as they clasp their leashes and hasten their pace. Consciously or not, they keep complete focus on their own pets, as if for reassurance that their animal’s throats have not been gorily ripped open with the sharp yet inexperienced claws of my Chow Chow. Each glance of terror I receive seems to bear expectations that I know Chuckie could never live up to.

Chuckie is the farthest thing from brutal. He can barely overpower my cat, Angel Mae, when she slyly pilfers mouthfuls from his food bowl. He whines and forces his tail between his legs when he sees a roach skitter across the gray, lined pavement of the neighborhood basketball court. His fear of nature directs him to humans for attention; he welcomes any and all loving and is indiscriminate about who gives them to him. Also, he is always upbeat. Never before have I seen a dog smile like Chuckie—his eyes light up and he lets his black tongue flap out of his mouth so his teeth can show (in a nonthreatening fashion). His smile looks fake, out of a magazine.

After weeks of walks with Chuckie, my reactions have numbed. Although I haven’t accepted all the drama, I have taught myself to tune out when couples abruptly change directions on the trail as they take notice of Chuckie, large and animated. I have become accustomed to low murmurs and withheld expressions. No longer do I feel frustrated, ostracized, judged, misunderstood, or annoyed. The only emotion my heart can still evoke is sympathy for my poor dog, who besides his family is lonely because of his appeal.





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