My Dad is afraid of dogs. I mean really afraid of dogs. He was attacked when he was a kid back in the 30s when dogs ran free and mutts were the order of the day. He said he still remembers seeing the ridges on the roof of the dog's mouth as it stood over him, its paws planted firmly on his chest after pushing him to the ground, with a gaping, menacing snarl on its face.
He wasn't bitten. For some reason the dog ran off or was called off - or maybe hauled off. But my Dad was spared. Except that to this day he's still terrified of dogs.
He and I used to walk together every night when I was in University and still living at home. That was back when he actually could walk. Congestive heart failure keeps him pretty sedentary now, which is hard for a man who played sports well into his 40s and who kept active long after that.
We'd set out a little after dinner and make our way around the neighbourhood for a half hour or so, chatting and sneaking peeks into the living rooms of people who didn't keep their curtains shut when night fell. I remember the glee I got when we discovered that an arrogant and much feared psychology professor I'd had in first year lived in our neighbourhood - and kept his blinds open. Every night we'd see him sitting slumped in a lazy-boy with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth in front of the TV.
It was excellent. Just excellent.
By the time I was in University my Dad had pretty much stopped taking sticks along with him when he walked. But when we were kids he always brought a stick. It might have been a rake handle or a garden stake - but it was always something. You see, he needed it in case he encountered a dog.
As far as I can recall he never needed to use it, but I can still remember the look of utter and complete terror on his face when he'd catch sight of someone walking a dog that wasn't on a leash (back when that was okay). Sometimes we'd cross the street or change our course just to avoid it. But if we didn't or couldn't, he had that stick.
All because a big dog bared its teeth at a little boy 70 years ago.
It's awful to have fears that big - so big you need to fight them off with a stick.
But I was thinking this morning, what I wouldn't give to be able to see my fears and beat them into submission. I wish my fears had a face. I wish a stick could keep them at bay.