Big Black Dog Syndrome

At shelters, they have what they call BBD: Big Black Dog syndrome. Potential adopters pass right by the cages and kennels of the black and dark brown as if these dogs (and cats) do not exist, as if they don’t matter in the scheme of things, as if these animals are scary, bad luck. Too much a risk to take home a dark stranger. Unjustified fear.

Last night we went for a wine tasting in Volgy, Hungary. The son wore a black t-shirt and, unlike his parents spoke English, so served as both host and interpreter. We were welcomed into the wine cave by the son, the mother, and the father, where they’d set a simple but lovely table. While the Attila the son (I swear that was his name) poured wines and described each one, his mother served us homemade goulash and sliced peppers and bread and strudel. She sat with us and we laughed and visited and told (sometimes crude) stories and shared photos of our children — because, if you try just a little, you can spend a charming, meaningful, laughter-filled evening with foreigners, even if you start out a little afraid, even if we have no common language.

We hugged and kissed our newfound Mama goodnight. And she pulled us in closer.

Our American culture programs us for fear. I was warned by many a well-meaning friend that this trip was too scary to go on. “You realize what you’re doing is dangerous?” “I wouldn’t leave the country right now.” Israel is bombing Gaza. The Ukraine. Translation: THE WORLD AND ITS FOREIGNERS ARE SCARY. Of course they are. Because our TV news and web news shows a constant loop of danger, because they choose, of the many crimes committed in a day, to show the black faces of people we don’t know. Unjustified fear sells. 

You know what’s scary? Knowing you are locked in a cage and no one cares. You know what’s scary? The Ferguson police force, a mere 2 hour drive from where I grew up. 

I’m so outraged at what’s happening this week in Ferguson, Missouri, it’s hard to go to sleep at night. I read the news online before bed, see the cops in military gear, and feel my anger rise.

Several people told me I was stupid (that’s the word they used) to go on this trip. It’s funny, I went to Chicago last weekend where there were 46 shootings and 3 deaths and not a single friend expressed concern for my safety.

Black dogs. Black cats. Black unarmed teenage boys. Scary, unloveable, unpredictable, dangerous. Beware. Don’t bother to get to know them, to take them in like Mama, like family. It’s easier to pass by, to leave them to die in their cages. To shoot them down.

Today we are driving out of Hungary, into central Slovakia. Yet another dark unknown. But I’ve been here 5 days with 9 to go and, even though I can’t read the signs or calculate money without focused effort or speak the language At All, I feel at home, open to strangers, unafraid, and safe. I’m hoping for the same in the shelters. In Gaza. In Ferguson. In all of your homes tonight. 

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14 thoughts on “Big Black Dog Syndrome

    1. Teri Post author

      If you can get gunned down in the middle of the day for being big tall and mouthy/angry, my brothers would be dead 20 times over.

      Except, oh yeah, they’re white.

  1. tdapra

    My mother was similarly freaked out when I went to the Olympics in Greece. Terrorism! Almost the Middle East! We have plenty of violence in our own country, our own families, to confront. But it’s easier to fear the other.

    Have a great trip! I’ve always wanted to do one of those hiking holidays.

    1. Teri Post author

      If we all stayed home because something was going on in the world, we would never pull out of our own driveways.

  2. Mary Lynne

    You are a wise traveler. We learn so much when we leave our nests. And I guess I go against the grain (a rarity for me) because I have rescued four black dogs, all Newfies. Safe travels.

  3. Teri Post author

    I’ve heard all the updates. Huge kid, baggy clothes, swiped cigars, maybe in the face angry and mouthy.

    And yet.

    I was thinking about my very white son at 18 and his mouthy friends at that age, feeling their oats and all. They could have done ALL that and more and not been gunned down in the middle of the street in daylight.

    And why did Michael Brown feel the way he did about that white cop? “There’s no way out, they hate me and are after me. I am nothing and I am trapped.”

  4. readyonit

    It is all about fear. Fear + Ignorance = Stereotypes/Labeling. Yet no one knows the story behind people, they’re judged on how they look on the outside.

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