where the dogs are

2083111412_bd80823f59

When I worked in Bucharest, we’d go out to lunch from time to time. Our office was in a building that had a soup/deli thing on the ground floor.  The other option was a McDonald’s about a block away.  When you were there in the winter, the sidewalks would be covered by ice – public services like salt and scraping were nonexistent – but that wasn’t the biggest kicker.  I had been in numerous freezing cold locales by that point:  Moscow, Siberia, Poland, Boston.  The real problem was the dogs.

Wild dogs roamed up and down the streets in our part of downtown Bucharest. I don’t know if they were wild dogs, or just abandoned pets, but they seemed bold enough to be wild and tame enough to shy away at the last second from a human.  They were frightening, though.  They’d gather around you and snarl and bark and generally activate your caveman brain’s fear of things with teeth.

We’d watch out the windows around lunchtime to see if the local pack of wild dogs were nearby before setting off for McDonald’s. I’m not sure if they would have attacked.  They acted fierce, and they looked hungry, but I never saw them attack a person.  They were hungry, for sure.  If they came close, I’d throw a rock or two.  Usually that scared them off.  Once or twice it didn’t, and I learned a trick – barking LIKE a dog at a dog freaks them out.  But before you laugh at me, imagine having a pack of 10-12 hungry wild dogs snarling at you and think about what you’d do in that situation.

We would go to McDonald’s, of course.
If you can look out the window and see that you’re likely to make it, you may chance it, because you can only eat soup in the company canteen so many days in a row.  A cheeseburger starts to look like a filet mignon steak after a while.

But those dogs were frightening. Years before going to Bucharest, while living in Moscow, I had read reports of a young woman torn to shreds by wild dogs a few blocks from my home.  You’d have to assume she was drunk, or stoned, or just unlucky.  But people do get attacked by dogs, so a pack of wild dogs is not something to shrug at.

Week after week (I spent a lot of time in Bucharest) I’d venture by those dogs…sometimes walking through the midst of them.  Towards the end, as I mentioned, I snarled at them. They cringed when they saw me coming.  I had little fear of them.  The first time I saw them I was terrified, and the last time I saw them I was caught somewhere between disgust and pity, but fearless.

Not to go all Aesop on you here, but the moral of the story is that even things that seem scary can be conquered.  Don’t assume that you will always be afraid.  Someday – if you try hard enough, and beat away at it every day – you’ll beat it.  Fear is just uncertainty about the unknown.

photo by Javiercit0

11 comments

  • Pingback: A Guide for Choosing Must Have Pet Supplies | Pet Supply Plus

  • What a great analogy, and a funny anecdote. Did you guys have to draw straws to see who had to “take one for the team”? I remember when we first moved into our house, our neighborhood had a small pack of stray dogs. I discovered this early one morning when I was taking out the garbage. Four pairs of eyes were trained on me, as I interrupted their feast in my garbage can. At first, I thought they were raccoons, until the growling started. I turned the garden hose on them, and that seemed to do the trick. But I was wary of them every time that I took out the garbage.

    • @Enrique: Oddly enough, most of the time I was working with female colleagues so there wasn't much straw-drawing – I went. After a while, we all went, because we did realize that the perceived risk was nowhere near the real risk. Stray dogs are scary things, that's for sure.

  • Great post, Steve. Dogs don't frighten me; I delivered newspapers in my youth. But there is a lot more fear out there than is necessary.

  • I don't trust dogs. Or any animal for that matter. And no matter how many times you tell me that your dog is nice and friendly and never attacks or bites anyone. It only takes one time.
    I got attacked by a great dane when I walked into my friend's house totally unaware of its existence. And it attacked me out of the blue. My friend and her family tried to pry the animal away. Afterwards, they swore that it never attacked anybody before and that it is the friendliest doggy in the world and they don't know what happened to it this time.

    Moral of the story: don't confuse fear and mistrust. (ok, maybe not very relevant here, but beware!)

  • Chad @ Sentient Money

    To me, your story all comes down to judging risk. Humans are notoriously bad at judging risk appropriately. In turn, this makes most of us terrible investors, but it makes a few spectacular investors.

    For example, let's go a few steps above dogs and take a look at the grizzly. It could house a couple of humans no problem for a snack. However, it rarely does. Whenever an attack occurs 80% of the time the human did something dumb like feed it (dumb ass). Thus, the risk isn't as high as it appears to be.

    On a side note, sticking with the dog theme, there are no known fatalities from a wolf attack in North America. If you have ever been around a wolf, you know they are the scariest dogs on the planet. Yet, no fatalities. This is just one of those stats I find fascinating, but rarely get to use.

    • @Chad: You're right – humans (and yr. humble author in particular) are terrible at judging risk. The ability to judge and (in some cases) ignore risk is part of what separates the adequate from the great, I think.

      Fascinating side note about the wolves, by the way. That's exactly the point – we should be far more terrified of falling in bathtubs, skin cancer or car wrecks than we should be of dog attacks, terrorist attacks or plane crashes, but we aren't.

    • chadsentientmoney

      “That's exactly the point – we should be far more terrified of falling in bathtubs, skin cancer or car wrecks than we should be of dog attacks, terrorist attacks or plane crashes, but we aren't.”

      I couldn't agree more. The majority of humanity is not a rational animal, but an emotional one. Thus, everyone is trying to force themselves into believing we are in recovery mode right now, even though the numbers say we are really just in a normal recession after the Great Recession.

  • Fear of the unknown keeps us from achieving greatness. We won't start a business because we don't know how to, we won't approach a beautiful woman because we fear how it will go, we don't reach for greatness because we fear what might happen.

    When we ask the question – What would you do if you were guaranteed success? We get great answers. The question is why don't we?

    The unknown is not without risk as seen by the young lady that died from the dogs, but facing our fears and striding forward is the only way to accomplish what we know we are capable of.

    Great post!! Don't let the dogs bite you!!

  • chadsentientmoney

    “That's exactly the point – we should be far more terrified of falling in bathtubs, skin cancer or car wrecks than we should be of dog attacks, terrorist attacks or plane crashes, but we aren't.”

    I couldn't agree more. The majority of humanity is not a rational animal, but an emotional one. Thus, everyone is trying to force themselves into believing we are in recovery mode right now, even though the numbers say we are really just in a normal recession after the Great Recession.

  • Pingback: Corporate Barbarian Links: Sports Physical Edition « The Corporate Barbarian Blog