Photo Credit: Jewish Press

I have a problem that might sound trivial, but it is causing me a lot of anguish.

I got married less than a year ago to a very special man. I am 29 and he is 30 so I consider both of us very lucky to have found each other. My problem is with his parents. I like them, and I know that they like me. So what could be wrong?

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I am very afraid of dogs. I have always been afraid and I never went to the home of any friend who had a dog. My husband loves dogs, but he is fine if we never get one. However, his parents have a German Shepard dog that I am terrified of.

They live in Florida, and we live in New York. They invited us to spend Pesach with them shortly after our wedding, but they took us to a hotel in Florida and put the dog in a kennel. Now they want us to come to them for Sukkos.

I asked them if they can put the dog in the kennel again for the week that we spend with them. My mother-in-law very nicely but firmly said absolutely not. I would have to overcome my fear and get used to the dog. I asked if he can be locked up in a room or kept outside the whole time, and she repeated that it was time for me to work on myself.

I was sure my husband would support my feelings, but he is trying to convince me that Angel (that’s what they call this dog) is gentle and will be around to protect me. And, after all, do I mean to never go to his parents ever?

As I said at the beginning, this might seem like a silly problem, but I am really scared. I don’t want this to come between my husband and me. Do you have any realistic solution?

Caught between a dog and…

 

Dear Caught,

Mazel tov on your marriage! You certainly waited too long for this milestone to have your fear of dogs come between you and your shalom bayis. Your fear is realistic and understandable, and you are certainly not the first person to have cynophobia.

Perhaps you guys can be set up to sleep elsewhere, like by a neighbor, when you visit your in-laws. They might then be amenable to keeping their dog outside during mealtime. Oops, you’re talking about Sukkos when meals are eaten in the outdoors (sort of), so that wouldn’t work too well – unless there’s a gated area the dog can be kept in during meal time.

It certainly wouldn’t be fair of your husband and his parents to expect you to instantly overcome your fear by your entering the lion’s den cold turkey. If you have a rapport with the rabbi in your community, you can approach him or his rebbetzin for an eitza. They may have come across such a case before and might have some ideas for you. Besides, your in-laws and husband are more likely to take the words of a rabbinical authority more seriously than your pleas, which to their way of thinking are unreasonable.

Considering that your dilemma is not exactly a temporary one, you might want to try professional counseling especially geared for phobias such as yours.

I recently heard of a similar situation. As it turned out, the woman with the fear of dogs was actually allergic to them. That settled that.

Whichever option you choose to go with, I wish you much hatzlacha.

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