By: Chaza Fares
In 1999, I was a two-year-old toddler living in Philadelphia, a city where all the busy people are out and getting their day done. One day, my father and I headed to the elevator after a nice day out in the neighborhood. Seeing the celestial city was the thing that I loved best while living in Philadelphia. After living in Romania for a year, it taught me how much difference there was between the two worlds. My little eyes were shocked at how the buildings were completely built and so shiny due to the wealth of the city.
I ran to the elevator while getting excited for it to open so I could get my daily amusement ride. It was so much fun for me. The elevator finally came down and it gradually opened up. There I saw a man holding two leashes attached to two big, mean-looking rottweilers. I stepped back while looking at the dogs. The dogs looked back at me and started wagging their tails rapidly while barking with excitement. Since I was young, I didn’t know why they were doing that, but it scared me.The big strong dogs both jumped and ran to me, dragging the weak man. They pushed me down, leaving me horrified and crying for my dad to save me. My dad rushed to me as fast as he could, forced the dogs off of me and picked me up while my cry was echoing loudly throughout the halls. That episode changed my life and I began to live with Cynophobia (fear of dogs).
Fast forwarding to 2009, I was living in a town outside of Harrisburg, PA in a peaceful neighborhood where the kids were running and playing outside with people and families walking their dogs. I became friends with my neighbor, a gorgeous, tall girl with curly hair who went to school with me. My friend’s name was Rebecca and we became very close.
One day, when her mom came by to pick Rebecca up, she brought her two cute little yorkies. My mom called us to come down to say goodbye because it was time for Rebecca to leave. When I saw the dogs, my heart started racing in fear. I couldn’t go all the way down the stairs, even knowing the dogs were on leashes. Though I was eleven years-old, nothing much had changed since the day I got attacked. I still viewed dogs as cute, but evil creature that wanted to eat me. Knowing that my friend had dogs made me realized that I couldn’t go play at her house. The next day when we were hanging out, Rebecca forgot something so she asked me to go back home with her. Since we were both quite young, I couldn’t let her walk alone. When she opened her front door her dog ran out to me and I started to freak out and began to run while he chased me. I didn’t know how dogs behave, so I overreacted with screaming and crying. My friend caught her
dog and all was okay, but I felt extremely humiliated about what had happened. I really hated that I was so scared of dogs. I grew to understand dogs, but when I would get close to them I would freak out. I started doing a lot of research on dogs and the different breeds. I began learning more about how dogs function. I found a breed that I liked at the time, a corgi. I showed a video of one to my dad and saying that it is really cute. My dad then made a comment, “It is not cute, I like your friend’s dogs.” After he told me that, I searched yorkies and looked at the pictures. I came across a yorkie puppy with big eyes in an oversized porcelain tea cup. I showed
my dad the picture and he was very pleased with it.
Three weeks later, I was sitting on the couch with my mom doing homework when we both heard the garage door open. I looked at the door and I saw what I thought at first was a stuffed animal dog, but then I suddenly saw the head move. I jumped up to go closer to understand what my dad was holding. I finally realized that my dad had gotten me a puppy. I now had this very harmless tiny puppy with large shiny eyes and a teeny tip of her tongue sticking out her mouth looking up at me. At that moment, my phobia washed away. It was like she cured a sickness. I immediately held her in my hands and hugged her. This tiny puppy was a miniature yorkie terrier named Carmella.
I was so happy to have this miracle puppy in my life, so I texted Rebecca to come over to see Carmella. In the middle of me hanging out with my friend and Carmella, I felt my life was changing. Then, I got scared. I told my dad to take her back. My dad knew what was going on and he knew what was best for me — keep Carmella. I decided to sleep on it and see how I felt the next day. Luckily, it was the weekend, so I had time to think. I woke up and felt really good about Carmella. A rush of excitement came to me, I ran downstairs to see that she was sitting on her bed. I sat next to her on the
floor and she came to me to lick my hand like she was saying “Good morning, I love you!”. That moment filled my heart up with warmth. Realizing that she really likes me broke my heart remembering what I had said last night. From that moment on, I knew that I never wanted her out of my life. Carmella became my little guardian angel and best friend. As time went on, I learned more and more from her. Ironically, we both acted pretty much alike. It was like she was my soul twin. If Carmella was a human, I would always want to talk to her.
By helping me overcome my fear of dogs, Carmella helped me in another important way. My internship for the Fall of 2019 was with the marketing/public relations firm Vizion Group. Vizion Group’s biggest client is the National Dog Show in Philadelphia (www.nationaldogshow.com), that two hour special that everyone watches Thanksgiving Day on NBC.
During the internship, we had so many events that brought me up close and personal to dogs both small and large, especially since I was the official photographer for The National Dog Show Press Preview and The National Dog Show Gala.
Thanks to Carmella everything went great and I learned so much and produced some of my best photographic images. And so many memories of Carmella came rushing back along the way.
Even though Carmella was a dog, she definitely acted like a person. She was very quiet and shy around people. Carmella didn’t like other people holding her, so she would run away from them if they tried to. As she got older, she started barking at people outside the house. Carmella always thought she was one of the big dogs, so she wanted to protect her family. When people got close to me she would snap (harmlessly). She felt it was her responsibility to keep me safe. She would be funny in her own little doggy way, always making me laugh. As other dogs do, Carmella loved food…human food. Most of her life, she stayed quiet while watching us eating, but there alway came a time when she reached her limit and started barking for us to give her food. Carmella was very fortunate she looked like a baby teddy bear, so she usually got with her way. Every day, she would prance around the house like she was the queen. Like a queen, Carmella loved her baths and getting brushed. Unlike a queen, she never liked it when I put her hair in a pony tail or when I dressed her up in cute clothes. Everyday after school, she would run up the stairs and scratch on my door as if she was knocking for me to let her in. Carmella loved staying with me. I would always sing to her and watch her fall asleep. I could tell she liked it when I sang around her. Carmella was a very independent dog, too. She would do things her way without help. For example, she was great at taking
herself out to go potty or taking herself on walks without me or my family
supervising her. Carmella was a professional kisser. She loved kissing anywhere she could see skin showing. As she got older, she gave me kisses that would last me a lifetime. Looking back at it now, she knew her time was coming to an end and she needed to make sure I got my lifetime supply.
In sharing my story, I can say proudly that Carmella changed me and taught me things that no one else ever could. She showed me that there is nothing to be afraid of when dogs are around. They are just furry, innocent creatures that act like children. My experience definitely showed me how
brave I am and that I can overcome anything, even a fear from a traumatic
childhood incident. Carmella will always be my little precious gift from the
divine, a gift that changed my life forever.