Now that the weather has started warming up, we have been getting outside a lot more. I had noticed that some extra padding had mysteriously accumulated in various places over winter so I have been determined to be more active. One morning I decided to take Dan for a walk around our neighbourhood block. It was going well until we passed a place that had a dog.
Dan hates dogs. I can’t ever remember him having a bad experience with a dog, however, for as long as I can remember, he has been afraid of dogs. Now the dog that we passed was safely behind the front fence. It looked over the fence at us and barked at us, but we were quite safe. However, as soon as Dan hears or sees a dog, he tries to get as far away from it as possible. Even if it means putting himself in danger by standing in the middle of the road. It doesn’t matter how much I try to reassure Dan that he is perfectly safe; the dog is behind the fence, he can’t get you – he is usually determined to go in the opposite direction. Eventually, we managed to get past the dog, but it was very exhausting.
One of the things we like to do when we are camping or touring around Australia is visit wineries. I especially like the small family-run, boutique wineries and I have noticed how wineries and dogs often go together. Dan has a good memory. I used to think he remembered which wineries had dogs, if we happened to visit them again. But an experience earlier in the year has raised a different possibility.
Before Easter, we spent a weekend at a small town called Kingaroy just a few hours north-west of Toowoomba. We visited two wineries. When we arrived at the first place, Dan wouldn’t get out the car. We looked around, couldn’t see any dogs and tried to reassure him that there were no dogs. Reluctantly, he got out the car and followed us into the wine tasting area. I was tasting a few wines and chatting to the owner, and asked him if they had any dogs. He said they had two dogs but they were in the house with his wife. The next minute, Dan is trying to climb up my husband, Paul, who is over six foot. One of the dogs, a small dog, had escaped from the house. Climbing up the nearest human tree is Dan’s favourite escape strategy. Thank goodness he has stopped trying to climb up me.
When we went to the second winery, a strange thing happened. Dan got out of the car – no problems. I thought, this is a bit weird. Anyway, we go into the shed and I ask the lady if they have any dogs. No dogs. I explained about Dan’s autism and dislike of dogs, and she thought he could probably smell them. People on the spectrum often do have a heightened sensory awareness and Dan is quite sensitive to sound and touch. But it never occurred to me that he could smell dogs. The next time he refuses to get out of the car, we’ll know.