Everyone Loves a Puppy, right?
Who doesn't love a puppy? Besides, people allergic to dogs? Actually, a lot of people based on their culture of origin.
I've recently been working with nationals from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and have found that puppy-love, in the literal sense, can be cultural.
Here in the USA, dogs are highly valued for their companionship, and skills such as assisting the blind, sniffing out explosives, protecting their owners, playing frisbee, etc.
In Saudi Arabia and many other Muslim countries, the relationship between humans and dogs is ancient and complex. Dogs are mentioned positively in the Quran (Surah 5, verse 5), but many Islamic scholars have written that the saliva of a dog is ritually impure. So many Muslims believe that being around a dog is not a good idea. For example, one of my clients told me that if he petted a dog or a dog came in contact with him, he would have to ritually cleanse himself with water and sand several times before he could pray. Add this to the fact that many of the dogs in Saudi Arabia and throughout the Middle East are strays, and you can see why dogs, in general, have a bad reputation, and it is therefore highly unusual for families in Saudi Arabia to have pet dogs in their homes.
Many of my US-based Saudi clients have voiced their fear of dogs to me, and I've given them the same advice. If you feel threatened by a dog roaming without its owner, call Animal Control. If the dog is with its owner, mention to the owner that you are afraid of dogs, and ask him or her to call their dog, and ensure that the dog doesn't jump up on them or lick them.
In American culture, pets in general, and dogs in particular, play an important role in our culture and are widely accepted and respected. Americans in general treat their dogs like family members and they take time and care to ensure that they are safe, healthy to be around, and well-behaved around strangers. Here in the Houston area, dog parks are springing up everywhere, service-dogs are becoming a common site in work places, and more restaurants and hotels are catering to people who want to bring their dog with them.
Over time, some Muslims' attitudes toward dogs evolve. Puppy love blooms. Small-dog love develops. However, large dogs, which are commonly used for security in Muslim countries, can remain a challenge.
So the next time you reach out to pet a dog or embrace a puppy, remember that your joy may be more cultural than you know.