A friend of mine is about the same – asthma, allergies, and trauma from being bitten when she was very young – and she found some completely free therapy. There is a friendly couple in her building with a friendly German Shepherd. She is now at the point where she can ride in the elevator with the dog without having a panic attack.
That took months to achieve, but she got there. The dog’s owners were happy to help her out.
The two biggest things for my friend were acclimation and learning body language. She’d try to tell the dogs, “go away, leave me alone” through her body language, when often the gestures and postures she was using had the complete opposite effect. The dog owners would give her feedback on how to tell dogs she doesn’t want to play with them in a way they’ll understand.
At the same time she’s learned about dog body language. One time she was visiting me, and as we were leaving my apartment the neighbour’s chow chow came bounding along the corridor. Come to think of it, this might be why she decided to start working with the Shepherd and his owners.
She thought the chow was running at her to attack her. I explained he was heading to the elevators for a walk, his favourite thing ever, plus I was behind her, and that dog really likes me. All he was thinking was, “I get to walk and I get pets from that lady in the unit by the elevators!”
It’s like any fear. You can blame an entire species and decide they’re all out to get you, or you can work to make sure that you know how to handle it when you do encounter them in public, or you can do nothing and stay the same.
But if you choose the last option, you don’t get to complain.