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A failed interaction with a dog

Published: February 20, 2019
Last updated on October 15, 2021

Here is a short story that may be indicative of the strong empathy and other feelings autistic people experience, or perhaps of our affinity with animals[1]Autism and Animals: A Close Bond of Mutual Understanding | Celebrating Individual Abilities[2]Assessing Preferences for Animals in Children with Autism: A New Use for Video-Based Preference Assessment[3]Children’s representations of pets in their social networks (as also described in Temple Grandin’s book Animals in Translation).

I just went to the store, and on my way found a beautiful dog (not the oddity pictured above) chained to a pole in front of a cookie store. She was looking inside the store and whimpering, presumably for her owner, as she was standing outside in the cold.*

  • I will not exclude the possibility she was whimpering for cookies, though!


On my way back home a few minutes later, the dog was still standing there. I felt bad for her, and wanted to pet her in an attempt to console her. But I was hesitant to try, as I don’t know what her response might be—or indeed the response of her owner. I felt uncomfortable trying to pet the dog while the owner might be watching from inside. So I didn’t touch her. But I did talk to her.

With a gentle voice, I said, “Hey, how’s it going?” I took a few steps into the alley towards home, looked back at her, and said, “Hey” again, with the same gentle voice. I had to suppress the urge to walk back to her and pet her anyway, regardless of whether there might be a risk of her biting. I continued walking home.


And then the guilt struck. What the hell did I just say? Here is this beautiful creature, upset as she’s out in the cold—isolated from her owner who is having a good time inside the warm cookie store—and in an attempt to console her I say, “Hey, how’s it going?”?

Embrace Autism | A failed interaction with a dog | illustration MartinAwkward

What the DSM-5?*

This is an expletive.

Thank god she was not human, or I would feel quite ashamed of my clumsiness. Actually, I do feel both clumsy and ashamed, even though it was just a failed interaction with a dog. I hope whatever I said, the tone of my voice consoled her a little.

I couldn’t help but feel amused at myself for feeling guilty about a failed interaction with a dog, though. Perhaps I care too much on account of my autism? I am curious to hear opinions.

On the other hand, who else even made an attempt to console this dog?


This article
was written by:

Martin Silvertant is a co-founder of Embrace Autism, and lives up to his surname as a silver award-winning graphic designer. Besides running Embrace Autism and researching autism, he loves typography and practicing type design. He was diagnosed with autism at 25.

PS: Martin is trans, and as of 2021 she writes under her true name, Eva Silvertant.


Although our content is generally well-researched
and substantiated, or based on personal experience,
note that it does not constitute medical advice.


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