To quickly dispel any rumors about today’s post title, no, I am not afraid of hot dogs, though I sometimes shudder to think about what I’m really eating (vegetarians and vegans, please don’t tell me).  All-beef hot dogs are just too darn delicious.

Nope, instead I’m alluding to our yearly beach bonfire with friends, where tonight we’ll be kickin’ it nerd-style by the beach with Frisbees, burying each other in the sand, and igniting old Christmas trees on fire, remnants of gooey S’mores clinging to our dimpled chins. 

However, “Roastin’ Wieners” is sort of a double entendre for two of my fears.  Let’s start with the wieners.  Get your mind out of the gutter, because I’m married – if I had any fear of those kind of wieners, I’d have a lot more problems…or maybe I’d be celebrating New York’s gay marriage victory from the progressive state itself (Go New York)!

Nope, the wiener I’m referring to is my presumed dachshund/shepherd mix, Brody.  On January 28th, 2010, we adopted this adorable nearly 1-year-old pooch from Dogs Without Borders, a small southern California rescue group.  I wasn’t sure I believed in love at first sight until I saw him.  We opened the door to his foster parent’s apartment and Brody ran over to me, jumped in my lap and flopped on his back as if to say, “Mommy!  There you are!”

I became instantly attached and ever since, my husband and I have been with Brody through thick and thin.  We took a swollen basketball to animal emergency just two weeks after we got him when he ate through 3 pounds of dog food (an 8th of his body weight at the time) while we went out shopping.  We’ve gotten up 2 to 3 times each night when he goes through chronic and serious bouts of doggie IBS.  We’ve given him close to a hundred nicknames and wrote him a 90s after-school cartoon show theme song –if you ask me nicely, maybe one day I’ll sing it for you.  We even got Brody’s picture taken professionally at Petco.  With a bowtie.  Yep, that’s right.  We’re those kind of people.  But in our defense, our dog is really cute.

What I’m trying to get at is that I am very attached to my dog.  So this morning, when I swatted my arm through the air at a bee and Brody’s leash snapped off of his harness, I had a brief panic attack before I was able to reattach him.  Although we do live on a pretty busy street, it wouldn’t have mattered if we lived in a secluded cul-de-sac.  I don’t ever want my dog off-leash outside unless we’re 100% fenced-in.  We’ve got neighbors who walk their tiny dogs off-leash and their dogs have been hit by cars.  I volunteered for L.A. Animal Services long enough to realize there’s more strays out there than we could ever possibly imagine.  I can’t have either fate be Brody’s.  As a result, it’s difficult for me to bring my dog to friends’ houses without the fear that anyone from a 2-year-old child to a 30-something adult will open the door and Brody will accidentally slip out. 

I’ve been called over-protective and uptight.  People raise their eyebrows at me and say “Don’t worry.”  They even tell me their own stories about how they’ve brought their dogs places and it’s fine—they won’t run away.  And I have to say, all of this irritates me.  If you are one of these people, this post is for you.  Realize that as I do not have kids, Brody IS my kid.  I know he’s shorter, furrier and muter than a human.  I know I didn’t grow him inside of me.  But scientists have proven that the same hormones that bond a mother to her child when nursing are released when you pet your dog – both in human and in canine. 

So let me ask you this:  would you walk your 2-year-old down a busy street without holding his hand?  Would you let him run out in the street?  How would you feel if your 2-year-old ran away? 

My heart would get ripped to pieces if anything happened to my dog.  I fully realize that someday it will, but hopefully I’ll get the chance to say goodbye and I won’t have to live with the guilt of “if only I’d had him on his leash” or “if only I hadn’t brought him to this party”.  I won’t have to sit and wonder if he’s cold or hungry or hurt or scared.  I just want my little boy safe at home, waiting for me with his wiggly body, showing me whichever toy is his favorite that day, and circle-wagging his tail so hard I think one day he might actually propel himself off the ground and take flight.

So to the friends who have offered to let Brody come to their parties, you are amazing and I so appreciate the offer.  But please don’t judge me when I choose security over anxiety and leave my little baby safe at home.

Now, onto the word “roastin’”.  Although this fear does not consume my every thought, I am mildly afraid of fire.  I mean, sure, no one wants their house to burn down or their flesh to melt from their skin, but my fear runs just a little bit deeper than that.

One summer when I was about 5 or 6, my family was staying at an amazing Wisconsin resort called Nippersink.  We would go there every year with my grandparents for a short summer vacation and the kids’ programs were phenomenal.  They had magicians performing tricks and we went on moonlight scavenger hunts.  I got to sing the Cabbage Patch song with my dad at talent shows.  They even had pretty babysitters that would come to your hotel room and color with you while your parents went out at night!  For a little girl, this was heaven on Earth.

But one night, heaven got disrupted by a fire alarm.  Clutching my Cabbage Patch Kid in my arms, I foggily remember hearing people yell “Fire!” and “Help!”  My dad lifted me from bed and pitched my beloved doll to the floor.  My mom grabbed anything she could find to keep us warm – my older brother wore my yellow jacket; I was donning two pairs of socks – and we high-tailed it out of our hotel room.  My parents chose not to exit through the fire escape, and if I remember correctly, theirs was a good decision, because I think the fire escape led to the area that burned.  As we exited the building, I remember sparks shooting down from the roof.  Men wearing flowered bathrobes.  Seeking warmth and shelter in a tiny room with other hotel guests before one of them suggested a gas pipe was running through the room and we spent the night together in my grandparents’ car instead. 

Unfortunately, this being rural Wisconsin, we had to wait for the volunteer firemen to arrive and extinguish the flames.  Although the fire never reached our hotel room, an entire walkway had burned to a crisp.  I haven’t seen the Polaroid in years, but I remember the blackened paper-thin walls in the photo vividly.  Something had exploded – either in the laundry room or the kitchen, I can’t remember which.  It burned the area where I was to participate in a burping contest the following night (no joke – as a kid I could pretty much burp the ABC’s). 

Thankfully, no one was injured in the fire and at the time, I wasn’t scared.  I just wanted to get back to my Cabbage Patch Kid, Myra Cleo, who now sits proudly in the closet of my parents’ guest room.

But thinking back on what could have happened is a terrifying thought.  So when there’s a fire alarm, I get the heck out of the building, even if people say it’s just a drill.  If I smell smoke or gas, I need to find out where it’s coming from, stat.  And when wildfires threaten my commute to or from work, I’m checking online minute by minute to ensure I’ve got a safe route home. 

Better safe than sorry, right?