Cynophobia by Gerhard Jason Geick
Cynophobia is the intense, persistent, irrational fear of dogs. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), seven to nine percent of the population are terrified of dogs. Of course, not every fear is irrational. My fears, for example, are not irrational. It is the people in my life that are irrational. My reasons for being afraid, and my actions, were justified. Still, it is hard to believe that it all began with a street cat named Kegels. Or, then again, maybe it was the hedgehog; - that God damn shit machine… Who the fuck knows?
This entry in the Phobia-verse (is that a thing? it should be!) really gets under the skin. If you like animals, especially pets, then this might upset you. But then again, you will know after the first drabble that introduces the book whether you'll want to proceed. The escalation in the story is crazy, and darkly funny. The end of the story is...not funny at all. Still, Gary writing style is propulsive and well-done, and I will still give this my recommendation!
I prefer the 'new' ending to the 'original'. What's that? You prefer the original? Wanna fight about it?
Nobody else working in our part of the horror field is like Geick. There is nothing predictable about his work, save for a growing sense of unease as he drags us through his narratives towards who-the-fuck-knows what end.
Geick's Cynophobia begins with a drabble. In this case, it's a heartbreaking drabble that certainly sets the stage and tests the waters for the reader, in advance of the main story. It's suitable for that purpose, in that it's perhaps harder to read than what Geick offers up to us in this new tale of mental illness, irrational fear, and failing relationships. None of this is easy to read for an animal lover, and especially a dog lover. I am an animal lover. While I was growing up, I had several birds (my great aunt raised them for sale and had a room that consisted of virtually nothing but walls of bird cages. I've owned snakes and tarantulas. I have a daughter who didn't take particularly good care of three guinea pigs she'd received as pets quite a few years ago--but she was only eight or nine at the time, so I shouldn't have expected too much. They were adorable little things, though. They were, all three, sweet as can be, but they also produced a whole lot of waste that wasn't properly cleaned up. I've owned a total of five ferrets over the years, and it's challenging to keep up with the rancid mess they make, no matter how well-trained you believe them to be. We have a cat in our home, and we had a terrific rabbit until recently, and I'm allergic to both. I've had, at this point in my life, a total of 11 dogs, I currently own three of them, all under the age of five and two of them under the age of two. In October of 2019, the best dog I've ever owned died in my arms when a cruel sort of blood cancer stole her from me when she was only seven. It was worth mentioning all of that because I can sympathize with the protagonist of Cynophobia in a handful of ways while simultaneously considering him almost alien in others. No more pets was not the insoluble rule he expected it to be, he learns, as his wife progressively turns their home into a menagerie. The relentless hoarding drives the couple further apart and our protagonist distances himself from both his wife and his daughters. As the situation at home spirals out of control, Geick propels us toward a breaking point at which nothing will be the same. It's a train wreck in relatively slow motion that the reader can't turn away from. Cynophobia presents us with two possible endings, the original (S.A.D.) ending and the new ending Geick's written for this version of the story. In one available ending, the sickness and mental illness appear to spread from one parent to the other, manifesting in an awful climax that will make many readers cringe. In the alternate conclusion, we witness the--hopefully--more natural end of the relationship and the outcome of the clear mental illness left unrestrained at the core of this tale. You'll have to read them both, to discover which one you prefer. The splattery side of my nature prefers one, while the animal lover in me prefers the other. Neither of them is pleasant, and as the story says, there are no happy endings.
This book made me uncomfortable the whole way through. And I have to say I would probably react the same way that the main character did with those living conditions. Guess I'm just as sick as the author.