I think I may have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. I am a coward. I am afraid of an entire list of things in this life, including but not limited to: rollercoasters, fat spiders with hairy legs, skinny spiders with long flexible legs, eighteen wheelers on the highway, a strong undertow, flying in turbulence, ebola virus, wasps, piranhas, big crowds and ladders, no matter who is on them.
Now that I have two big, athletic dogs, I have added some new fears to my repertoire. Those fears mostly involve walking the dogs. You see, at first we only had Tucker. He was energetic, excitable, but he generally followed along fairly well on his walks. When he was four, though, we added seven year old Sadie, a big, shaggy lab/shepherd mix. Off of her leash, she is gentle, affectionate and somewhat submissive. On the leash, she is a whole nother story.
Shortly after we got her, I took both dogs for a walk around our neighborhood, and we came across a guy with a little yellow lab pup. I stopped to chat, after getting my two dogs to sit at my side. I was feeling pretty good, pretty “in control”. I kind of felt like a good Mommy, with sweet obedient kids.
Suddenly, both dogs lunged toward the puppy, and I was pulled right off my feet. I landed on the snowy roadway on both knees, my chin and an elbow. The dogs ran, and I became a human luge, flying along behind them. Needless to say, this was something of a traumatic event for me, and I became afraid to walk them both by myself.
Gradually, with patience from Paul and lots of short trips with the dogs, I have regained most of my confidence. I am able to control the dogs when we walk past people, cats, turkeys, deer and most other dogs. Sadie, however, still goes ballistic when we pass that one yellow lab (his name is “Trouble”, does that tell you anything?). I try to avoid the route that his owner takes, and I almost never walk past their house. I haven’t been able to get myself over this part of my fear.
Well, yesterday I got a call from our local animal control officer. She wanted me to know that a completely different dog, a dog who once came silently through his yard and attacked my dogs, has been deemed “dangerous and vicious” and there is going to be a hearing next week because his owner has been unwilling to restrain him. Yikes!
So I got up this morning, and got ready to take my morning walk with the dogs. They need the exercise (oh, OK! so do I…..), and I didn’t want to shortchange them, but I was really nervous. If I walked around the block, I would have to pass Trouble’s house. Gulp. If I went to the left and toward the dirt road, I would be within range of the vicious dog. The fact that that has been my daily route all summer had my imagination going in overdrive. One reason, I suspect, for my extreme chickenheartedness, is that I have a very vivid imagination! I can picture every single horrible possible event in full color, with sound effects. I can scare myself to death without ever leaving my house!
There I stood, on my lawn, filled with uncertainty. And frustration.
I hated the fact that I was letting “what if” control my behavior. I hated the fact that being afraid was taking away my freedom and my control. I’ve let that happen more than once in the past.
So I thought about Cesar Milan, and the hundreds of episodes of Dog Whisperer that I have seen. I stood up tall, I relaxed my death grip on the leashes. I headed around the block. I kept my head up, and I pictured myself confidently marching past the yellow lab with Sadie and Tucker right beside me. Past the spot where I face planted two years ago. Past Trouble’s house, and all the way to the corner of the street where the dangerous bulldog lives.
Once again, my dogs have taught me a valuable lesson.
Now I am off to climb a ladder with a spider on my head before heading down the highway to catch my flight to the roller coaster park.