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.
18 thoughts on “Lessons from a dog walk.”
Our dogs pick up on our emotions. If they sense you are fearful around Trouble, they don’t get that you are fearful about how they are going to react to him, they think you’re afraid of Trouble and that they need to protect you from him. So if you radiate confidence and calm as you pass Trouble’s house, all will be well. But you gotta believe it!
I know, I know!! I really do watch Cesar, and he says the same thing…..But knowing that I need to be calm, and BEING calm are very different things.
I’m Italian; we don’t really do serenity!
I can’t fake it well enough to convince my dogs. One of my dogs ( a lab mix rescue who may have been abused) is afraid of my husband and barks when he comes home or into a room. But if I’m not home, she doesn’t bark. I think she senses my fear that she’s going to bark, and thinks I’m afraid of him, and she has to protect me. Before us, she lived with a couple. The husband died, then the wife. The rescue group I work with got her from the wife’s son from another marriage. I wonder if the husband abused the wife and/or my dog. When we first got her two years ago, she seemed especially afraid of men. She’s gotten better with men except for my husband!
Funny: My Sadie (the lab mix!) also came to us very afraid of men. She attached herself to me like a leech the first two weeks; she was most afraid of my son, Matt, who is very tall and has a deep voice. She’s also super protective of me when we are out walking. I wonder if they’re cousins!
Given the distance, I suspect they are just two dogs who had some really bad stuff happen to them before they came to us.
I’m proud of you for persevering and not letting your fears take permanent hold. Good work! It’s much better to feel mastery over these things, right? I admit, though, I don’t think I can get over my fear of spiders, no matter how much I try. Plane travel I’m pretty okay with now. Wasps, no.
Many years ago I realized that my fear of spiders was impacting my kids. I actually forced myself to garden without gloves, knowing that they were everywhere out there. I did great: got to the point where I could look at them without breaking out entirely in goosebumps. Then one walked on my neck, and the shriek that came out of me scared the birds right out of the trees. I’ve given up on overcoming that particular fear!!!
I agree with pretty much everything on your list.
And I really hate spiders, but I am the family ‘spider masher’ so I try to fuel my fear towards blind murderous rage towards them. Some of them are soooooo nasty. *shudder*
Oh, man! I gave up the role of ‘spider masher’ as soon as my oldest child turned 8….!
Love the image of using your blind murderous rage; I will channel that!
Thanks for commenting! So fun to hear from other folks!
Great post! So funny – two years ago I made myself start re-locating spiders I find indoors. It’s been pretty easy but I don’t know about anything bigger than a pinky tip! Hi Sadie and Tucker!
I tried that “relocating” thing once….the little bastard crawled up the cup and put one little leg out the top. I shrieked like a teakettle and threw the entire cup out the back door!
Your post made me laugh out loud – it was just lovely. I sooooo want a dog. I’ve been planting the seed with my husband. When I am an old lady (but secretly I don’t want to wait that long) I want to have an Irish wolfhound. I will wear red lipstick and my wellington boots, have crazy hair and we will walk in the park together. There I told you a secret desire of mine. Oh and hey I know who to ask obedience tips from. By the way with you on the spiders and the roller coaster thing – I no longer go anywhere near either of them, 😆
OK, here is the real secret to dog ownership:
You get a nice little pup, and leave him in the care of your husband for about two minutes…..LOVE!
Paul didn’t want a dog, and now I think that he loves Tucker more than he loves me! Good luck with it: the dogs are such a comfort now that the kids are gone!
Your posts always make me smile. Thank you for sharing your journey. I nominated you for a Daisy Award. You can read about it here: http://wedelmom.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/it-only-takes-one-act-of-kindness
Have a great day!
Oh, my thank you so much!
I am heading out of town for almost a week, but I will do my best to respond and pass on the generosity!
You are most welcome. hope you have a wonderful week. I don’t think there is a “time limit” on pssing it on. 🙂
We have two labs that are not particularly big (65 pounds) for labs and it is really challenging for me to control them if we see another dog. Sounds like you have worked hard at training your dogs and overcoming your fear – well done!
Thank you! Of course, the sound you hear is the dogs laughing uproariously at the image of me having “trained” them……!