I’ve often heard the phrase A dog is man’s best friend. I am sure that is true for most, but for me, the unexpected appearance of a canine can send me into an immediate panic attack. A neighbor’s ferocious boxer probably was at the core of my fear. Unlike me, my daughter never met a dog she didn’t love. If something happened to Lassie http://www.lassie.com/ during an afternoon show, she cried for nearly 24 hours until the next episode aired, when she could be reassured that she was alive and well.
I once tolerated a dog named Henry that my daughter toted everywhere as a child. Heck, I even wrote stories about his adventures. There was the time his arm was crudely torn off in a kidnapping attempt. Another time, he was rescued from drowning in a swimming pool. Henry traveled with us and was known to play hide and seek in the hotel lobby or restaurant on numerous occasions. Heck, I nearly faced abandonment charges when he decided to take a nap in a baby crib at a Top Value Stamp store. The charges were dropped after I drove another 80 mile roundtrip to retrieve him.
When Henry met Henrietta, my daughter’s interest seemed to wane. The pair took up residence on her their homemade sleeping bags and became sedentary. By then my daughter was old enough to know the difference between a stuffed animal and a live dog and she frequently begged for the latter. My husband and I agreed to a compromise when a neighbor entrusted to us a funny looking creature that almost looked like a dog, a Peruvian guinea pig http://www.guinea-pig-paradise.com/guinea-pig-breeds.html.
My daughter named him Opie and he was the first of many. His most fierce bite was a nibble and he didn’t require much maintenance. In fact, most of his time was spent in solitary confinement, inside a large cage.
Muffy, Buffy, Harley, Puddles and Patches followed.
Two small water turtles also called our house home for a while until they were stolen from the swimming pool in the side yard. With my bawling daughter in hand, I visited our neighbor and suggested that I was pretty sure her son was the thief. A short time later, she returned the two miniature pets with an apology. My daughter turned to her dad and asked they could take them to the river and release them to their natural habitat. It was a pretty mature decision for a young child.
I always felt guilty that we did not afford our daughter the pleasures of a four-legged best friend, but nearly any unexpected sound that resembles a dog set off an alarm in my head that released enough adrenalin to cause a panic reaction. Even as a child my daughter seemed to understand and she recognized my problem was not imaginary. As she grew older, she found my condition humerous at times.
For instance, I was browsing through a general store with my, then, teenage daughter. In another isle, she found a wooden duck with a long handle on it and rubber flappers on the wheels that made a slapping noise when it was pushed. The sound effect was much like that of paws trotting and caused me to jump and squeal, like a fool. When I realized the toy would not harm me, I looked around the room where a dozen people were bent over with laughter.
Unless a dog was under lock and key, I did not enter a house. I would sit in a car rather than take a chance, no matter how many times I was assured He wouldn’t hurt a flea. Most of my friends and family accommodated my fear. However, I won’t forget the time I took my nieces and nephews back to their house after an overnight stay. I was greeted by their full grown German Shepherd as she stood on his hind legs and planted her huge paws on my shoulders. I can still see the look of confusion in his eyes when I screamed bloody murder.
I’m ashamed to admit that I even offered up my daughter to an aggressive Doberman Pincher when he charged out from a nearby garage and threatened to eat me alive. I grabbed my daughter by the shoulders and placed her between me and the beast, jumping up and down and yelling to the top of my lungs. She bravely confronted the aggressor while commanding me to shut up and stand still. The owner stood nearby laughing hysterically. What can I say? Desperate people do desperate things.
The opportunity to redeem myself came when a friend offered a black Labrador puppy to my husband. My husband contacted our daughter, who lived nearby, and asked if she was interested. She eagerly accepted the offer and a few weeks later, Hammie became part of the family.
I knew it was time for me to tackle my problem because I didn’t want my daughter to have to choose between me or the dog. I embraced the chance to bond with Hammie while he was small enough to be loveable. My husband and daughter were pleased to see the change and even caught me kissing his little head once.
Hammie has stayed overnight at our house often and I’ve even attempted to walk him on my own. Unfortunately, he flunked out of obedience school. The word stay means nothing to him and he now weighs 60 pounds. At the risk of landing face-first on the asphalt when he eyes a squirrel or rabbit and takes off, I usually hand over the leash to my husband and walk by his side. He’d much prefer my husband anyway.
Being an only child (yes, I’m talking about the dog), Hammie is spoiled and enjoys being the center of attention. He loves to explore every nook and cranny of our home with one limitation. He is terrified of the plastic gate that is used to contain him to an area. It’s not a bad thing sometimes. He doesn’t try to push it down or escape. In fact, he will not pass over the gate even if it falls down. He demonstrated his limitation when I fell down the stairs and he rushed to my rescue. Forced with the decision to cross the fallen gate and come to my aid or retreat to edge of the stairs and whimper sadly on my behalf, he chose the latter.
Hammie’s role as king of the house has been challenged during the past six weeks with the arrival of Herkie, a 47 pound Basset Hound. My daughter offered to care for her until she completes her required stay before flying to Hawaii to be reunited with her owners. Herkie adjusted quickly to her new surroundings. She confidently plopped herself down on Hammie’s bed and took a nap. The first night, Hammie was beside himself trying to understand the change. He laid at the end of the bed and stared at Herkie most of the night. Overall, they get along fairly well, but Hammie still seems a bit miffed about the arrangement.
My daughter and her boyfriend took the dogs to a lake house over the weekend. They needed to leave the house for a while and put both dogs in an upstairs bedroom with the plastic gate across the entrance to the room to keep them confined. Upon return, they found Herkie milling around downstairs while Hammie sat whining on the other side of the flattened gate upstairs in the bedroom. Even with the temptation to join his buddy roaming freely about the house, Hammie feared the wrath of the plastic object. (I can relate. Fear is fear!)
An internal alarm still goes off occasionally when a dog approaches unexpectedly, but my reactions are not quite as traumatic as they once were. When I met Herkie for the first time, I reached out my hand to pet her and she anxiously jumped to greet me so I withdrew my offer. No problem for Herkie, she just rolled over on her back and begged for a belly rub, for which I obliged. I’m making progress. Actually, I’ve replaced fear with fondness – at least that’s what I’m working toward.
How about you? Do you have a fear you’re working to overcome?