OK, those of you who know me well can close your mouth or get up off the floor where you fell when you saw this photo of me with a 170 lb Leonburger German mountain dog. For those of you who don’t know me as well, let me explain. All of my adult life I have had this all consuming, irrational fear of dogs! Big or small, dogs of friends or strangers – all would send me into hyperventilation, heart palpitations, cold sweats and just generally activate my fight or flight response (usually the latter)!
When I was much younger I was bitten by a dog twice. It may have been nipped or grazed, but in my mind as I the older I became, the more the offense continued to grow until I no longer know if I was in actual danger of being ripped to shreds or merely nudged along. Rather than take the risk, I kept my distance.
We are talking serious fear here! I never ran track and field but I distinctly remember jumping a four-foot fence without touching it to escape a snarling charging terrier (or some similar tiny barking creature) who was just probably coming to say hello.
Now many people mistake this fear for a dislike of dogs. That is not true. One can like dogs and have a healthy respect for them while keeping one’s distance at the same time. I know this because I have done it successfully for years. But this time, I had to pull on my big girl panties and be brave.
He was sitting there at the Farmer’s Market with his brother (yes, there were two of them seemingly blocking out the sun). Both very docile and almost smiling. As I warily circled them, he followed me with a smile and seemed to whisper “I know you are afraid but I am a nice guy – come here and see.” After about 15 minutes of checking each other out and with his two-legged friend encouraging me as well, I approached and he melted in front of me. Yes, the smile on both our faces is real! We became friends.
Does it cure my phobia? Not sure. He may just be the exception to the rule. But for one day, I felt that we truly bonded!! There comes a point in our journey where we have to trust and be willing to challenge long held fears. Then just maybe, maybe, we can put them aside.