Fear- Is it real or imagined?

Last May we adopted a new family member. Arielle and Kai named him Ollie. He is an adorable mix between a Basset Hound and Cocker Spaniel with a smidgen of Chihuahua. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I knew nothing about taking care of puppies. I had always adopted older dogs from shelters. I had no idea puppies were so much work.

I always believed that dogs who growl or bite must have been abused by their owners. I thought all dogs were inherently happy creatures who loved all humans. (Man’s best friend!) I thought that if we showed Ollie love and kindness he would be a well adjusted, easy, people liking dog. Not so,Ollie has his own personality with a healthy dose of fear. How can this be? How can a puppy who has had a loving home be so fearful? You can see it in his eyes. There is a definite gaze of mistrust. I started wondering if he was a cow or a pig in a past life.

Any unique sound like the hair dryer or vacuum upsets him. At night when he wants to go outside, I have to turn all the lights on because he refuses to walk through a dark room. Once outside he refuses to go to our side yard. It’s dark.Ollie has a complicated relationship with Eric. One minute he jumps on him and wants to play and the next Eric is drenched in a fountain of urine from a submissive puppy lying on his back. Ollie insists on being by my side every second. I swear he suffers from separation anxiety if I try and escape for a few minutes. Ollie even learned how to open our bedroom door. He figured out that if he jumps up and hits the handle enough times, it eventually stays down and opens.

Crates always worked well for our older dogs. Not Ollie. The first crate he ripped the netting and escaped. The second crate was too big and he created a bathroom on the opposite end. The third crate he figured out how to open. Luckily, it’s only freedom he wants. Once out of the crate he’s very well behaved.

Naturally, since my theory on friendly dogs was shot, I started thinking about fear. Where does it come from? How does it affect our lives?
I realized that there were two types of fear in my life, imagined and real. For Ollie as far as I know, he only experiences real fear. He’s pleasant and care free until the moment I turn on the vaccuum or turn off the lights. But for me, there is a constant looming fear that hides in my imagination. The “What if…….” fear.

What if there’s a hurricane? What if I get cancer? What if we can’t pay all our bills? What if my daughter never walks again? What if …..
This fear is exhausting. It drains the joy right out of me. Wouldn’t it be better to be like Ollie?

Was there ever a time when I felt real fear? My answer was yes and it was a much different feeling. I was living in Los Angeles with my roommate Beth. Another friend of mine, Ann Marie was visiting from New Jersey with her two friends. The five of us were all getting ready to go out for the evening. There was a knock on the door. I thought it was our neighbor Bryan coming to talk to Beth. I opened the door without a second thought. A man stepped in and grabbed me. I remember yelling at him at first and then when he told me he had a gun in his backpack, I froze. He held me by the back of my neck and told me to search the apartment for money. Suddenly, my world was crystal clear. I was calm, I could sense his fear. I was aware of every second that passed. I instantly remembered my mother once telling me that if I ever was robbed, to just give them what they want-don’t try and fight. I didn’t know if he had a gun and I didn’t want to find out. I gave him my high school class ring that I loved and $300.00 of Beth’s savings. Luckily, the phone rang and he let me answer it. I tried to give the casting director on the other end a cryptic message. She sensed something was wrong. So did he and he bolted. Years later when Ann Marie and I talked about what happened she commented on how calm I was. Perhaps it appeared as though I wasn’t afraid. I was very scared. So scared I could think of nothing else except what was happening at each moment. That’s real fear.

Another time I can picture vividly in my mind was when Eric took me to the hospital to have Arielle. The nurse handed me the lovely gown and told me to go into the bathroom and change. Alone with my future child in the bathroom, I started to panick. This baby was coming out no matter what and I had heard too many horrible birth stories. My heart was pounding and I was trying to fight back the tears. I squeezed the gown, buried my face and breathed. That crystal clear calm came over me again. You’re going to be fine. One step at a time, first put on the gown….breathe. That was real fear.

What is the purpose of all the imagined fear when I know I will calmly face real fear when it arises?What if, there were no more fearful, “What ifs…?”

I think Ollie has the right idea. Live happily and when something scares you…..just growl, bite, or pee!

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