Facing the fear.
A guest post from Amy Johnson.
About a week ago, via the blogsite Paleo Works, a couple of comments brought me into contact with Amy. Of course being an Englishman any woman with the name of Amy Johnson is going to cause a double-take on the name. This Amy shared the same name as the English pioneering aviator Amy Johnson, albeit from an earlier era, the aviator that is!
An exchange of emails between Amy and myself revealed an experience that Amy had when she was very young, and I asked Amy if she would like to write a guest post. This, then, is Amy’s story about overcoming a fear of dogs.
I have a cousin who is about the same age as me. My cousin’s mom, my aunt, used to babysit me and the dog in question, a big female, reddish golden retriever was always around and like any retriever was a loving, and lovable, happy-go-lucky dog.
The event goes back to when both my cousin and I were about four-years-old, maybe just five. For some inexplicable reason the dog attacked my cousin. I grew up believing the dog may have been frightened, startled, but I don’t think it was provoked. Certainly, the dog didn’t have any history of biting.
Anyway, that attack on my cousin caused a ton of stitches, 15 or 17, and scarred us both. Physical scars for my cousin and emotional scars for me. As an aside, I don’t remember the dog ever being around again so am fairly confident the dog was put to sleep.
Thus ever since that event, I’ve moved through life with this crippling fear of dogs. Throughout the remainder of my childhood and into my teen years I masked my fear pretending not to be afraid of dogs. It seemed like the whole world loved dogs, and my fear made me feel oddly isolated.
Of course, dogs always sensed my fear and they would usually bark like crazy around me – or jump. I ended up equating dog barking as screaming or yelling, and it was quite disturbing. I would tense up frozen in fear.
Dogs, like humans, come with all kinds of personalities, from one extreme where they are so calm and laid back you wonder whether they even have a pulse to the another extreme of being so ferocious sounding with snarly barky faces and totally tensed bodies.
When a dog was approaching me on the sidewalk, just minding his own business and ignoring me, I would walk far away into the street or grass to be at a safe distance. I avoided dogs at all costs, because like any human, I tried my best to avoid negative emotions; anxiety, fear, worry.
Thus I avoided dogs my whole life, that is, until my niece Emma came into the world. Emma loves dogs, all dogs. Barky dogs, jumpy dogs, big dogs, little dogs, scrappy dogs, arrogant dogs. If you had a dog, Emma would literally stalk you until you allowed her to pet and offer love to your dog.
Barking and jumping dogs never ever deterred Emma; she lights up with love and openness to all dogs. And via her openness and pure love, compassion and joy for dogs Emma has helped me understand that most dogs are a-ok. They aren’t barking screaming, they are barking excitement! They aren’t jumping to chomp my cheek, they are jumping to lick my lips – eewww, but oh what a light bulb that was turned on in me! I feel immense gratitude for Emma helping me move beyond this debilitating fear and for me being open to accepting her help.
It is so true that we can learn from dogs, indeed we can learn from everyone and everything, if we are open to learning and absorbing new information, open to reflection and inner stillness, open to course-corrections along our way.
Thank you Amy, I have no doubt that will reach out to many readers.