Wednesday, April 16, 2014

No Fear Is Irrelevant (#atozchallenge)

This is Sam. The most reactive of my (seven) dogs.

He lives in fear: of the vacuum cleaner, the broom, a plastic bag dancing in the wind, a branch falling from a tree, the garbage truck, loud laughter from the neighbors', slamming doors, strangers, the street, my absence.

I get it. The human world is full of scary stuff for dogs. Mechanical stuff. Loud stuff. Stinky stuff (like the garbage truck). His fears might not be reasonable, but--I get it.

His abject terror of a cow, though, I don't.

Sam's nightmare cow
It's a four-inch-high decorative sculpture. Sure, the colors are maybe gaudy, and the thing has horns, and the head is down low (stalk/attack position), but--seriously? It's an inanimate object. You'd think a dog, with their outrageous sense of smell, would be able to tell there's no danger here, imminent or potential. And yet he won't even get close enough to sniff it.

It's a fifth of your size, Sam! Stop being such a drama queen! (Or king, whatever.)

Completely by accident, I came across a post (by Eileen, one of my favorite dog people): Is My Dog A Drama Queen? Ha, thought I, this one's for Sam.

No. It was for me.

About halfway through the post I found this (Zani is Eileen's Sam):
"I need to remind myself that this house, with my other dogs and me, and the places Zani gets to go–these things are Zani’s world. She is utterly dependent on me. She has things she likes and dislikes, things she looks forward to or not. They are perfectly real and important to her."
And then:
"I need to take Zani’s frustrations and stresses seriously, not just brush them away as cute, silly, or annoying. [...] I need to change my internal response."

We've established dogs cannot lie--they're, quite literally, incapable of it--so why don't I take him seriously? Why am I labeling his reactions as "drama"? Because from my point of view his fear of the cow is unreasonable? Unjustified?

Who am I to judge?

I think I do this with people, too. I have very low (read zero) tolerance for drama queens. Your boyfriend cheated on you, your wallet got stolen, you crashed your car and don't have insurance, you lost your job, your house burned down? Here, have a kleenex, have a drink. Stop the sniveling, it's not the end of the world.

Isn't it? Maybe it is drama--or maybe, for that person, this thing that's happened really does feel like the end of the world. Who am I to judge?

My decorative cow is the stuff of Sam's nightmares. One person's drama is another person's abject terror. A good human--a good friend--should understand that.

~ * ~ 

Thanks for the visit, and happy A-to-Z-ing!


  1. Fabulous post! Once again, you made me rethink my take on our pets. And, humans.

    Thanks, Guilie!

    1. Thank YOU, Carrie-Anne! I'm so glad you're finding stuff to think about with these posts :)

  2. Thank you for that. Our terriers are like chalk and cheese. Trevor (JRT) fears nothing, or so he tells us. Ulysse, on the other hand - Wire Fox Terrier - is scared of many things, including Trevor. Approach the two dogs with something new, and Ulysse will run away, whilst Trevor will bare his teeth and stand his ground. I often whether the difference is not so much fear vs lack of fear, as different ways of dealing with fear - flight vs fight. Me? I'll run away, every time.

    1. You're right, Keith--it's not about being afraid or not, because everyone--canine or otherwise--is afraid at some point. It's how we deal, though, that makes all the difference. In the end, training is about showing a dog (any animal) how to cope, how to handle the fear in a way that is positive--for him and for others. Great point! Thanks!

  3. Stopping by via A to Z from and

    Our dog Maggie is a fearful dog that we rescued from a breeder puppy mill. She appeared to be abused, with a broken tail and bite marks over her body. We have found that exercise and praise has slowly chipped away at her fears. But the still has this deep underlying fear of certain situations that she may never overcome.

    Is the irrational? No. She has simply had some (bad) experiences in her life that have helped to form these reactions.

    1. Maggie is a lucky dog, Stephen. The fact that your family is willing to accept her, fears and all, speaks volumes about you. Thank you for that :)

  4. Very valid points to remember. Dogs can't really help they way they react to stuff, we can only try to help.

    1. Exactly! And our help only goes so far. I see so many dog owners frustrated by what their dogs cannot do, but they fail to see--especially with rescues--how far they have come, and the things they *can* do. I love seeing the light in their eyes when they're reminded of this :) Thanks for the visit!

  5. Ha! Well, we don't have dogs though we used to, now we have 2 rescue cats that rule the roost. They are just as particular, and a 1000 times more difficult than dogs. But I remember that our dogs had their nervous ways ... which complemented mine. Mmmm maybe Mad Murdog learned them from me?
    Garden of Eden Blog

    1. Haha--too right, Susan. Cats are *hard*, and much less willing to please than dogs (which is what behavior modification techniques are based on)... But they're wonderful, wonderful creatures. Some day I'll have a cat again. Or two. One day, when my boyfriend is at his most unsuspecting :D

      Thanks for the visit!

  6. I've enjoyed reading several of your posts. Dogs are AWESOME! I don't know what I'd do with my life if we didn't have pets (1 dog and 4 cats). Oh, there is my husband, too! ;-) I found your blog through the A to Z Challenge. Keep up the good work!

    1. So glad you enjoyed these, Diane, and thank you for finding me. Loved your blog, and look forward to more of your posts--both during and post A-to-Z :)


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