Be Scared; Do It Anyway

Honey took one look at the ramp I had placed on the floor and walked around it.

When I put yummy liver treats on the end, she decided she wasn’t that hungry after all.

Honey felt scared of the ramp. But she learned to use it anyway.

Honey the golden retriever eyes liver on her Solvit Telescoping Pet Ramp.

Now why do you want me to walk on this thing again?

Dog On A Boat

When we took Honey sailing with us for the first time, we used a ramp to help her get from the dock to the boat.

Unfortunately, Honey was always timid about stepping on unusual surfaces. And the ramp was no exception.

We spent weeks before our sailing trip to make her comfortable with the ramp. Eventually she walked on it despite being scared.

Honey the golden retriever at Treasure Island marina.

This ramp is freaky scary at home on the porch. But here, it means adventure.

Yes, we exposed her to it in small doses. And yes, we used treats and games to help her associate positive experiences with the ramp.

But what did more to make her accept the ramp than anything else was that it was the way she was able to stay close to us.

Once Honey realized that the ramp was how she would be able to follow us on and off the boat, she put most of her fear aside. She started out scared. But she did it anyway.

Scared Spitless

Lately I’ve felt scared a lot. And for many reasons:

  • My husband and I have both quit our jobs with no guarantee of future income.
  • We’ve left our home and friends and family to do something entirely new.
  • And we’re committing to buying and living on a boat with very little experience.

Just sitting here thinking about it brings the fear welling up as I write.

But you know when I didn’t feel scared?

Yesterday afternoon when I was sailing a prospective boat in a protected estuary off the Chesapeake Bay.

Sailing aboard Iris out of Henderson Harbor

One of our first big sailing trips to Kingston, Ontario. It’s as fun now as it was then. And just as scary. Of course I do have white hair now. is that from fear?

The sun on my face, the wind in my hair, the feeling of the boat responding and picking up speed as we let out another sail was relaxing and enjoyable. And not the least bit scary.

I have to remember that moment. And feel scared and do it anyway.

The Truly Brave

I don’t understand people who are fearless.

How could anyone cling to a rock face without hyperventilating? Pass a big truck on a narrow bridge without imagining a crash? Or go to a party where they know no one without being at least a little bit afraid?

But I know many fearful, brave people.

There’s the single mom who put herself through school and then moved her family to a new city for a job in her field. The person who didn’t let her anxieties stop her from taking a long trip to a professional conference. And the dog person who even after being bitten by her dog facing her own intense fears didn’t give up on her.

The truly brave ones in the world are the people (and dogs) who feel fear and do things anyway.

Honey the golden retriever finds shade in St. Michaels.

I’m afraid if I don’t get out of the sun I’ll get wrinkles like old sourpuss here. (Note from photographer: I was amazed to see that Honey found some shade for herself. Smart girl, Honey.)

Learning From Honey About Fear

My dog Honey tends to be timid. Not crazy fearful. Just a little uncertain.

Sometimes that’s a good thing.

Honey will never be an adventure dog who goes roaming the first time someone drops her leash.

But it means that as we take her away from everything that is familiar in her surroundings and expose her to new experiences, we need to take things slow. We need to anticipate her fears and build her confidence.

When we do that, Honey does fine. She feels some fear when she’s exposed to new things. But she does it anyway.

Just like us.

Your Turn: Who’s more fearful, you or your dog? And how do you cope with fear?

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  1. Martine says:

    Facing my fears, that’s how I deal with them. I am more fearful than Duster. He is fearless and goes adventuring in the woods on a regular basis. Zach is more fearful than I am. I usually face my fears, but some I face quicker than others. Could I do what you and Mike and Honey are doing? Not a chance. I tip my hat to you all.

  2. Yes, the single mom did a brave and wonderful thing. Torrey is the afraid one in our crew. She loves routine. And as long as she is in her house, with her people, it doesn’t really matter where the house is that day.

  3. Well, I have two opposite extremes…Jack is pretty fearless and Maggie is pretty fearful – I guess I’m somewhere in the middle. Did you buy the boat???

  4. I think you’ve onto the key to life, Pamela! When we “do it anyway” we almost always find that the fear was completely groundless, or at least not nearly as bad as our minds imagined. And most of the time, we’re glad we did whatever the fear was blocking.

    One thing you got me wondering about is the notion of people who are “fearless.” I have some doubt that there’s any such thing, other than a rare few who are disconnected from feeling emotions, along the lines of a sociopath.

    It seems to me more likely that we all fear different combinations of things. So the outgoing extrovert seems fearless to the shy introvert. But the extrovert may fear financial risk, or climbing a ladder for what looks like a fun DIY project to the introvert.

  5. I love your article. Things happen for a reason. You and your husband have been drawn to this new adventure for a reason and it will be good.

  6. Wilson is pretty fearless, although he doesn’t really like strangers (that’s almost everyone!). Jimmy is more timid (hard to believe since he can be such a bully), fearing thunder and rumbly noises that might be thunder. But he will overcome his fears when he needs to such as riding the jetski to go swimming. Wilson has zero fear of the jetski.

    I fear heights so I would never rock climb or go down one of those super tall, straight up/down waterslides. As a child/young adult I wouldn’t have gone to a party where I know no one, but as an adult, I could pull it off ok. However, have my job tell me I needed to give a presentation in front of a full room of people and I would probably have to quit 😉

  7. Misty is the doggie equivalent to the astronaut/explorer/ mountain climber. The dogs and i follow with some discomfort because she doesn’t provide us with treats. I’m sure if Misty knew what you and Mike were going to be doing, she would start hitchhiking east to join you instead of staying with this boring pack.

  8. Oh, Rita and I are both afraid of tons of things. But we do occasionally manage to overcome a fear here or there. Rita used to run from the room whenever I got the broom out, but just yesterday I managed to get her to come over and say hi to me and get some belly rubs while I was holding the broom. And i’ve overcome my fears once in a while – tried rockclimbing (turned out to be fun!) and did a few triathlons (a big deal for me cuz I’m afraid of open water swimming. Have a ridiculous irrational fear of fish touching me. oy.)

  9. When something’s fearful for the dogs, they’ll bark ferociously, then come to me. Generally, I’m more fearful than the dogs.

    I may have to start barking, too. It just might work.

  10. Try to think like Nike: “Just Do It” I think you’re going to love it – once all of the uncertainty is behind you. Hold on, exhale Stella, you’re almost there!

  11. I am the person who didn’t let her anxieties stop her from taking a long trip to a professional conference. When deciding to go to BlogPaws, I was fearful of driving there (so I took a friend who isn’t afraid of driving on highways like I am), and I was anxious about the social interactions at the conference. All of it turned out OK (though still scary at times!), and I’m so glad I did it.
    But that doesn’t mean I’m going to go zip-lining. I think when it comes to fears, like other things, I choose my battles. I face the fears that lead to more important things for me.
    I do the same thing for my dogs. I’m not going to make them do everything they are fearful of, but I’m going to try new things with them that might reap the most benefits.
    Luke is fearful of strangers, so I won’t take him to a dog park. But I will take him to nose work classes. I think it’s OK to avoid some things that we are fearful of.
    I think that is exactly what you are doing for yourself and Honey…facing fears that lead to the most benefit for you.

  12. I’d have to say I’m the one who is more afraid. Delilah is my hero, she is brave and bold and not afraid to go after what she wants, no matter how many times I tell her no.