Gretchen Rubin wrote in The Happiness Project about the year she spent “test-driving the wisdom of the ages, the current scientific studies, and the lessons from popular culture about how to be happy.” The Puppiness Project is my attempt to learn the same from Honey, my Golden Retriever, and Chérie, our visiting Foster Pup.
What Scares a Dog
When we brought Honey home, our lives revolved around puppy socialization. We knew that the first sixteen weeks were crucial for making her comfortable with the world. And, for the most part, we did a pretty good job.
Loud buses and trucks? No problem. Thunder, lightning? Doesn’t even cause a whimper. Strangers in hats, on stilts, or with beards? Just more people to love.
So imagine how much Honey surprised us when she showed fear of moving objects—especially if they were underfoot. The otherwise fearless dog feared ramps and carts.
Our foster pup Chérie came to us for confidence-building. She’s what I’d call cautious/curious. She’ll pull away from all kinds of things she finds threatening—a bag of mulch, a pile of stones, a hair dryer (not turned on).
Eventually she can be coaxed back to take a sniff to realize the scary object won’t hurt her.
But what Honey finds scary? It doesn’t faze Chérie one bit.
Yesterday we included Chérie in Honey’s training on agility equipment. Guess what she’s not scared of?
Yep, you guessed it. Everything Honey finds most frightening.
She led the way on the new dog walk. Stepped right up on the wobble board. And the teeter? Chérie boarded, let the other side drop, and walked off as sweet as could be.
Maybe with a crooked hind leg, Chérie always experiences the ground as uneven. How is a teeter different?
What Scares a Human
People are no less diverse than dogs. We’re scared of all kinds of things. I get weak in the knees looking out a window on a high floor. But I rarely experience fear speaking in public.
My husband jumped off a forty-foot high bridge into a freezing cold river in Bosnia. But he’s a little uneasy in tight spaces.
The crazy thing is that we’re often most frightened of things that can’t harm us. And handle things that are terribly dangerous (like driving a car) with total nonchalance.
But, like dogs, we can learn to be less fearful too. The only way is by doing the things that freak us out.
Getting Past Fear
My sailing dream encompasses many of my ideals:
- living a simple life unencumbered by stuff
- not being bound by artificial schedules
- spending most of my time outdoors
- traveling without relying on an internal combustion engine
- decreasing my impact on the earth
- having more time with family
- meeting new people
- learning new skills
You’ll notice some things missing from my list:
- running out of food, water, or wind on a long passage
- surviving (or not) really big, scary storms
- being laughed or yelled at for making docking or anchoring mistakes
- running out of money
- finding out that my husband and my dog hate me for dragging them along on my outlandish dream
As appealing as the image of traveling to exotic ports is, a sailing cruise is also very scary. So scary that many more people dream about it than actually do it.
But fear is beaten by doing something and discovering that it didn’t kill you. And the more you do it, the more your brain changes to accept that you can handle scary things, even if you don’t stop being scared.
Working Through Fear
Fear is fear—whether you’re afraid of terrorists or teeter boards, spiders or spans, wiggly things or wobbler boards.
Chérie is working through her fear by sniffing things that scare her so she can walk by them the next time with nonchalance.
Honey is working through her fear by having fun and food on increasingly challenging surfaces to build her confidence when things shift underfoot.
And Pamela is working through her fear by contemplating scary things (if you click the video link, look for the rest of the story at the New York Times), reading about storm management, and doing stuff even when it scares her.
All of us are making time for mischief when we’re not practicing being scared but moving forward. One of us by relocating dirty underwear around the house (Chérie), one of us by flirting seductively with everyone who walks by (Honey), and one of us by planning a life that conventional good girls shouldn’t want.
What scares you? What scares your dog? And how do you manage fear?
Welcome to Monday Mischief – The pet blog hop that wraps up the weekend! This Blog Hop is brought to you by Alfie’s Blog, Snoopy’s Dog Blog, My Brown Newfies and Luna, A Dog’s Life and you can read more about how to link up here.