July 19, 2010


I’ve probably written about this before, but I suppose when there are issues in one’s life, they never really go away, they just keep returning so one can continue to work on them until eventually, hopefully they do go away.

I might look like a dog with lots of confidence, but deep down I have some basic fears that challenge my confidence from time to time. One of them is thunder. Another is fireworks. Another fear is that I’ll be left behind when I can see that the car is already packed for a trip. And I kind of have a fear of big, black dogs — Rottweiler’s usually — and big men who wear hats and speak with deep voices.

I’ve been working on these fears, trying to maintain my confidence when faced with a clap of thunder or a tall man in a hat, but sometimes those fears shake my confidence to the core and I find myself barking uncontrollably. That’s how I deal with my lack of confidence — I bark angrily hoping to chase the fear away. Others deal with their fears differently. Some dogs piddle on the spot. Some run away and hide behind an object or their owner’s legs. Some dogs chew things up and go kind of berserk with their frantic nervousness. Others get really quiet and turn their heads. Others dig holes. Some even bite.

There are many coping skills dogs can learn. I, for one, often get a massage when the fireworks start or a storm threatens our neighborhood. It calms me right down and in my relaxed state, I can call forth my inner confidence to stave off the onslaught of fear that sometimes overcomes me.

But today, Gretchen told me about Tyson and his fear of being left alone and I have to tell you, I felt for the guy. Tyson’s family (which includes his sister, Rosie) are amazing people. They’ll do anything for their dogs and when Tyson regressed into his fear of being left phase (he worked through it once before) they immediately took steps to help him. I won’t go into all the actions they took, but when I saw the photos from Gretchen’s walk with them today, I realized they’d purchased something Gretchen has always thought of purchasing for me — a thunder shirt.

The theory behind the shirt is that it swaddles fearful dogs like a blanket swaddles a human baby. Held secure, dogs are less likely to get wound up and go out of their heads with fear. When Gretchen told me about it, I scoffed. “I hate wearing my raincoat, why on earth would I want to wear that?” But then she told me about how it seemed to really help Tyson today. He was calmer, she said, and though he is as adverse to his raincoat as I am, he seemed comforted by the tight-fitting clothing.

Added bonus, he looks rather dapper in it, too!

We all have moments when our confidence wanes. Rosie has a number of triggers that make her bark (just like me) and Tyson, stoic and noble as he is, loses his confidence when he is left alone. Poor guy!

You might not think that Perrito or Gemma lose their confidence, but trust me, there are situations when both of them get a little nervous. For Gemma, it’s yard equipment like power mowers, weed eaters, and those crazy leaf blowers. She’ll tuck her untuckable tail in an instant if she sees one of those on the street.

Perrito doesn’t like big dogs coming at him (who can blame him) and sometimes even Ms. Gemma can cause him to lie flat on the pavement so as not to be seen. Though mostly, he just wants to chase her!

Oshi actually has far more confidence than his younger brother. What Oshi lacks is the knowledge that he is NOT a cat, but rather a dog who should go on regular walks and not just lie around in the sun all day!

Saber, since he’s the youngest, has many moments when his confidence gets the willies. I’ve talked about umbrellas before and sometimes large garbage bags will set him off. Today it was a garbage truck backing up, but the thing about Saber is that he overcomes his fears quickly and in a matter of moments, is whistling a confident tune.

In addition to walking all our clients today, I got to spend some time with Paige this weekend (sigh!) and even she has some moments when her confidence takes a vacation. Oddly, sometimes I make her lose her confidence because I tend to play kind of rough. Yes, I know she’s a Doberman and yes, I know everyone thinks they are big and tough and aggressive, but after spending time with Paige (sigh!) on a hike…

…and at the lake…

…I can tell you that she has doubts as well.

All this is a reminder to me that I am not alone in my moments of uncertainty. And not feeling alone makes me all the more confident that some day, when the thunder rumbles over head or the fireworks pop and boom outside or the when a Rottweiler approaches I’ll be able to hold my head up and move forward with great confidence.

I hope some day my friends can do the same!

Until tomorrow,


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