Change, defined, is “to make or become different.” I was deathly afraid of dogs. So afraid that if I saw one loose, I would sprint and hide to wherever I felt like I wasn’t going to be seen. I would pray to God in so many words; please. don’t. bite. me. I don’t remember my first bad experience with dogs but my mother relives the terror with me through her rendition of the situation. There was a black lab, Susie, who got loose from its yard, barked and jumped in my face. My mom picked me up into her arms and apparently, I was inconsolable. I was three years old. That is when my fear of dogs began.
Growing up, my neighbor, Barbara, had two dogs and four cats. I was more of a cat person. I loved brushing them, playing with the dangling feather toys, and laser pointers. I didn’t mind scooping poop out of a box. Her dogs, I was always apprehensive around. I would never pick them up. I wouldn’t want to walk them or be alone with them, just in case they decided to bite me. Fast forward. I’m fourteen years old, playing in my aunt’s backyard, and the neighbors Pit Bull/Rottweiler mix gets loose and charges after my two younger cousins. Without thinking, I picked my cousins up into my arms, turned to head toward the house and the dog bit me in the back of my leg. Better me than my cousins, I thought, trying to ease the bite pain. I officially hate dogs. I will never have a dog. I don’t want to have anything to do with dogs. End of story.
Jason absolutely loves dogs. On our first date, I asked him, “What do you want in your life?” He said, “I want a wife, a house, a truck, and a dog.” I said “Yeah, well that’s not going to work, I’m afraid of dogs.” He asked, and I told. I was sick to my stomach when I met his parents and their 10 lb. Chihuahua/Yorkie mix, Kaylee. I thought I was going to have a panic attack. I felt my heart race and my palms get sweaty. I made it through the night and the occasional family visits with Kaylee. When we got engaged and moved into our home, the “we need a dog” conversations started happening in full force. Knowing this is what he wanted from Day 1, I had my non-negotiable rules prepared for HIS dog.
- I want kittens.
- I get to pick the dog, and it must be from a rescue.
- We must get a fence.
- We must take the dog to obedience training.
- We must get a pet sitter for the days that we work long shifts.
We got our kittens (Jack and Ace, now almost 3 years old, fat and fabulous). We got a fence. We found Bailey (our now 2 year 3-month-old mutt) from a rescue. We found a pet sitter. We enrolled Bailey into puppy Kindergarten at 12 weeks. The obedience training helped teach me how not only to train our dog, but how to act around dogs. Sometimes, I would stand in the training and a cold sweat would rush over me. Anxiety. Fear. Panic. Thanks for showing up, guys. Deep breath. Positive self-talk. 30 more minutes to go. 20. 10. 5. Done. Another class completed. I remember pulling the instructor aside and saying, “Listen, Bailey is my first dog, I’m actually afraid of dogs!” She put her hand on her hip and said, “Well, ya can’t be that afraid, ya were around 15 of ‘em in class.” Okay, lady, you have a point. I am breaking through my barriers.
Getting a dog of my own, (Bailey was 10 lbs. at 10 weeks old), was the pivotal moment that changed my opinion on dogs. It was putting my fear, anxiety, and apprehension aside, to learn how to change, adapt, and thrive with a new puppy who ultimately wanted my all my love and attention.
It’s always comical, and slightly irritating, when people tease, “Remember when you said, ‘No, we are not getting a dog. I don’t like dogs. I’m afraid of them. It’s either going to be me or a dog.’” they often don’t realize the evolution, hard work, and the vulnerability that I have endured and surpassed to get to the place where I am today. From the moment Bailey came into our lives, I worked on my fear, every single day.
Now, I’m involved with a phenomenal rescue group, Caring Canine Connections. www.thecccrescue.com
I foster dogs in my home. That’s right, I went from being afraid of dogs to taking the helpless, abandoned and abused dog into my home and helping them to becoming adoptable, lovable companions. I help at adoption events, where I am surrounded by ten to twenty dogs of varying personalities. I am so passionate about CCC that I assist in fundraising and donation campaigns. I believe strongly in rescuing dogs from nonprofit organizations and am opposed to breeders.
The rescue coordinator knows my quirks; she doesn’t give me a dog I can’t handle, and whenever I feel like how I’ve felt many years ago, I remind myself, life’s only constant is change. My change has brought me beautiful, heartfelt experiences that will last a lifetime.