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Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Fear Factor

We had some snow here in Wisconsin this weekend-- Singer is enjoying her backyard.
Singer recently groomed, complete with her multicolored bow...

I'll get to today's topic in a sec, but I just have to tell you this:  Singer will wait at the back door forever to be let in. Just like the Little Match Girl looking in on a warm home, she sits, looking at the crack at the bottom of the door, waiting. We have a window to the left of the door and I can just barely see her, sitting there patiently waiting. She never barks or whines to come in. She must feel like an outsider, just like the Little Match Girl…snowflakes falling softly around her. Awww…I love to hold this lonely image of her in my mind and nurture it with all sorts of imaginary and improbable thoughts. But I digress.

Today’s post is really about anxiety, both human and canine. I read recently that there’s an app for people with all kinds of phobias that exposes them to their anxiety-provoking stimulus, whether it's airplanes, spiders, or honeycombs (yes, some people are afraid of geometrical designs, I understand). Even stuffed animals cause some to shriek in terror. But we humans, yes, we have the big brains and have ways of coping. Here it comes…thick as honey.

Dogs, on the other hand, cope with their anxieties in a much more enlightened way. They bark. Or growl. Or even attack the source of their anxieties. Singer is dealing with her anxieties quite rationally. The other day she stiffened as she saw another dog approaching, alerting me from my iPod walking reverie. I stopped and quickly decided a different route. We turned around and walked parallel to the vicious, but old, dog, who was now barking and growling at Singer from behind a fence. Good job of alerting me, Singer! We averted a near catastrophe there. Now, can you imagine designing an app for that? I can’t.

My friend Marianne from Virginia, she recently wrote on this blog in a comment that her Irish setter of years back used to bark at snowmen. I told her that Saylor used to do the same thing. Anxiety about a white figure, usually tall and bulky looking. Kind of stiff and silent. Pretty scary, if you ask me. And I would think that barking is a way to decide whether to attack or not. Saylor would bark until I would take her directly to the snowman, then she would sniff at the snow and continue on her way. “Oh well. I thought it was a threat.”

I hope I don’t come across as insensitive to people who have real phobias, but honestly, why can’t people just bark at their fears? Doesn’t that make more sense than to throw a virtual technology blanket over it? Isn’t that just another way of not dealing with it? Dogs know how to deal with fear, people don’t. That’s why people buy guns sometimes. 

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