Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Conquering My Fear of Dogs

"The thing that makes you most uncomfortable, is the thing you need to embrace most" ~ Cesar Millan

There's a saying that we must conquer our own fears, and this was what I’ve been trying to remind myself since I've met my boyfriend’s dogs. Yes, I'm afraid of dogs that even the slightest growl (or their very presence even at a very far distance) can make my knees tremble. And he's got three dogs and three newborn puppies that time! Just imagine how afraid I was back then!

I keep telling him "Guard me! Make them stay away from me!" But since the dogs stayed in the yard, it’s okay to stay calm once I got inside the house. From the screen door, I looked outside every now and then, absent-mindedly watching them.

Cholo on the porch, just outside the screen door where I always watched them
I remembered being attacked by dogs twice in college. First was when I was walking back to my dorm along the streets (a residential area with some eatery and sari sari stores) and suddenly, a dog was barking on the back and when I instinctively looked back, I saw that dog running towards me, furious and wild! I shouted "Stop!!" full of fear. Second was when I went back to the province and I just stepped out of the bus and suddenly there was a dog in a distance that was, again, furiously barking and running towards me. I almost hit it with the bag on my hand, but I shouted again and used the bag to shooo the dog away. I have never been bitten by a dog, though. I tried to avoid dogs my entire life. And now, my boyfriend have dogs. Not just one dog, but three.

"Each of us must confront our own fears, must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventure or to be limited by the fear of it." ~ Judy Blume

My boyfriend tried to make me feel much better with the dogs by telling me that I don’t have to fear them and he decided to train me! First, I watch him while he fed them and he’s explaining everything from the amount of dog food, the exact places in the yard as their dining area, and that I have to gently pat them on the head right after putting the bowl of dog food right in front of them. He assisted and taught me how to pet them, what areas on their bodies that they wanted to be patted or rubbed. He reminded me to be watchful as they might want to put my hands on their mouth or lick my arms and feet. Then, I watched as he bathed them, telling me that they are afraid of water (especially running water like from the faucet or hose). Most of the time, they hid when they sensed that it’s bath time. He had to fetch and carry them to the bath area! But Puchi was the most behaved one during bath time. She wouldn’t move at all or run away like the boys always attempt to. She seemed to like you rubbing her body.

These are most of the basics, and there's a lot more that I have learned about dogs since then. Sooner, without me really knowing it, I became used to them. My frequent visits finally paid off, I thought.

"Fear is only as deep as the mind allows." ~ Japanese Proverb

Hiro, the seemingly "father" of their pack, is a white-to-cream, smooth and short-haired, male Filipino dog, and he's the most aggressive and protective of them all. He always barked at me! We've counted months before he finally remembered me! Although he still barked whenever I came near to the gate of the house, it seemed to be a "hello" once he saw me entering. He would just walk to me, sniff me (like inspecting me, and sometimes order me to pet him, yes order!), and yes, it didn’t feel so much frightening anymore.

Hero saying "cheese!" for picture taking!
Meanwhile, Smoochie (or Puchi or Chi) is his black-and-tan, smooth and short-haired, female miniature dachshund. She's a survivor of some deadly canine diseases. She's about 6 years old and she never barked on me. Ever! She's friendly and would always reach out to me by standing and placing her front paws on my legs and begged me to pet her head (and most of the time it’s irresistible because of her "sad" big eyes). Although she’s good with dealing with people, she’s very aggressive when hunting small animals like rats or kittens!

Puchi (she's pregnant when this photo was taken)
Next is Hiro and Puchi's son, Cholo (Cholo's siblings have been given to some friends who wanted to have dogs). He's very playful and got so much energy. He's less than a year old. He's got the dachshund's height (but much taller than Puchi, his height seemed to be of a standard dachshund). His color was red (dachshund) with some cream areas (on his chest, lower neck, butt, and belly), some black shades on his ears, and a total black nose and mouth area. He's smooth and long-haired (but not that long-haired like the pure dachshunds because he's a mixed one).

If there's one word to describe him, it's "excited". He's always excited and full of energy. He would always want to jump onto me whenever I came and want to pet him. He would always try to lick my arms or feet, or put my hands on his mouth. He's a stubborn kid. But there's one thing cute about him. He's signature lying down position: "lechon" pose, as we called it. He's the only dog I saw that lie down flat on the floor like that. Haha! (But ooops! His son and daughters seemed to inherit that position, too!)

Cholo with his infamous lechon pose! :)
11 months since the day that I've met them, so many things have happened. And even though I’m not afraid of them anymore, there are still times that I feel frightened – a time when Hiro and Cholo fought each other for a chance to mate with Puchi – that's freaking intense! When they get over excited, I would sometimes fear that they would bite me due to so much excitement!

Hiro and Cholo (lechon pose) relaxing on the porch. Sorry to disturb you, guys!
Even after all of these, I still have a sense of fear towards other dogs (that don't have an owner with them). But it's in very small amount now. If I continue to train myself and study more about dog's behavior, I know I can finally get rid of my fear, or rather, transform this fear into affection and appreciation. Cesar Millan's website has been a lot of help to me when studying dog's behavior and training. Now, I adore dogs! And it’s true – we can only conquer our fears by facing them! :)

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