Show No Fear.
The sun had just finished its ascent into the sky on this mild June morning. The air was fresh after the recent rain, but the mosquitoes were like armies of fortified soldiers storming the banks of the enemy shore.
Nonetheless, I ventured out with my diminutive Chi-weenie to take her to the side of the house for her morning “business meeting” as it were. As any other day, I slipped the pink leash onto her collar and headed out. (One never knew when their pup might catch sight of a bird or rabbit and take chase, so I was always diligent about putting her leash on.)
As she began her traditional spin-and-squat, something did catch her attention. We turned in unison to see a monster of a dog, fully unshackled and seemingly thrilled at the freedom. He appeared to be a pit-bull/mastiff cross and could have swallowed my little dog whole. But he was, at this moment, still peaceful and curious. However, I had no idea what he would do if my little warrior started to bark and defend her turf as she is wont to do. (**Underused word alert**Not a typo. Not a typo. **According to Merriam-webster.com Wont – adjective ~ wȯnt, meaning inclined, accustomed, apt. Origin of WONT ~ Middle English woned, wont, from past participle of wonen to dwell, be used to, from Old English wunian; akin to Old High German wonēn to dwell, be used to, Sanskrit vanoti he strives for.)
Anyway, as I was saying, I was unsure of what would happen if my little Zuzu began to go all Big-Dog Ninja on this interloper—stranger danger extends to large beasts that have enough strength in their jaws to snap us in half, after all. So I swooped her into my arms and stood my ground.
At that moment a woman came running up calling, “Brutus! Brutus!” (No, I’m not making this up, the dog’s name really was Brutus. So, yeah, you get the picture…he was B I G.)
“Oh, sorry,” she says while trying to get the dog to listen to her, “he misses my son.”
(Check—not her dog, hence, she is not the Alpha in his pack and he has no intention whatsoever of listening to her commands. Got it.)
I told her to grab the twenty-five-foot leash that I kept looped around the lamppost in my front yard, although Brutus was not wearing his dog collar, so she wasn’t quite sure how to capture him with it. Meanwhile, as she tried to reign him in, I was holding his morning appetizer (my pup) high up while being prepared to raise my knee should he try to jump up on me.
It is clear that she has no control over this dog, so I harnessed my inner Alpha and commanded him to sit. He didn’t quite do it, but he did respond to me. At this point, she asked for my phone, so I whisked (well, not so much whisked as much as played a sort of frog-dodging-cars type game attempting to scurry around the darting, leaping Brutus who was very intent on getting close to my pup) my wiggling little Zuzu into the house with Brutus hot on our heels. My primary goal from the start—get her inside.
I managed to get inside and shut the screen door before he nudged his enormous head inside the door, where my then four-year-old son was standing, wondering what was going on. I went to check my phone, but as I suspected, it was still inoperative, as it has been since our city had a devastating flood the week prior.
I returned to the door where, even with Brutus corralled on my porch, the woman could not get control of him. So after rescuing Zuzu, rather than shut the door and say, “Good luck catching Brutus,” I did the good neighborly thing and went out to assist her. I grabbed the leash from her and explained what I was going to do. I made a noose-like loop of the end of the leash and cornered Brutus by my screen door as he was sniffing voraciously to find his way in.
Now, many of you might be picturing me there, trying to capture an unknown, humungous beast with massive pit-bull jaws, and you would be right—that is exactly what it looked like. But rule number one with dogs: Show No Fear.
Sure, there are badass dogs that will bite simply because A) someone taught them to do it, or B) no one taught them not to do it. But for most good dogs, regardless of breed, if they are going to bite, it is the smell of fear that causes them to snap. Yes, dogs can sense fear.
And this wasn’t my first barn dance (ahem, pit-bull-attack-avoidance dance, that is) after all. (**Relevant digression alert**) Once, when I was descending a narrow enclosed staircase at a friend of a friend’s house, I was in front with the two guys behind me—they would have been little help if the dog had attacked me. When I reached the bottom stair to step into the living room, this pit-bull, who, honestly, had been on less than good behavior thus far, jumped up and met me face to face. I have no doubt that had I reacted in fear, screaming and freaking out as girls can be wont to do (insert smiley face here) that dog would have had my throat and I would never have written this blog post. But, and this is the point here, I did not. I calmly raised my knee to the dog’s chest and barked, “Down!”
And that was, as they say, that. But I will never forget it, and I credit the obedience classes I attended, with a Doberman that I used to own, with this knowledge. Having owned a large, and largely misunderstood, breed of dog in the past, I had the experience and practice to be fearless with other large breeds.
Back to this morning…
Most people see that telltale pit-bull head and it strikes fear in their hearts, especially if they have a much smaller dog in their arms and a child who might run outside at any moment to see what is going on. Don’t get me wrong, in a situation such as this, or the one I described above, fear was knocking at the walls of my chest too. But I didn’t let it in. Partly by instinct and partly by intention.
So there we were, at that moment, a pack of three (Zuzu was inside the house with my son at this point.) And, in this pack of three, someone had to be Alpha dog. The well-intentioned woman clearly did not command that position, and I wasn’t about to let dear old Brutus have the head honcho spot. This left me.
With the length of leash looped around my hands, I cornered the beast known as Brutus. My heart, actually not beating rapidly in my chest (this would come later), in one fell swoop I slipped the noose-like leash around Brutus’s huge neck and tightened the slack. Then I turned and presented Brutus to his owner’s mother.
She was wearing a look that reflected, at once, relief, shock, surprise, and the force of the adrenaline that was likely pumping through her veins.
“Thank you,” she said. “I’ll bring the leash back.”
I smiled, relief filling my own face I’m sure, and said, “No problem, keep it.”
Then, as a now much meeker Brutus strolled down the street on the leash, I went inside and let the adrenaline course free through my own blood.
The enormity of what could have happened settled in and I breathed a Brutus-sized sigh of relief.
Now, you may think this is strictly a post about how to deal with dogs, and maybe it started out that way. (I do think more people should be trained not to fear dogs. I believe it would go a long way in limiting the amount of “good dog gone bad” type of attacks.)
But, no, this post is about life and embracing it, living in the NOW, without fear, without doubt and without worry (Good old FDW, as my mentor/guru Dr. Robert Anthony would say.)
At that moment, when I was faced with an unknown danger (I did not know this dog, after all, so I could not anticipate his nature with certainty), I was not thinking ahead, worried about the future of this situation. I wasn’t even thinking about the past and what had happened in a similar situation before, although the instinct to react the way I did was definitely a part of me. I was completely in the “now” ~ my higher-self kicked it into full gear and took care of biz. I knocked it outta the ball park.
That is how we need to treat all situations, but this learned behavior most of us have of thinking, plotting, over-analyzing and otherwise ruminating about past failures and future fears gets in the way of using our instinct and intuition on a more mundane level. That is where practice comes in. We need, not to un-learn the bad behavior, but learn the new behavior so that it overwrites the negative one. We can only do that within a quiet reflective mind and a peaceful heart. Mediation.
So, my goal for you, and myself, is to make a commitment, not all day, but every day, to reconnect with our higher-selves and disconnect from our ego-driven fear-based selves.
Hmmm…do I end this post with Woof! or Namaste?