This past Sunday morning, I was snuggling my pup and thinking about the first 16 years of my life I spent petrified of dogs and the 9.5 years after that I was just somewhat comfortable around them.
The tiniest little dog would send me flying onto someone’s kitchen counter, screaming and crying. In 2007, my Granddad got a pup, and he and my mom made me hang out with it for about 10 minutes a day. It was awful and excruciating and seems silly to those of you who have always loved animals. I hated every minute of it but looking back, I’m thankful they did it.
November 2017 Jimmy and I got a puppy. She was eight weeks old, and he had been begging me for one for months. He’d lost his longtime pup about 4 months before, so I finally caved. He went to the shelter to scout out a new litter one evening while I was at work.
We went the next day to bring home our fur-ever friend. As we pulled into the parking lot, all I could hear was a million dogs barking. I panicked and said, I can’t go in there! He told me he’d buy me ice cream if I did (…still waiting on that).
A girl took us back to pick out our pooch. The barking was so loud, the cages rattled and it smelled horribly. She said we could hold any of the nine we wanted to. Of course, I didn’t touch so much as look closely at any of them. Jimmy picked out our devil dog because he said she looked right at him.
They bathed her, we signed some paperwork and off we went, sort of. I was too afraid to hold our new three pounder in the car so I had to drive home! Thankfully I did though because she threw up all over Jimmy’s lap. Gross. What a first impression.
She was the tiniest little fur ball, and I couldn’t even hold her yet or sit on the floor with her. The first morning I had to care for her myself was interesting. She was too small to get on the couch by herself so I let her nap on the floor. Then I couldn’t fall asleep on the couch for fear of her getting up there – even though it was impossible. I still couldn’t really pick her up but had to carry her down the steps to the front yard – picture Rafiki holding Simba on Pride Rock.
Fast forward a week and I was finally able to let our 3-day nameless now called Ember pup nap in my lap while Jimmy took a shower – a major stepping stone in my relationship with animals I would say.
As time passed, I became more and more comfortable with her. She loves cuddling up with me and sleeping and I enjoy that. Months later, I was finally able to feed her treats out of my hand rather than placing them on the floor (no joke). Now I even go in for my own hugs which I never thought would happen a year ago.
I can see why people always said to me, “They won’t hurt you! They’re so friendly and fun.” And as much as I enjoy having her around now (most of the time, anyway), I can also see how when someone has a true fear, it doesn’t matter what you say to them. You can’t just take away that fear. You can’t just convince them it’s going to be okay.
*Side note: Keep that in mind the next time you take your not-a-service-dog shopping with you. It doesn’t matter how cute or cuddly or friendly or fun your fur ball is, not everyone loves them as much as you do. Always have them on a leash when you’re in public. Don’t take them where they’re not supposed to be (cough especially the grocery store cough). Don’t let them roam around your street alone. Love them at home and learn to be okay with others not loving them. End rant.*
So if you’re struggling with a fear you think you’ll never get over, I’m here to tell you you can. It may take time, a lot of time. It will take patience. You will have to step out of your comfort zone. But in the end, it will be worth it.