Hey World, let me introduce you to Chloe! See the cute little Yorkie face peaking out from under the clothes in my closet. That’s her. She likes to hide there. That’s just one of her hiding places actually. She likes to hide a lot! Chloe is a rescue dog. I don’t know what I rescued her from, but it must have been something pretty horrific because she is afraid of everything. I’ve had her for about nine months now and I think I may need to hire a dog whisperer so I can help her, if there really is such a person.
Chloe is afraid of most sounds. When I’m cooking, which is often, she stands and stares at me, ready to run out the dog door as soon as a small appliance makes an appearance on the counter or any chopping starts. She will run and stand outside and watch me through the patio door until she feels it’s safe to return or I call her to come back in. When I’m getting ready to go somewhere, she knows when I’m about to grab the hairdryer and out the dog door she goes. Her hiding place then is behind our pool pump. Cleaning day is an absolute nightmare for her. She’s afraid of the vacuum cleaner, the duster, the mop, the broom, all of it! She hides outside behind the pool pump until I call her to come in. She will visibly shake and pant for quite a long time after all the scary equipment is put away until she is sure the perceived danger has definitely past. I try to calm her, but it’s to no avail. She’s so tiny and I worry that she’ll shake herself into a heart attack or have a heat stroke from hiding outside. It’s summer in AZ and it’s a bit warm right now.
There’s more Chloe is afraid of, but I think you get the idea. I don’t know what it’s going to take or how long it’s going to take for her to get over her fears. She is in a good, loving home now. She gets lots of attention. There is another Yorkie here for her to play with. She has never been given a reason to be afraid here. Life is good for her, yet she is paralyzed by fear. Her fear robs her of comfort that she doesn’t find in her dusty, hot outdoor hiding place.
Chloe’s perceived threat isn’t real in our house. Whatever it was is now gone from her life, yet the unnecessary fear lingers. It controls her actions to the point of hurting herself. I’m the one in our family that she feels the safest with. She is almost as comfortable with my husband now, yet her fear has her missing out on loving attention she could be getting from other family members. She’s adorable and everyone wants to pet her or hold her, but she barks and runs from them.
Isn’t that so much like some of us? We all have fears and many of those fears at some point in our lives were well founded. But what about when we’ve moved on and are in a safe place and around people who have never given us a reason to be fearful? Why do we feel a need to hold on to old fears? We paralyze and imprison ourselves when we do that. We are afraid to risk letting go of the fear so we can totally enjoy this new place. We give our power to the fear and enable it to overpower us. We imprison ourselves and rob ourselves of opportunities to learn, grow and succeed, to give and receive love.
How can I break Chloe of her fear? Should I force her to face her fear by blocking her from her hiding places? We’ll talk more about fear another time. Maybe I’ll get brave enough to share my own, but for now, any Dog Whisperers out there?