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How To Handle Fear: According To My Puppy

July 28, 2015

Our puppy Louie turned one on Sunday. He attended a paw-ty with all six dogs from his original litter and his momma hosted at the house where she was fostered after she was found abandoned, pregnant. I didn’t cry, which is a god-damned miracle.

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Lucy, Beneit, Betty the mom, Dudley, Louie, Caramel and Stilton. Yes this is completely for real.

Raising Louie from eight weeks old has been a struggle and a joy. It challenged R and my relationship, then made it stronger. It challenged my control issues, then helped me take a nice step back. It was both very hard and very natural. I am incredibly proud of the now “adult” dog currently sitting at my feet with one of my socks in his mouth as I type.

But like all dogs – Louie has some serious quirks. Before we took him home we heard that he was afraid of ice cubes. Once we got him home we learned that his list of triggers includes real estate signs, garbage trucks, and purses left in the middle of the floor – among 127 other things.

Here he is in the photo below being terrified of a wave. He’s the small black one crouched down into his terror stance. The Pam Anderson of a Goldendoodle coming out of the water is his friend, Cali.

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But even stranger than the fact that my dog is afraid of a cardboard lawn sign is the way he’s come to cope with that fear.

See the first ten to five hundred times Louie walked by a building with an apartment unit for rent he went nuts. He barked and shook and pulled at his leash and looked up at me with those whale saucers that say WHATISTHATFLATMONSTERSTUCKINTHEGROUND?! I said things like, “Louie! Don’t be silly! That’s a very thick piece of paper that is in no way alive!” and then I rubbed his ears and gave him a treat, which is human to dog speak for, YAYHAPPYSAFEGOOD! 

Then sometime around lawn sign (slash garbage truck slash rogue pursue) number 501, Louie came up with his own plan. He saw the sign from a distance, trotted up like “who cares?” and then gave it one giant bark directly in the “face” without breaking stride. “Hey lawn sign,” he said, “I see you. I hate you. It makes me feel better to scream for a second. Now let’s both move on.”

I think he’s onto something.

We can’t control what we’re afraid of – at least I can’t. My own list includes dark streets, movies with gun violence, getting stuck in a too-tight top, and making that left turn onto Wilshire off my street that stupid Waze always wants me to make. So maybe the solution is to look it in the eye, scream for a second, and move on? That’s what I did the other day before crossing over two lanes of oncoming traffic and directly into two more, and it worked like a charm.

So thank you, Louie, for this and the dozen other lessons learned from your list of peccadilloes that will now serve as blog posts. Next up, How To Deal With Sadness. 

[And thank you for tolerating this 400 + word essay about my dog. I promise to space these posts out with ones about actual human issues. But he’s real freakin’ cute, right?]

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