Blog Post #3 

Fearing Man’s Best Friend - and What I Learned After Owning a Puppy

I have to be honest with myself when it comes to the things I’m afraid of. Stairs, loud noises, water, and so much more are a few things that come to mind when I consider fear. 

Now, much of which I’m afraid of is obviously irrational but each one stems from something that happened when I was a kid that manifested itself into a powerful, anxiety driven demon that controls a good part of my day.

The number one thing that I would consider myself to be afraid of is dogs. Everything about dogs: their teeth, their bark, the whites of the eyes that show when they look at you from the side. A good 99% of every aspect of a dog gives me the chills and just like everything else I’m afraid of, it stems from a past experience.

When I was 8, my family owned a dog--or more like the idea of a dog--as he was either on a chain all day or running wild harassing the streets and the civilians on them, and he survived on mainly scraps and survival instincts. His name was Bouncy Ball (but in Russian of course), an appropriate name for a dog who was so untrained, he was practically a neanderthal. 

This dog wreked havoc everywhere he went, and over time, he became more and more aggressive and angry. He attacked anything in his line of sight, including us, his owners. But the fear of his kind didn’t really start until one time I came home from school; stepping off of the bus, I was greeted by what seemed to be a happy dog, but as I felt his teeth sink into my right cheek, mere milimeters away from my mouth, I was proved extremely wrong. 

I shrieked in agony, the pain in my face making me dizzy. The dog was punished, my wounds were tended to, and life moved on until one day a farmer near our house grew tired of a savage dog destructively herding his cows and put a bullet in him.

Yes, life may have moved on. But something in me didn’t. Since that say, I feared the word ‘dog’, the smell of dog in a home. I’d have a panic attack everytime I’d hear a bark or growl. I’ve ran out of houses where the dogs just got too close.

I met my husband the fall of 2019 and getting to know him meant getting to know his dogs, three of them. The oldest was a small thing, below the knees, and he was calmest dog that I had been around in all of my life. The other two were quite large and could be rambunctious, which alarmed me, and I made it very clear that being at his house was an anxiety attack waiting to happen.

And it did, multiple times. Whatever house his family lived in, the fear always followed. As long as there was a dog present, I couldn’t close the eyes. I couldn’t rest.

But then, we ended up adopting a puppy of our own. And finally, after 23 years, something changed.

I didn’t have time to be afraid. 

This puppy needed me to attend to his needs, to house-train him, to feed him, and to give him baths. There was no room for fear because that would hinder my ability to do the job that was given.

And now a week in, my heart yearns to spend time with the little guy. Leaving him at home feels like leaving a part of myself, like a mother would feel leaving her child. But in a sense, this little puppy is my baby. It was a difficult choice to make and there are many, many moments throughout the day that I still sorta regret getting a dog in the first place. 

But with each day, I become comfortable again having a four legged little buddy follow me around, interested in everything I have to offer.

Knowing that dogs are considered man’s best friend, I needed a friend in a time of injury and depression. And interestingly enough, the moment I got a dog, the pain went away, and so did the depression. Sure, stress replaced it (it’s so hard taking care of a dog!) but I’d rather have stress than uncontrollable fear.

So here’s to you, brother bear, my little buddy, my fresh baked Cannoli. And here’s to checking the first fear off of my list. 

Diana Still