Overcoming Fears – Lessons Learned from my Dog

November 2, 2010 at 7:39 am | Posted in Life and Living | 3 Comments
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When my labrador was just a year old, I took him to a park on the Hudson River to play with my friend’s dog. It’s not technically a dog park, but nobody bothered us.  The dogs had a ball running around like dogs do, until my dog ended up in the water. I somehow missed the split second when this happened, so I don’t know if he fell in or jumped in, but it was the first time he ever swam.  I was so proud! It was only later that I would learn that this experience would be the last time I’d ever see my water dog swim… or so I thought.

Over the next three years I would take him to open swims at the local pool and he would never go near the water. You couldn’t make him.  During the summer, when lawns (and subsequently, sidewalks) were watered by sprinklers, he’d actually cross over to the other side of me so he wouldn’t get wet.  Surely my labrador retriever, bred for hunting and swimming, wasn’t afraid of the water!  But he was.  That’s until just recently, when my father discovered a stream down a path, a quarter mile behind our local dog park.  My father took him off the leash, and he showed us where it was, making sure he could see us at all times, and in he went!

Now, we can’t keep him out of the water. Last night, I get a phone call from my boyfriend telling me the dog has jumped into the Bronx River. Who does this dog think he is?

Here’s what I learned from this.  You can overcome your fears, but you cannot be pushed.  It needs to happen naturally, and the comfort level needs to be just right. And once you face your fears, you may fall in love with something you were once afraid of.

What’s interesting about fears, is that they evolve with age. As a child, you may be afraid of learning new things like riding a bike, or of things that don’t exist like monsters.  As an adult, you may be afraid of walking home from the train station alone late at night, or flying.  Most people will always be afraid of something, whether it’s a rational fear or not.  I don’t think anyone is completely fearless, though I know there’s always an exception to every rule.  While it can’t be expected that you will get over all of your fears, you can get over some, if you really want to.  But you also have to know your limits.  Deep down, you know what you can handle and what you can’t, and only push your limits when you it seems right.

And when you need a little inspiration, think about the dog who was afraid of the water, and how proud his owners were when he overcame his fear.

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