Posted on August 23, 2012
A Lesson in Love from Rowdy
Several days ago I had mentioned to a friend that, up until my early 20s, I was quite afraid of dogs. Perhaps it was the neighbourhood German Shepherd that stole my childhood friend’s shoe right off his foot when passing through the dog’s yard?
“Fear is born out of a story we tell ourselves.” – Cheryl Strayed
Whatever the reason, my former fear of canines may come as a surprise to anyone who knows me at all. In recalling that fear, I remembered a story that had been archived on my blog. It seems this moment in time is rather apropos to flip open the chapter on how my fear of dogs transformed into a loving relationship with them…
Growing up, we had cats in the household. When I was very young, it was Tia. After she passed away we got Murphy. Murphy had a restless spirit and didn’t stick around for long. Never did we own dogs and, in truth, never did I hold much of an affinity for them. My Opa had dogs while I was growing up, and though I loved his last dog, Brady, cuddling and playing was never something I did.
By the time I was 20 years old, for no reason in particular, I was afraid of dogs. In retrospect, this was probably due to hearing about canine attacks in the news. I had convinced myself that if I got too close to any dog, the same would happen to me. That being said, I avoided all dogs at all costs.
On Boxing Day, 2003 I was still living in the Comox Valley. Our home is in the rural countryside, and the homes on our street are few and far between. I decided to take a snow-filled walk in the silent afternoon, the only audible sound was the snow crunching under foot. As I rounded the corner, I saw a dog sitting in the middle of the road at the top of the street and less than 200 feet in front of me.
Determined to face my fear, I thought my best chance would be to walk a wide circle around the rather large dog, avoid eye contact and pray that he wouldn’t notice me. What a fool I was. I started inching closer…150 feet…100 feet…50 feet. Within the last few yards, the dog stood up and began a slow trot in my immediate direction. “Oh god, I’m toast.” I started to panic on the inside.
As the beast closed in, I began to realize just how large my soon-to-be opponent really was. There was nowhere I could run and nowhere I could hide. The dog was in front of me, up on its hind legs with its paws on my shoulders. I was no match for this animal’s strength and within a split second, found myself pushed backwards into a snowbank; the dog was now on top of me.
And then he started licking my face. All I could do was laugh.
To say this caught me off guard and entirely by surprise is an understatement. After a few moments, I picked myself up out of the snow to learn that I had a new walking companion. The dog, who I soon learned was called Rowdy, lived at a house just up the street and, despite his gargantuan frame, was only a year old. This was a canine who, when standing upright, was taller than me. I’m 5’9”.
And so, this became our routine and Rowdy became my buddy. Each day I’d come home from work to find Rowdy sitting on my doorstep waiting for his walk. Often on weekends, he’d sniff outside my bedroom window and let out a few little barks to beg me to come outside and play. Sadly, his owner spent no time with him and never walked him. This escalated to the point where the man asked me if I’d take over walking duties because he didn’t have the time (or the desire, I expect). Heartbroken at the thought, there was no way I could neglect the task.
He was big and furry and smelly and muddy but I loved him. Above all else, he was entirely loyal and loved me back equally. It was less than half a year later that I moved back to Vancouver. Upon my return visits home, I’d often check for Rowdy but it wasn’t long before he disappeared altogether. I like to think he ran away and found a farm that really wanted him.
Since that time in my life, nearly a decade ago, I have grown to develop an immense love for all dogs. And more than love, I’ve developed a great understanding. Fear is born out of a story we tell ourselves. Whether we choose to believe that story or not is up to us.
There are few things that feel better than walking through the front door after a long day at work to find Jordy standing on his hind legs much like a penguin, aching to be picked up and cuddled. My love of dogs – and animals in general – runs deeper than I can grasp and in ways that continuously surprise me. I thinks sometimes we would all be hugely surprised if we took the time to explore the capacity we each have to show compassion to animals.
I’ve said in the past that we need to help animals because, unlike us, animals don’t have a voice. The truth is that animals do have a voice but so often that voice is ignored. Instead of acting outraged around the water cooler at the office about the latest news story of animal abuse, just do something.
With a little over two weeks left (and almost $1,000 away from my goal), I need you. Please forgo your morning coffee and make a small – or generous – donation to the BC SPCA Paws For A Cause campaign today.