If I had stayed in fear, I may never have a chance to kiss this gorgeous velvety nose.
Dogs were never really my thing. I never really ‘oohed and aahed’ over cute little puppies running around. This was partly because I could not really see them but also partly because I never really trusted them. I did not have full blown Cynophobia, but they were not my favourite animals to be honest. I was never bitten by a dog growing up or was scared in anyway by any, but I always had a healthy respect for the fact that they could turn if they felt threatened.
We had a cross Collie whilst growing up called Cindy who was with us for ten years until she passed when I was around fourteen. She was more human than dog so I kind of forgot that she belonged to the canine kind as she would come with my brothers, friends and I as we played Fox and Hounds and football. I was surprised that she was never scouted for a top team as she scored more goals than any of us put together. Cindy was one of us, other dogs were not.
I had a healthy respect for the ability of dogs to turn if they were threatened and therefore kept away from them. This was one of the stumbling blocks that I was hanging onto when I decided to apply for a guide dog. The main excuse I gave myself from applying for a guide dog was that maybe people I knew would question why I suddenly turned up with a guide dog when the majority of them never knew I had been registered as severely sight impaired (previously known as registered blind) for a number of years. The other main reason was however that I was not sure if life with a dog was really for me.
What would happen if I did not learn to read the dog’s signs of distress or if they were too hot and frustrated? What if I could not pick up on the cues that they needed something that I did not know about? What if the dog did not like me? What if the dog did not like coming into schools with me for me to carry out my job? The negative ‘what if’s’ snowballed more than the positive ‘what if’s’ until I got over myself and started turning the scenarios on their head and saw love instead of fear.
What if I tuned into the dog’s happiness as soon as I met him/her? What if I used my knowledge of their dislikes to arrange our lives to avoid them? What if our intuition synched so that we naturally picked up on each other’s needs? What if the unconditional love between our both species had no limit? What if the dog became part of the staff at the schools that we worked in and had his/her own fan club? My natural positivity trait began to chase away this alien negative frame of mind that had invaded my life. How would I know what life would be like with a guide dog if I was not going to try?
Three and a half years on, it is easy to look back and laugh at the imagined fear that nearly kept us apart. This face that lights up the life of many may have rested upon another sofa if I had not opened my mind beyond the sticky pit of fear. His strands of hair that lay across the house may have had to be vacuumed up by another hoover and his muddy paw prints would have to be mopped up into another bucket. Most devastating however may have been that his big squishy velvety nose may have been kissed by another pair of lips.
Facing you fears and doing it anyway will always bring about the unexpected and for me, it was magical. This mischief maker was worth the gamble. Turning fear into love may not be that hard after all.