Friday, June 8, 2007

Nothing to fear but fear itself...

Cousteau is largely a fearless dog. I can really only remember one time that he was frozen in fear and that's when he saw a mylar balloon as a puppy. He froze in the middle of a busy intersection while commuters, ummm, encouraged us out of the road. I was so amused that my big, tough dog was scared of something as simple as a balloon that I burst out laughing. Cousteau had long since figured out that laughter was a good thing so as I chuckled my way over to the balloon he was willing to brave a sniff. Then he tried to eat the balloon...

Havana is a more aware dog. She's supposed to be, she's a herding dog. Still, I'm not a fan of her spooking at things she's been fine with before, nor do I want to encourage wariness around new things. I learned my lesson from Cousteau - when Havana shies away from something I look at her and say "It's nothing to be afraid of, silly girl" in a matter of fact tone of voice. I can usually get a laugh out, too, which further reassures her that the scary thing probably won't kill her. She'll never be as blase about things as Cousteau is, but she's learned to take her cues from me and react less to things she might otherwise be afraid of.

There have been a few times when something or someone has startled me and I jumped or otherwise reacted before I thought. I'm normally a pretty jumpy person, too. When my first reaction is one of caution or a startle response, I have a much harder time convincing Havana that whatever is present is no threat to her. With practice I've gotten much better at taking a breath before reacting so I can re-evaluate how I want to respond.

Now my BabyBug is like Cousteau in her fearlessness, but I know there are a few things that upset her. One of these things is loud, unexpected noises. The first time my Dad drove his Harley up the driveway near her she just about lost it. It took a lot of fast talking from my mom and I to convince her that the Harley is fun, not scary. She's still not crazy about that classic Harley sound close to her, but she enjoys picking motorcycle sounds out whenever we're outside.

Remembering Bug's reaction to the unexpected Harley noise, I was prepared when we were running errands and a thunderstorm came up. The first crash of thunder sounded and as Bug whipped her head around to see my reaction, I started quoting from Dr. Seuss' book Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? "BoomBoomBoom! Mr. Brown is a wonder. BoomBoomBoom, Mr. Brown makes thunder!" Between my silliness and the memory of a favorite book, she relaxed. By the end of the storm she would hear the thunder and gasp in delight shouting "BoomBoomBoom!" waiting for me to finish the quote.

Fortunately Bug isn't quite as in tune to me as Havana is. I did startle her earlier this week while we were weeding. I pulled a weed and a clump of dirt jumped. Being jumpy by nature, I squealed and hopped back. Bug looked at me with concern and I figured out it was a toad and not mutant mud on the attack. I explained to Bug "I wasn't expecting that silly toad to jump. He surprised me!" After showing her the toad, who then got the heck out of there (smart toad - Bug likes to hug and kiss everything that catches her attention), she was completely over her concern about my reaction.