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017 All Day Rain 2008-12-10

Jake in his safe place

Yesterday was one of those days... it rained all day long.

My dog, Jake, was miserable. Being a big house dog, Jake generally enjoys his trips outside, but in the rain we have to kick him out the back door even for him to take care of his business in the fenced backyard.

Jake has an astraphobia - a fear of lightning and thunder. Before the weather seems bad to me, Jake has already sensed the danger and heads to the stairwell, his safe place in the house. On his cue, I check the weather to find out how far away the storm is, and discover as usual that he is right, weather is approaching. He is better than a barometer.

When it rains, Jake understands that lightning and thunder are more likely. He, therefore, is content with staying inside until the weather clears. Jake is a safe dog, not a brave or foolish one. He never throws caution to the wind and changes his behavior. He is constantly careful. But, he still needs to walk. That is my responsibility.

Clothed in a rain parka and visored cap I put his leash on him. Jake is not happy, but he understands that I am going to walk him so he yields to my requests. With heads hung low we brave the storm. The cold wind and rain pelts me, as Jake walks behind me submissively.

Every noise increases the fear factor as we make our way up the sidewalk. Continually he reminds me that we are not being safe. Finally we have reached the point furtherest from our home and begin the return leg. Instead of walking behind me, Jake takes the lead and like a horse to the barn, tries to sprint back home. I use the opportunity to have him walk on heel to avoid arm strain and to help teach Jake about restrain. The closer to home we are, the more teaching is required. On reaching the driveway I unleash him to see him bolt to the sanctuary of his backyard. He is relieved but not satisfied. As I reach the backdoor he sits staring anxiously at the entry.

Things are improving for Jake. Through the door and into the kitchen, he does tricks for his treats. and then heads to his safe place. He quickly assumes his position in the stairwell once again hunkered down in survival mode. Jake is constant. He does not change. If it rained ten days in a row, Jake would act the same way each day.

There’s nothing wrong with the way Jake acts just as there is nothing wrong with the rain - both are acts of nature. Understanding his fears, Jake knows there is stormy weather and allows his instincts to help him be safe. At times I interrupt his fears, but I cannot change them.

We humans are much more unnatural. We are obsessed with conquering our fears. If we can’t quell the emotion then we try to remove the danger from existence. I think we humans could learn a lot from dogs.



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