I remember well my dog’s early days–when (much to my amusement) he oscillated from feeling like the King of the World to the cowardly lion of his kingdom.
My dog, Jack, suffers from an identity crisis. And a profoundly amusing one at that. I know I shouldn’t make light of his pitiful situation. The poor thing probably needs therapy. Or at the very least, some “me time” and a generous stint at Club Med—so that he might find himself. Preferably sometime this century.
Deep within that fluffy little bichon frise head of his, lies a reservoir of confusion—the sort that fuels delusions of grandeur and fantasies beyond all canine imagining. In sum, the muttonhead fancies himself as a steroid-fed, beast-of-a-thing with anger management issues.
In reality, Jack is a creampuff. A stinking creampuff that barks at his own shadow, bobbing and weaving to and fro—thoroughly convinced that he can somehow fake it out or swallow it whole. Then again, he’s foolish enough to yap at dogs ten times his size. Dogs that could have him for lunch. Dogs that have cohunes the size of cantaloupes.
So it makes little or no sense for him to behave in such a manner—especially given the facts: He has but a veneer of courage coupled with a pervasive fear of all-things-meek-and-mild. The Caspar Milquetoast of the neighborhood. The cowardly lion of his kingdom.
That being said, my inane dog is unspeakably intimidated by a host of things for which he should possess no fear—like fire hydrants (Oh, the irony!), recycling bins and clusters of garbage cans huddled together as if trading secrets, wayward leaves that skitter like spiders across the pavement and tall, green grasses that swoosh and sway in the breeze. Even a vacuum cleaner, left for dead at the curbside one morning, apparently posed an imminent threat to my sissified little man—as did the seemingly hostile trees we encountered (i.e. the ones with “faces” cleverly tacked to their trunks). At least no apples were hurled in our direction. Nor did the trees verbally abuse us, a la Wizard of Oz.
Mind you, most of the aforementioned objects that spooked my silly dog were inanimate, as in: they were SILENT, STILL AND COMPLETELY DEVOID OF LIFE. Nevertheless, Jack still cowered in fear—and continues to cower in fear whenever we stumble upon something remotely unfamiliar. Inanimate or not. Go figure.
I suppose it could just be that Mr. Fuzzypants has an extraordinarily active imagination, allowing him to conjure up all sorts of nightmarish scenarios involving both the mean and horrible fire hydrant lurking across the street, and the forest of evildoers lining our path (read: the trash cans and trees we pass—each with a penchant for devouring little dogs that venture too near). It’s also entirely possible that that warped mind of his could have envisioned the reject-of-a-vacuum-cleaner (an Electrolux, I think) eerily coming to life, grotesquely sprouting legs enough to chase his sorry ass around the block.
In any event, I have been forced to do some utterly ludicrous things in order to allay his fears. Things that I had never imagined doing before I owned a dog—like talking to fire hydrants and discarded machinery, petting trash cans ever so gently and hugging tree trunks, all the while explaining to my dog that these seemingly horrific entities are actually his friends and that they would never, ever hurt him.
“See, Jack, he’s a gooooood fire hydrant…and this is a niiiiiiice garbage can…and this funny-looking tree (with a face, no less!) would never dream of snatching up a sweet little doggie like you. Wouldn’t you like to say ‘hello’ to Mr. Tree? See him smiling, Jack? I think he likes you!” Of course, under my breath I grumbled and groused, raising a multitude of valid objections—like how stupid I felt and what an exercise in absurdity this was, and “Why couldn’t he just lose the paranoia already?!” Then, of course, I prayed to God that no one was watching the idiocy unfold before them.
Not surprisingly, that would make people wonder what sort of crisis (identity or otherwise) I was experiencing.
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Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel