The Terror is Real…

I have told you about my wee (cat) dog Lucy.  Happy Birthday!  She is now 8 years old.  She is my mixed shi-poo (shit-zu/poodle mix) breed.  She is dysfunctional as a dog.  Why?  Lucy was diagnosed with strangles at 3 months.  The cure for this illness was to suppress her immune system.  Being prone to infection, that meant no going out for walks, no meeting other dogs.  I couldn’t give her puppy training like I had with Waldo.  With Waldo I got to take him to puppy classes so he could play with other dogs and meet other people and get to know the world around him.  What happened next?

I thought I came up with a genius plan.  When I would take Waldo out for his walks, I would put Lucy in an insulated lunch bag, which I would carry on my shoulder, and let her head peek out so she could get accustomed to sights and sounds in the neighbourhood.  She would slip her head out and I hoped she would get used to the sounds of cars and buses and airplanes, the noise of other dogs, the noise of people talking.  I wanted her to see bicycles and motorcycles.  She needed to get used to the world like Waldo did.

Well…it didn’t quite work out as I had hoped.  The only dogs she could be exposed to were…well…only Waldo.  She had been on the immune suppressing drugs for over 3 months and my nightly walks did not really help her see the real world.  How do I know this?  A leaf blows by…DANGER!  She barks at it.  A butterfly goes flying by…DANGER!  She barks at it. Wheelchairs.  DANGER!  Birds.  DANGER!  “Well, if she isn’t a good dog, then why is she barking at stuff like a normal dog would?” you may be asking.  Dysfunctional, but observant, is my Lucy.

Being quarantined with Sir Waldo, she learned what to do by imitating him.  She barks at EVERYTHING hoping she will get it right.  She will bark and Waldo will come running.  If it’s a leaf…he won’t bark.  After all these years she still can’t get it right.  Example:  He will bark at a bird.  He is facing the bird and barking at it.  What does Lucy do?   She stands in front of him, facing him and barks at HIM.  Great dog (dripping with sarcasm)!

I told you that whole story to tell you this story:

Today, poor girl needed a haircut.  Sadly her big bro, her protector and guide, had to stay home.  He has an infection.  I put the leash on her.  Normally she barks like crazy, but this time there was only silence.  We got in the car.  Silence.  She shook nervously in the car the whole drive there (8 minutes).  Normally she would be barking up a storm to impress her brother, but he wasn’t there.  I parked and looked to my left and that’s when I saw it.  An abandoned shopping cart.  I debated moving, but then thought I could get her out of the car without noticing.  Nope.  Oh the horror and terror!  Lucy went wild!  She knew it was evil!

 

We got into the store and she barked at every dog she saw (at Petsmart) because that is what her brother had taught her.  We got to the grooming salon.  I had carried her the whole way (all 9 lbs of her) because it was rainy and icky outside.  Well, I put her down so that she could feel like a dog again.  She scampered over to me, she stood on her hind legs and with her front paws scratched at my legs.  I picked her up.  She was still shaking.  Where was Waldo when she needed him?!

Her haircut was actually a trim.  She was there for a total of 20 minutes.  I came back to pick her up and she gave me an earful of complaints.  From the time I picked her up, paid for the cut, drove home, the barking did not subside.  I was evil and she was letting me know it.  Once we got through the front door she went running to find her big brother and tell HIM everything that had happened to her.  After finally exhausting herself with all the barking, she felt safe once again and perched herself up on her lookout chair, looking through the window to make sure she would be the first to bark and protect us from any imminent danger.

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Lucy the “cat” dog. Dogs don’t sit like this.

Here is a list of the most perilous items that she needs to warn us about:  leaves, butterflies, birds, children walking by, adults walking by, teenagers walking by, people walking by carrying groceries, letter carriers, strollers, bicycles, tricycles, buses, cars, motorcycles, lawnmowers, weed-whackers, squirrels, birds, people waiting at the bus stop, rabbits, cats, garbage trucks, recycling trucks, garbage blowing by, wheelchairs, scooters, and anything she has never seen before…like a shopping cart in the parking lot.  Yes, that would be the short list.

Now we come to dogs; other dogs.  Barking, walking, running…those, she has learned, are what she really needs to keep her guard up for.  For, when a dog goes walking by, she has learned to bark incessantly and the look around to see when Waldo will come to bark his approval of her house defense.  Then she is so full of pride because her brother, the one who never wants to play with her or be near her, will come and bark too so that they can quell the offender.  Yes, the terror is real…my dogs (dog and half-dog) can confirm that.

The Last Mile or…850 Metres to School

I am a survivor of my childhood.  With all the helmets, and helicopter parenting going on nowadays, it’s a wonder that I am still alive to share any stories of my childhood.  Perhaps I am one of the lucky survivors.  Today I will share with you the terrifying tale of a specific part of my childhood.  Luckily, no child in this day and age in North America, will have to survive this kind of ordeal.

My mother had (and has) a green thumb.  No, not gangrene.  For those of you unfamiliar with this term, it means she can take any flower or plant (dead or alive) and make it blossom and grow.  When we moved into our new “forever home”, my mother decided that it would be wonderful to have dahlias in front of our house.  My mother loved them.  I dreaded them.  Why?  They were the perfect hiding spot for my sworn insect enemy…the grasshopper.  Foliage and insects were to be my yearly springtime horror story.

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As a child who had just moved into a new neighbourhood, there were already many challenges that I had to deal with.  New school.  New friends (or lack thereof).  New teachers.  Every spring I would walk out my front door, look to my right and see the tall, green, leafy dahlias with their perky red flowers; they were taunting me.  They knew they harboured my repulsive flying insect enemies.  I would take a deep breath and prepare myself for the attack.  My mother would be behind me in the doorway yelling at me to hurry up so I wouldn’t be late for school.  What did she know.  There was going to be a volley of insects flying at my head ready to blind me with every step.  It would take precision and trickery to fool my flying enemies.  My plan of action:  One step forward and two steps back.  I remember taking one step forward and, as I was taking my “two steps back”, IT would fly out of the dahlia bush.  Sure, this took about 5 to 9 minutes to accomplish my trek, but my head would not be permanently scarred by grasshopper kamikaze.  Mission accomplished.

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Oh, the trials and tribulations of walking to school.  Directions were not an issue.  All I had to do was turn right out of my driveway and keep walking until I got to school.  No problem there.  However, there were some challenges I experienced along the way.  Here are but a few:

  • RABID DOG:  I would be walking to school and see a dog.  It was a ferocious dog.  There was no owner walking with that dog.  Its teeth were bared and ready to sink its jaws into my neck and rip me apart.  (Ok, I have a flare for the dramatic.)
    • Usually, I would see the dog and cross the street.  If, perchance, it decided to follow me, I would point my index finger at it and yell loudly, “Go home!” as my mother had taught me to do.  Not sure why it understood me, but it would usually just meander away.
  • UNEVEN SIDEWALK:  I was one of the lucky (unlucky?) kids who didn’t have to eat lunch at school.  I could go home for lunch!  Ok, I’ll be honest, I loved coming home for a yummy hot meal.  However, as attention spans go, I was always a dreamer and it took me longer to get home than most obedient children.  By the time I got home, my mother was fuming and force-feeding me so that I would get back on time.  On parent teacher interview day, I was lectured and pre-reprimanded about being home on time for lunch.  That day I ran home and totally missed seeing the lump of dirt that was suddenly on the sidewalk and WHAM!  Face first into the lovely cement sidewalk.  I made it home on time!  I also made it back to school on time too.  Kudos to me!  My unpopularity became even more pronounced with the appearance of a bandage across my nose.IMG_3082
  • STRANGERS IN CARS:  I remember being lectured about not talking to strangers.  I got in big “doo-doo-ka-ka” when a strange lady in a car stopped beside me as I was walking to school.  Why?  Apparently “stranger lady” was my aunt’s friend coming to visit her and she was trying to ask me for directions.  (Note:  never ask me for directions.  I really have no idea where places are, what streets are called, and basically, I usually don’t know where I am.  There.  You’ve been told.)
  • BULLIES:  When my brother was old enough to attend the same school, he decided that he wanted to tell the local bully off.  My sister job was to protect my younger brother.  One day, it got so bad that Mini-bully-boy picked up a big, gargantuan rock and threw it high up in the air to annihilate my baby bro.  What happened?  I stepped in to block the rock and it landed ungracefully on my big toe.  What happened next?  I limped for several weeks.  My toe nail fell off after turning completely blue / purple / green / yellow.  Oh the rainbow of pain!

Remarkable isn’t it.  I walked through snow, wind, sleet, thunderstorms, humidity, and grasshopper skies.  I walked all the way to school.  Not once, but twice a day!  Oh sure, I had an umbrella.  I had winter boots.  I had a winter coat.  I also walked the last mile…or 850 metres.  Uphill.  Both ways.  And I survived.

Astraphobia…or is God out to get me?

There are many types of fears:  fear of heights, fear of spiders, fear of drowning…to name but a few.  They all have their own “phobia” name.  I had this one fear, that some of you might also have had, called astraphobia or the “fear of thunderstorms”.  Allow me to share with you my mind-numbing anxiety and how I finally conquered this phobia.

The first lighting bolt / thunderclap storm that I can recall was when I was 4 years old.  Our family (mom, dad, us four kids) had gone to Croatia for a vacation (meet the relatives trip).  Being so young, I don’t really remember much.  The one thing I clearly recall is a lightning storm.  It was pitch black outside until the firebolt lit up the sky.  I was under an umbrella with someone (found out it was my mother) and we were trying to run quickly through the mud to get home before we got hit by lightning.  It was a terrifying experience and therefore etched in my mind forever.  That was thunderstorm number one.

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The second thunderstorm that I can recall, took place after we had moved into our new family home.  I was 7 years old.  It was early afternoon when suddenly, the sky went from pretty blue to smokey, dark grey.  We had to turn the lights on in the house.  I was standing beside my mother and we were looking out the window.  CRACK!!!  Lightning streaked across the sky!  Seriously, there were probably 5 bolts that went from cloud to cloud.  A few seconds later BOOOOOM!  Thunder shook the house.  My mom held me and informed me that everything was going to be fine.  Then the lights went out.  I was shaking with fear.  Then all of a sudden…ICE PELLETS!!  I had never seen that before.  Ice cubes falling from the sky.  Hail was piling up on the dirt mountain in front of our house.

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I started thinking that God must be mad at us.  (Yes, going to church all the time and listening to the bible stories of the “vengeful destructive God” in the old testament can really get a kid’s imagination going.)  Well, God wasn’t going to strike me dead on this day.  I bolted up to my bedroom and hid under my bed.  I would live!

Fast forward to when I was 18 years old.  Another never-forgotten storm.  I was back in Croatia.  This time it was me with my parents and younger brother.  We had gone to Medjugorje.  It was a pilgrimage for our Catholic family.  My mother wanted us to do the Stations of the Cross.  We were prepping for prayer when all of a sudden, the sky went black, lightning bolts came bearing down from the sky, the thunder shook the ground and I believed God was going to strike me dead.  (Oh yeah…that “fear of God” can really do a number on a catholic girl’s psyche.)  I looked around and my mother was gone.  Maybe HE struck HER dead!  Nope, mom reappeared from behind a statue saying, “I wasn’t even afraid of dying.”  Well good for you!  I had been terrified!

 

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(I wonder if my mother is a descendant of Zeus or Thor.  Why?  Doesn’t it seem odd that when the worst (and my most memorable) storms hit my mother was in the vicinity?  Something to think about, you conspiracy theorists out there.)

Now, into my adulthood I was still not a fan of storms.  I had friends and co-workers tell me that if I learned more about lightning storms I would get rid of my fear.  Oh, I read about them alright.  I read about golfers being struck by lightning.  STRUCK DEAD!  Then there were the articles about water being a conductor of electricity.  So, after all my “helpful” research, not only did I fear the storms even more, I managed to kick my fear into high gear:

  1.  No taking showers or baths if there was a lightning storm.  Why?  Water is a conductor and I would not be struck dead in my tub.fullsizeoutput_21eb
  2. No answering the phone during a storm.  Why?  Well, if water was a conductor, then surely an electrical phone would lead the lightning bolt right through my ear and into my brain and yup…strike me dead.fullsizeoutput_21ec
  3. No touching computer keyboards, screens, photocopiers, fax machines, etc. during a storm.  Why?  Same reason; electricity.  Like begets like.

Then something changed.  Children came into my life.

Now, this is the last memorable storm I can recall.  We were vacationing at the cottage.  Everyone was in bed.  Suddenly, a strange sound came to my ears.  It was rain.  You could hear it moving closer from across the lake.  So pretty.  So relaxing and then…BLINDING LIGHT!!!!  BOOOOOM!!!  I freaked and hid under the covers.  Then we heard a terrified voice yell “Daddy!”  Wiseguy went to comfort the wee 7 year old girl.  I shook underneath my covers and then my brain yelled at me: “What are you DOING?!”  fullsizeoutput_21ef

What was I doing?  What WAS my problem?  I had never perished in any other storm.  What was I so worried about?  I wasn’t a golfer.  So far, it seemed my mortality was not threatened.  My self-created reign of terror was officially over.

Afterward, when storms came around, I was the brave one and was there to hold our little princess.  I would tell her stories, or I would turn the radio on and we would dance.  Distraction…best thing to do during a storm.  After the storm was over, the beautiful rainbow would come out and all would be well again.fullsizeoutput_21ed

Nowadays, I do use electrical equipment AND take showers (not at the same time) when there is a thunderstorm going on.  The kids are all grown up, but I am now the official protector of my 9 year old fur baby, Sir Waldo; the fluffy shi-poo.  (Look at those ears pulled back and the crazy long “freaked-out-by-thunder” tongue.)

 

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Being a descendant of Zeus and/or Thor (yeah, might as well go with it), Waldo and I no longer have to fear the sky storms.  However, I do still wonder sometimes…is it astrophobia or is God out to get me?

P.S.  So far, no damage to me from God storms.  Yay me!

P.P.S.  I did take up golfing…