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April 11, 2017

The Fear Period

I spent my last day with Eko racing across the beach while the wind and water raced around us. It was a Thursday, just after a storm, and I had to catch a flight to a friend's wedding a few hours later. Eko, Penny and I had the entire beach to ourselves. Most run from storms, but the beach, my dogs and my soul are most alive when we face them. Eko's death was a storm I could not run from and did not have the strength to face. Since that day I've worked to rebuild the confidence Eko gave me. The confidence to not only stand against any wind, but to run joyfully into it. Adding Zero to our family was one of the most important parts of that process, and with each trip we take to the dog beach I recover a little more of the resolve I once had.  The bond we build with Zero is forged with the strength of Eko's love.
Rhodesian Ridgeback, Chicago, Puppy, Montrose Dog Beach, Marking Our Territory I spent my last day with Eko racing across the beach while the wind and water raced around us. It was a Thursday, just after a storm, and I had to catch a flight to a friend’s wedding a few hours later. Eko, Penny and I had the entire beach to ourselves. Most run from storms, but the beach, my dogs and my soul are most alive when we face them. Eko’s death was a storm I could not run from and did not have the strength to face. Since that day I’ve worked to rebuild the confidence Eko gave me. The confidence to not only stand against any wind, but to run joyfully into it. Adding Zero to our family was one of the most important parts of that process, and with each trip we take to the dog beach I recover a little more of the resolve I once had.  The bond we build with Zero is forged with the strength of Eko’s love. While growing into themselves, puppies go through intermittent phases known as “fear periods.” It’s during these times your blissfully unaware pup begins to realize the potential consequences and dangers of the world around them. Any changes to familiar routines and places during these periods can make your dog skittish. It’s important to encourage your puppy through the fear-inducing experience with positive reinforcement. But none of the training materials mention what to do if you happen to share a fear period with your dog. This past Thursday, just after a storm, with a flight to a friend’s wedding a few hours later – I stood above the beach with Penny and Zero. The voice in my head was crystal clear. GO HOME. CANCEL YOUR FLIGHT.  SAVE YOUR DOG. This terrified impulse compelled me to run away.  Zero would have eagerly followed. The roiling waters and whipping winds had him totally spooked. But Penny believes the only acceptable definition of retreat is “to be given a second dog treat,” so she refused any such surrender. As always, Miss Mayhem lead us into the fray. Rhodesian Ridgeback, Chicago, Puppy, Montrose Dog Beach, Marking Our Territory The beach was flooded worse than any time in my memory and the pups paused to inspect what remained. Zero stood tepidly on a small island of sand, studying Penny while she walked through the flood to face the waves. Rhodesian Ridgeback, Chicago, Puppy, Montrose Dog Beach, Marking Our Territory I watched her with the same anticipation Zero did.  The fearful part of me wanted Penny to tuck her tail between her legs and come hide under the covers with us while I called to cancel my flight. But Penny cowers to no man, beast or storm, and I knew in my heart she would do what she always does – show us how to master our fears. Rhodesian Ridgeback, Chicago, Puppy, Montrose Dog Beach, Marking Our Territory Penny crashed into Zero like a rogue wave and then took off at full speed, daring her little brother to follow. As scary as the flooded bach may have been, nothing is more terrifying for a puppy than the thought of missing out on mischievous fun. Zero forgot his fears and chased Penny into the wind. Rhodesian Ridgeback, Chicago, Puppy, Montrose Dog Beach, Marking Our Territory The Maestro of Mayhem picked a baton from the detritus and conducted Zero through a joyful symphony along the shore. Rhodesian Ridgeback, Chicago, Puppy, Montrose Dog Beach, Marking Our TerritoryPenny also discovered magic in the storm’s debris. Her wand conjured an equally joyful memory from our last day with Eko. Rhodesian Ridgeback, Chicago, Puppy, Montrose Dog Beach, Marking Our Territory We left the beach lighter than we arrived. Zero and I discarded a few of our fears in the sand and let them wash away. A scared voice still begged me not to leave the dogs for the weekend, but the sound – once so clear – was lost to the wind. My courage had faltered, but as always, Penny was gracious enough to lend me hers. I quieted my doubts, gave my pups a kiss and headed to the airport knowing that no matter what happened, I wouldn’t do anything differently. Then or now. Rhodesian Ridgeback, Chicago, Puppy, Montrose Dog Beach, Marking Our Territory After a great weekend with friends and family, Penny and Zero gave us a traditional hero’s welcome home. An uproarious reunion of laughter and love, with no pretense of ceremony or care that we’d only been gone a few days. It was just the positive reinforcement I needed to move past my own fear period. Buried under an avalanche of kisses, I was reminded that even when beset by fears I must always be guided by joy.

Comments for The Fear Period

  1. to stop all doubts and to know that we did everything right and would do it the same way again is a good start to come back to life “after it happened”…. that was my anchor too… no if’s no but’s … and Phenny who needs me as the one he can trust… and not as the one who is heartbroken and full of self-doubts… Hugs to you all….

  2. meANXIETYme says:

    I totally understand. I’m so glad that Penny was there for both you and Zero…and Emily. Every step forward is a step in courage. Lots of hugs and kisses to Penny for a job well done!

  3. Fran says:

    You leaving the weekend Eko passed was nothing but one of those freak things that broke your heart n ours too but you could not have stopped it even if you did not go. Eko will always remain in your heart but you have a new place in time of love, memories n adventures with Penn, Zero, n Emily. I still miss Eli but Zero n Penny have given me adventures to enjoy with you n I have enjoyed it all. I m glad your trip pushed you past those fears as you returned home to kisses n jumps of joy to let u know, you are their HERO. Hugs to all

  4. KarenS says:

    Will. I’m tearing up again. Darn you.

    When you brought Eko home, it was for a reason. To take you on that journey to discover you and the great love of your life. When Zero came, it was all part of a plan as well. To help you heal. To find the strength to share your world. As for Penny? That reason was to keep you going forward. To help you put things into their place. To remind you of what pure joy is and to never stop living. Such a good girl.

  5. lindyihrman says:

    Wow! Well done, Miss Mayhem, for guiding Zero and Will through the storm! It’s amazing what dogs teach us!

  6. Emmadog says:

    What happened with Eko is every pet parent’s nightmare. You will never get over that, but it will get easier with time and practice. Humans have to try their best to live life to the fullest whenever they can as one never knows when life will take a major turn. Just a broken ankle caused two months of turmoil for us all.

  7. What a wonderful lesson – one I think you already KNEW but one I am sure you needed reinforcement to FULLY believe in………………

    Pam

  8. I have tears in my eyes…thank GOD for “Penny Mayhem” Also…YES I am still holding on to a few videos of yours if I can get my husband to sit down and join me……..not waiting much longer (he has been busy), I think we will be “binge watching” them soon! xoxo

  9. Kismet says:

    Eko is smiling somewhere because Zero is bringing you back to normal. He would want it that way. Kyla trained Kali for this task and Kali has done well.

  10. Becky D'Amico says:

    I can’t even begin to tell you how much we love reading your stories! Three years ago my husband and I rescued a three month old ridgeback/pit bull mix from a nearby park, (or should I say, he rescued us), we had never even heard of a ridgeback! We couldn’t figure out what mix he had in him, we just knew he was beautiful and came at the right time, my mother had passed away and I didn’t want to move from my bed, but knew that I had to for my family’s sake and mine. I reluctantly went on a walk with my family to a park that we go to a lot, and there he was!
    I could go on for hours, but I won’t! We named him “Runner”, and it fits him perfectly! While on my way to an appointment with my son last week, (he’s 16!) he said “we don’t deserve dogs”, he went on to explain his reasons and one of them was the unconditional love they give, no matter how mad I get when he insists on tearing up blankets, and opening the cabinet to the trashcan when we’re not looking, I wouldn’t change a thing, he came at the right time as I’m sure you feel about Zero!
    God bless you and your family, and Thank you for your inspiring stories!
    Becky & Tim D’Amico

  11. coastingnz says:

    Dogs have a wonderful sense of being – don’t know if that is the right description. Ziggy did something similar for me when he was young and I couldn’t move past grieving for my beloved Jeddyboy. Penny you are a super special girl and good on you Will and Zero for moving past that fear. Totally understand how great it would have been so to take that next step, well the proof was in the pudding so to speak. Snuggles to the pups, have to go wipe the tears from my eyes – AGAIN! lol

  12. Ellen Quilty says:

    The definition of bravery is being scared to death of doing something and doing it anyway.Who could blame you for being leery of leaving the dogs to go to a friend’s wedding”Look what happened last time “you were thinking.Well thanks to the indomitable Ms Mayhem and her apprenticeZero you went anyway.Good job.One more fear conquered.

  13. Connie Taylor says:

    The photo of Penny leaping into the sky to crash “into Zero like a rogue wave …” left me breathless with her confidence to help you and Zero jump into the future, while remembering our past and learning from it. She is a force to be reckoned with.

  14. Fear is a double edged sword, isn’t it? Observed wisely, it can keep us safe from harm. But it can at times overwhelm us and keep us from living life. You’re choosing wisely and at a pace that suits you. I’m glad you can recognize the signs, and reach out to for love and support from the dogs that now surround you.

  15. Jo Rhodes says:

    I was just about to write you for a grief check. The sixth month mark is so unbearable yet people usually stop asking how you’re doing because they assume you’ve moved on. The truth is we never move away from our loved one we just keep counting breaths and memories. We make new memories with new people and the hurt from missing beloved ones is just there. It’s in one spot that never quite heals, though it scabs over. Fear is a thief. It will steal all the good you might encounter. A dog behaviourist told me that Dean is an exceptionally smart dog. He is aware of his surroundings and he reacts to them. I think that I wish he weren’t quite so bright. I want him to be like Penny and Eko. Getting pet and eating treats —even if I don’t know you? OK. Just remember that we don’t want to be anywhere Will isn’t.
    Beside, behind, and in front of you, Jo, Sam and Dean

  16. Victoria Coleman says:

    wonderful post – brought me to tears – i so understand your fear and am so glad Penny Mayhem helped you to face it – good for you all!

  17. Eve Walraven says:

    Bravo for something EKO would have been proud of you! I know it was hard but you didn’t let that fear grow! Glad Ms Mayhem is still leading the charge for you all!! Glad you had a wonderful time and the pups loved showering you with that their love when you returned! Good job guys!

  18. dogdaz says:

    Great example of pushing thru that fear period. Love the pics.

  19. Whew. The first one is the toughest. But you learned well from Eko. Courage up close.

  20. Great photos glad you went and had a good time.

  21. One step, or romp for Penny, at a time. I’m glad you got through this major hurdle.

  22. Laura Leite says:

    Will, thanks for sharing this site, the videos and your story! Your work is great and has so much care and heart! I can feel it 🙂
    I also spent many years with a Rodhesian Ridgeback in NY. When she passed it was so hard and I remember her everyday. Right now I have two Rodhesian Ridgeback friends (from two of my human friends) here in Berkeley.
    All your photos are so awesome. I want to begin sharing more pictures of doggy adventures too! If you have a chance, please would you share how you took the first one (high speed) on this post?
    Thanks!
    Laura

  23. Shalini says:

    So happy to have Penny to guide you through you fear period. Very well written.

  24. […] him. You will lose yourself. The person you are will be gone. You will learn to face your fears, name them, and love them. The person you find will be me. It’s not fair, but the world is not fair. The […]

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