Dogs often develop phobia for no apparent reason. Many are afraid of thunder, for instance, or fireworks. Some have an aversion to men, or women, or uniforms, or cars, bikes and horses. All of them are perfectly understandable. For me, the scary list begins with our neighbor Claire’s recycling bin, with our own bin only slightly behind. They make such a racket that I must bark long and loud in protest.
Frankly, however, my list of phobia is long. I make Mike portray me as a hero all the time, but the fact is, I’m usually a wimp.
Sometimes it costs me. Many are the dog friends I could have in the park and along our street if I hadn’t met them and been so indifferent, or pretended not to see them, or barked my head off when they approached on my sidewalk, especially if it happened to be a husky. I hate huskies, my purple leash aside (the University of Washington Huskies are purple, but it’s only a coincidence.)
Another thing that used to scare me for no apparent reason was sticks. I have a vague recollection of a toddler swinging a tree branch around and narrowly missing my head and his own. I was also afraid of every metal detector I ever met, and those things are just sticks with a big ear.
So it stands to reason that walking sticks threw me into a tizzy. I charge them with a howl that would halt an elephant. Most walkers shrink back and shake their sticks at me. Brooke and Jan did not.
Since they walked with sticks, I had to charge at them and bark. But they always held their ground and called out to me gently with a high-pitched greeting, coaxing me closer and cooing my named once they knew it. Brooke did even better, reaching into his pocket and producing a bag of treats. I would finally stop barking and approach tentatively, grudgingly getting close enough to Brooke to grab the treat from his outstretched fingers. Every time we’d see them, the routine repeated, but over the years my barking gradually died down and eventually stopped entirely, replaced by my constant visual scouring of the park’s parade ground, searching for those sticks. When I see distant people with walking sticks, I yank Mike in their direction, only to be disappointed if it’s not Jan and Brooke. Among my admirers, they rank way up there with my UPS guy.