Taking the Shy and Fearful Class
The challenge was getting through the door. Our 16-month-old cocker spaniel, Charlie, hated going through new doors. So did the other 7 dogs that were attending their first Shy and Fearful class. Each of these rescue dogs had some kind of rough start in life. Nothing new came easily for them. For the first few weeks, entering dogs were dragged through the door. Big dogs were carried in. Spinning dogs and tangled leashes would have some tripping in.
We had been given instruction before arriving: Enter one at a time, with plenty of space between dogs. No direct eye contact with dogs. Take a place in the chairs that are widely spaced apart in. And, most importantly, come with lots of treats; toss them liberally throughout class – but no eye contact!
Over the course of six weeks, the changes were dramatic and moving. This isn’t to say these courageous dogs became bold and brave, but they did learn how to walk with people passing close by, how to deal with UFOs (unexpected foreign objects), and even how to occasionally take a treat from the hand of a stranger. Owners and dogs alike left that final class a little less shy and fearful, and a little more confident in stepping back into the world.
Life is a school. Unbeknownst to us, you and I have each been enrolled in hundreds of shy and fearful classes. Each addressing things we fear and struggle with. Sometimes the class is called illness or death. Sometimes its name is job loss or financial struggle. Many of us have been enrolled in burnout or overwhelm. All of us have struggled with the broken relationship class. These classes come to us when we least expect them. And they keep coming.
The next time you are enrolled against your will in a shy or fearful class, I hope you can muster up your courage and walk boldly through the door. Bring some treats with you to share with others who are afraid, and be receptive to the treats and kind gestures that are thrown your way.
Each shy and fearful class is inviting us to become a little wiser, less afraid, and more of who we really are. And the best of these classes will have us walking back out the door saying “thank you.”